The California legislator who spearheaded that state's ban on brominated flame retardants is taking aim at other compounds in plastic, pushing the state to ban children's products with phthalates or bisphenol A.
The legislation would make California the first state in the country to restrict either BPA, which is used in polycarbonate baby and water bottles, or phthalates, which are used in some PVC toys and cosmetic products such as shampoos.
The bill has an influential sponsor - Wilma Chan, D-Oakland, head of the Committee on Health and a former majority leader in the state Assembly. But both Chan's office and industry officials argue it is tough to predict if she can replicate her success in banning some brominated flame retardants, used in plastic housings of televisions and electronics.
Chan and supporters, including the group Environment California, argue that studies have linked BPA and phthalates to liver and kidney damage, and have shown they can interfere with the hormone system.
A March study from Yale University, for example, found that BPA in rats can inhibit synaptic connections in the parts of the brain dealing with memory and sexually differentiated behavior. Researchers said the data ``heighten concerns about the potential long-term consequences of human BPA exposure.''
``We think that there's an increasing body of evidence that points problems out, and that the safest thing we can do for our children is to try alternatives,'' said Rachel Richman, Chan's chief of staff.
But industry officials argue that studies also have shown that the chemicals are safe.
Steve Hentges, executive director of the polycarbonate business unit at the American Plastics Council in Arlington, Va., said government risk assessments in the United States, Europe and Japan all have found that BPA is safe, and he said government agencies have not moved to ban or restrict it.
``In every case when the scientific evidence is evaluated, it supports the safety of BPA,'' he said. A 2001 U.S. government review of BPA safety said the evidence was contradictory, and it said there was credible evidence on both sides.
Hentges questioned the Yale study, saying it's a ``long way from telling you there is any significance for human behavior'' because the animals were exposed at more than 1,000 times the levels people get.
And he said a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control found extremely low levels of BPA in human urine.
Marian Stanley, director of ACC's Phthalate Esters Panel, said the phthalates targeted by Chan's bill are either safe for children or are not used in the children's products.
She said, for example, that the Consumer Product Safety Commission determined in 2003 that diisononyl phthalate was safe in vinyl children's products. The legislation also targets di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, which the toy industry removed voluntarily from some children's products in the early 1980s, after questions were raised about its safety, based on animal tests.
While Stanley said that subsequent research cleared DEHP, other governments, mainly in Europe, have moved to restrict phthalates from children's products.