January 17, 2013

Maine board backs ban on BPA in baby-food packaging

If adopted by the Legislature, Maine would be the third state to impose BPA bans that exceed federal standards.

By Michael Shepherd mshepherd@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

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"I definitely feel like we're moving in the right direction," Rice said. "I'm doing it for my kids, so I'm committed until the end."

Studies have linked BPA to health problems, including developmental problems, cancer and diabetes. It's a chemical known to exhibit hormone-like properties, mimicking estrogen. It's used as an additive in some plastic bottles and food packaging.

The federal Food and Drug Administration's current stance on BPA is "scientific evidence at this time does not suggest that the very low levels of human exposure to BPA through the diet are unsafe."

But in July, the FDA banned the chemical from baby bottles and sippy cups. The FDA said that wasn't a reflection on the chemical's safety, and it said the administration still deemed it safe in food products.

In Maine, BPA has not been allowed in baby bottles, sippy cups and other reusable food and beverage containers since 2010. The new bans covering baby food and infant formula couldn't take effect before Aug. 15, said Kerri Malinowski, who manages the law for the DEP.

If the bans are adopted, Maine will join Connecticut and Vermont in banning BPA in those products, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Gov. Paul LePage has expressed skepticism that BPA is harmful, saying he's in step with the federal government.

In 2011, he said the worst effect from BPA exposure could be that "some women may have little beards" because of the chemical's estrogen-mimicking effects.

LePage addressed the chemical in a media briefing last week, saying, "By banning it just here in Maine and not the rest of the country, we're doing the same thing we've been doing to ourselves for years: We make ourselves less competitive -- more costly.

"If there is a scientific reason to take BPA off the shelves, I will support it," he said.

House Republican spokesman David Sorensen said that since it's still early in the process, Republicans will wait for legislators to research the issue thoroughly before responding.

Assistant Senate Minority Leader Roger Katz, R-Augusta, said the decision on BPA "should be made on the basis of science and not politics." He said he wants to see language presented to the Legislature before coming down on one side or the other.

State House Bureau Writer Michael Shepherd can be contacted at 370-7652 or at:

mshepherd@mainetoday.com

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