The Schenectady County Legislature’s Health Committee will hold a hearing Thursday on proposed legislation to ban the sale of products containing a potentially harmful chemical used to make children’s beverage containers.
The hearing is set for 7 p.m. in the sixth floor Legislative Chamber in the Schenectady County Office Building.
Legislator Brian Gordon, D-Niskayuna, committee chairman, said he scheduled the hearing to obtain testimony from experts and the public. “We want to ensure we are making an informed decision regarding this legislation,” he said.
BPA is a chemical used in the manufacture of plastics and is found in a wide variety of everyday items, including water bottles, food and drink packaging, food can linings, dental sealants, CDs and DVDs, eyeglasses and automobiles.
Schenectady County Legislator Angelo Santabarbara, R-Rotterdam, introduced the legislation in March. He calls his legislation the Protection of Toddlers and Babies Act.
David O. Carpenter, a professor and director of the Institute for Health and Environment at University at Albany, called BPA a threat, especially to male fetuses and little boys. It also may have an affect on male reproduction and could increase the risk of breast cancer, he said.
“It is an estrogenic component that acts like the female hormone estrogen and acts to feminize little boys,” Carpenter said.
The chemical, which makes plastic softer, is not bonded tightly to plastic and leaches into food products, Carpenter said. “It is in so many consumer products that we all have BPA in our bodies,” he said.
Steve Hentges of the American Chemistry Council discounted the chemical’s threat. “Regulatory agencies and government bodies across the world have reached a consensus about the safety of BPA. Many assessments support the same conclusions, that it is not a significant risk to human health,” Hentges said.
A representative of the American Chemistry Council is expected to attend Thursday’s hearing, Hentges said.
Also expected to attend is Kathy Curtis of Clean New York, a women’s environmental health organization. She will be arguing in favor of the county’s BPA ban.
“We will work to ensure that people who live in this county have a voice on this issue,” Curtis said. “A vast majority of studies show harm.”
The earliest Schenectady County could ban BPA is this summer. By that point, the state Legislature may have passed its own legislation to ban BPA. The Assembly approved a bill on Earth Day, April 22. The state Senate is considering similar legislation, but it remains in committee.
Curtis, who is following the state action, said she is uncertain when the legislation will come to the Senate floor. “The Senate is looking to hear from all affected parties. It is anyone’s guess what it will accomplish this year,” she said.
Curtis said Schenectady County is right to take action to ban BPA. “I think counties should take action and that the state action should be a floor, not the ceiling, and that counties should be able to take more restrictive actions, such as banning other halogenated chemicals,” she said.
Suffolk County became the first county in the state to ban BPA in March.
Hentges said states, let alone counties, should not be involved in banning BPA. “The federal level is the appropriate level,” he said.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, has introduced legislation to ban the sale of baby bottles, sippy cups and other utensils aimed at children 3 and younger that contain BPA. It would not affect items such as plastic soda and water bottles that come filled with a product. Also, six major baby bottle manufacturers earlier this year agreed not to use baby bottles that contain BPA.
Curtis said she is concerned that a member of the minority introduced the legislation to ban BPA. “We have seen how that plays out at the state level. We are hopeful that politics does not interfere with an important health issue like this,” she said.
Republicans on the Schenectady County Legislature have had difficulty in getting their legislation passed in recent years, as Democrats control the Legislature 11-4.
Santabarbara said he “honestly can’t tell” if majority Democrats are playing politics with his proposed legislation. “I don’t see this as a partisan issue. I see it as one of those issues everyone can work together on. It is an issue that will be beneficial to all constituents of all parties,” he said.
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