SB 1032: A choice between Oregon children and out-of-state chemical companies. Easy, right?

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

Sippycup My son is two years old. There's a lot of things you learn when you have a baby. First, it's all about diapers. Then, it's about removing breakable objects. Lately, he mostly wants me to march around the house while he bangs on a drum. Good times.

But having a kid shouldn't mean that you have to worry that baby product manufacturers are selling products that are harmful to kids. If you buy something that's designed to be used by babies, it should be safe for babies.

And yet, unfortunately, there's no federal law - and no state law in Oregon - that prevents the use of Bisphenol-A in baby products. Bisphenol-A, or BPA, is an additive used in some plastic products to prevent degradation of the plastic. It's commonly used as an inside liner on plastic food and beverage containers.

There's growing scientific evidence that BPA, a hormone-disrupting chemical, has harmful effects on fetuses and young children's brains, reproductive systems, pituitary glands, and behavior. Very low-level exposure to BPA during early stages of development is linked not only to developmental problems, but also to increased susceptibility to cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

Tomorrow, the Oregon Senate will vote on Senate Bill 1032 (pdf), a bill to ban Bisphenol-A from food and drink containers intended for children age three and under. Every legislator should support this overdue legislation.

Personally, I'd like to see them ban it from all food and drink containers. (After all, babies and toddlers eat lots of food that's not specifically intended for babies and toddlers -- applesauce, juice, yogurt, canned veggies, etc.)

But at a minimum, I think we can all agree that it makes no sense to expose these young bodies and brains to such a worrisome chemical. Is the proof of harm 100% rock-solid? No, of course not. Science is rarely that crystal clear.

But there's also no harm in removing it from our children's food supply. There are plenty of safe, inexpensive alternatives. (Japan has, for example, eliminated BPA almost entirely by using PET film instead.)

Legislators have an obligation to ensure that all children are safeguarded from potentially harmful chemicals, not just children with parents who have time to educate themselves about the myriad of products on the market. Every parent should be able to trust that if a product is for sale to children in a grocery store or a baby store, then it should be safe for those children.

Smart legislators will vote for SB 1032. It's the right thing to do, but it's entirely possible that it could become a political issue in upcoming campaigns. When our son was born, I had never heard of BPA. But hanging around with a bunch of new parents, I quickly learned about it - and this is a major worry with young families. (Legislators who don't have young children of their own would be smart to check in with some new parents -- they may be surprised how deep the concern runs about BPA. Entire businesses have been built to help parents avoid this chemical.)

Given a choice between protecting the health and well-being of Oregon children - and protecting a bunch of out-of-state (and overseas) chemical and plastics manufacturers - I think the choice is clear. You can imagine what the attack ads will look like for those who vote against the bill.

This also isn't about jobs. No one in Oregon produces BPA or the products affected by SB 1032.

Washington recently passed a similar bill with overwhelming majorities in both chambers and across party lines. (In the Washington House, the vote was 95-1.)

Oregon should do the same.

Update: Over at the OLCV blog, Jon Isaacs notes that the Bisphenol-A baby-bottle ban is an opportunity for a big bipartisan accomplishment, at a time when there's been a lot of partisan bickering and stonewalling. Noting that the Bisphenol-A bill is OLCV's "top priority", Isaacs writes:

I don’t think it’s possible for a public health issue to be any less controversial and straightforward to Oregonians than keeping toxic chemicals out of food containers intended for babies. ...

I know you’re asking, "What’s the catch?" There really isn’t a catch. We even worked with the grocers to craft the final language that clearly limits the scope of this bill to containers intended for children under the age of three.

(Learn more about BPA and SB 1032 from the Oregon Environmental Council. It'll also be discussed tomorrow on OPB's Think Out Loud at 9 a.m.)

  • Scott Jorgensen (unverified)

    All hail the Diaper Genie as the greatest invention of all time! I sure hope that doesn't have BPA in it...

  • Tim McCafferty (unverified)


    I would love to have real government oversight, and regulation of products meant for infants, children, adults, etc...

    My question is to the effectiveness of these types of regulations that the Republican remnants in the FDA, and all levels of federal governance may very well publish regulations that seize the issue, and make the law irrelevant to begin with. We watched for the past 8 years of the Bush/Cheney impoundment and de-regulation by government that neutered state regulations meant to protect citizens from corporate excesses.

    How do we insure that a lobbyist at some Beltway cocktail party doesn't just promise a job in the private sector for a strategically worded opinion about product regulation? Isn't this type of legislation meant to be a national, or federal responsibility?

