Combating chemicals

State legislators heard arguments for and against the Children's Safe Product Act of 2009 in a public hearing last week in Salem. Public health professionals, concerned parents and environmental health advocates spoke in favor of the two bills designed to protect children from harmful chemicals.

House Bill 2367 would prohibit the sale or distribution of children's products including toys, bottles, shampoo, lotions and other items that contain bisphenol A or phthalates — endocrine-disrupting chemicals that mimic human hormones and are believed to cause abnormalities of the reproductive system.

House Bill 2792 would require the Oregon Department of Human Services and Department of Environmental Quality to identify chemicals in products that could harm children. Manufacturers of products would be required to notify DHS and DEQ if "chemicals of high concern" are found in their products — meaning chemicals linked by credible scientific evidence with cancer, or with disruption or damage of the endocrine, nervous or immune systems.

The American Chemical Council spoke against the bills, citing the Food and Drug Administration's declaration last year that bisphenol A is safe.

(The Washington Post recently reported the FDA's studies on bisphenol A were funded by chemical companies. An independent panel found significant scientific flaws in the FDA's position, and now the FDA is revisiting its position.)

Oregon is one of eight states considering a ban on bisphenol A, which may be found in plastic bottles numbered 3 and 7. Studies have linked bisphenol A to male and female reproductive abnormalities and early onset of puberty.

Some manufacturers of baby bottles have already phased out bisphenol A because large retailers such as Wal-Mart and Babies R Us announced they would stop selling bottles containing the chemical.

Last year, President George W. Bush signed legislation banning phthalates — another endocrine-disrupting chemical listed in HB 2367 — in children's toys and products. This federal law went into effect Feb. 10, so Oregon will not need to ban phthalates in children's products.

The Oregon Environmental Council supports the Children's Safe Product Act, emphasizing that endocrine-disrupting chemicals harm not only human health — they leach into the ground and water, where they can harm fish and wildlife as well.

We strongly support the Children's Safe Product Act. These bills are a low-cost way to help protect Oregonians from unnecessary and harmful chemicals.

— (Pendleton) East Oregonian

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