A California Assembly committee narrowly defeated a bill to ban phthalates in plastic baby products, but observers believe the legislative regulatory effort will continue.
A last-minute amendment removed provisions in Assembly Bill 319 to ban bisphenol A.
Meanwhile, across the country, Maryland House Bill 52 - to ban phthalates and bisphenol A in toys, child-care articles and cosmetics - was pending in the chamber's Health and Government Operations Committee. Delegate James Hubbard of Bowie, Md., a Democrat, introduced the bill.
Such health allegations against the chemical industry are going to continue, said Tim Shestek, director of state and local public affairs with the American Chemistry Council in Sacramento, Calif.
Representatives of the plastics industry maintain that the compounds pose no risk to children. Phthalates are used in making soft vinyl products, and bisphenol A is a chemical building block of polycarbonate.
In opposing AB 319, ``We made a strong case that regulatory bodies concluded these compounds are safe for the products'' in which they are used, Shestek said. ``These products have been reviewed thoroughly.''
Assemblywoman Wilma Chan of Alameda, Calif., a Democrat, carried AB 319 through the Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee but failed to get approval in the Appropriations Committee on Jan. 19.
Assemblyman Leland Yee of San Francisco, a Democrat with a doctorate in child psychology, supplied the deciding vote against the bill. He wanted health experts and scientists to make any decision on banning chemicals. That issue is ``difficult for Chan to overcome,'' Shestek said.
Yee surprised environmentalists with his vote.
``This is an attempt by the anti-chemical lobby to bring in European regulation to the states,'' said Marian Stanley, an ACC senior director who manages the self-funded phthalate esters panel. The California legislation ``mirrors the European ban and includes phthalates that would never be used in a toy.''
As originally proposed, AB 319 ``would have impacted an extraordinarily wide range of products,'' said Steve Hentges, manager of a self-funded business unit with the ACC's American Plastics Council.
Hentges said provisions of the bill were ``extremely broad,'' extending to sports safety equipment, such as helmets and visors, and specialized heart-lung and dialysis machines for children.
Arlington, Va.-based ACC led a coalition including consumer product groups such as the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association of Mt. Laurel, N.J., the Toy Industry Association Inc. of New York and the Art & Creative Materials Institute Inc. of Hanson, Mass.