  • mp97303 (unverified)

    Given a choice between protecting the health and well-being of Oregon children - and protecting a bunch of out-of-state (and overseas) chemical and plastics manufacturers - I think the choice is clear

    WOuld your position be different if they were in-state manufacturers? I doubt it. So whats the point. The objective is to make safe products.

    It makes for a tantalizing headline and continues the BO theme of anti-corporate rantings, but ultimately is just stupid.

  • (Show?)

    Scott, I hope your munchkin isn't eating out of the diaper genie!

    Tim, we are talking about an Oregon law - not a federal one (though that would be good, too.)

    MP, no my position would be no different. But I could understand some legislators worrying about jobs, if it were an Oregon company. But is isn't, so there's no plausible counterargument at all.

  • jamie2 (unverified)

    I know, I know, this blog is all about politics and public policy. But as an older gay man who never had the opportunity to parent a young child (we adopted my son when he was 16) I find vicarious joy in your story of the diapers, the breakable objects and your marching to the drumbeat. Thanks for allowing part of your personal self to be part of this blog. All politics is local and how much more local can one get than one's family?

  • Kari Chisolm (unverified)

    [Impersonation removed. -editor.]

  • alcatross (unverified)

    Great... our brave and valiant legislators are going to pass a law tackling a really controversial issue - one that consumers and the market are already addressing with 90% of the offending products already off the shelves in Oregon (Wal-Mart leading the way, BTW...), Sunoco already refusing to sell BPA to companies for use in food and water containers for children younger than 3, and the six largest US companies which commercialize baby bottles having stopped using BPA in their products a year ago. But our legislators will evidently get a warm fuzzy because they pass a bipartisan bill and then crow about how they're in there fighting against the evil chemical and plastics companies (who are obviously already reading the tea leaves of the market...) to protect the children of Oregon! My heroes!!!

    I'm not against the law, mind you - it's just the insufferable pandering that's inevitably going to follow. Hopefully they'll pass it quickly and get on to other things requiring more effort.

  • Tim McCafferty (unverified)

    Kari, I'm aware that this is a state law, my point exactly.

    Product laws made by states are all to often negated with federal regulation, or bureaucratic measure. This has been the way corporations have skirted regulation in the past, and currently.

  • Joshua Welch (unverified)

    A while back I saw a Canadian study on "BPA free" plastic baby/infant bottles that found small amounts of BPA. I have used glass w/ my kids and avoid plastics as much as possible.

    This is an interesting site on plastics.

  • Susie Frank (unverified)

    Thanks for speaking out on this topic, Kari. What happens in Oregon is important for Oregonians, and for those working at the national level. For people interested in getting up to speed on what's happening at the federal level to reform our outdated chemical laws, go to

  • re: alcatross (unverified)

    "Great... our brave and valiant legislators are going to pass a law tackling a really controversial issue - one that consumers and the market are already addressing"

    how many kids ingested this poison while "consumers and the market' addressing the issue?

    People have been trying to get BPA banned for years but people like yourself who love to stick up for polluters and plunderers delay common sense regulation while people and other forms of life suffer the consequences. It's the same story over and over again.

    Maybe you ingested to much BPA as a child.

  • Todd Wynn (unverified)

    A few things need to be clarified about BPA.

    The Food and Drug Administration recently expressed “some concern” related to a few studies indicating that BPA is “weakly estrogenic” to rodents. But unlike rodents, humans metabolize and pass BPA quickly, limiting endocrine effects. In any case, the simple fact that a substance might be “weakly estrogenic” isn’t reason to ban it. If it were, we need to ban soy, peas, beans and a host of healthy foods.

    According to data from a 1999 National Academy of Sciences study, exposure to natural phytoestrogens is 100,000 to 1 million times higher than exposure to estrogen-mimicking substances found in BPA. It appears that BPA is less dangerous than soy milk.

    Scientific panels such as the European Union Risk Assessment, the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, Health Canada and many many others around the world have reviewed, and continue to review, the complete body of evidence; and none report serious concerns about BPA.

    I encourage you to read CPI's report for more information.

  • (Show?)

    Kari, I agree completely with your position but have to chime in on mp's post again: I don't see the point of "Oregon children" and "out of state chemical companies."

    You say later that you don't really care if the product is made in-state or out of state, but the clear implication is that some legislators would be willing to have an unsafe product on the market if it were manufactured in state.

    <h2>As you say, the source of the product is irrelevant. If this is deemed unsafe, ban 'em. There are alternatives avaialble.</h2>

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