A law banning the chemical Bisphenol-A (BPA) from infant formula and baby food containers will go into effect later this year, but some lawmakers and advocates are not resting on their laurels.
This legislative session Sen. Edward Meyer, D- Guilford, has proposed another bill to keep the substance out of cash register and ATM receipts.
The push for a new ban is in part a response to a new report that found BPA is still commonly used in the thermal paper used to print cash register and ATM receipts, Meyer said. The report was brought to his attention by the Coalition for a Safe and Healthy Connecticut.
“The concern with that paper is it’s unbound so it readily transmits to our hands or to the dollar bills in our wallet. So our exposure to BPA is much broader than we thought previously,” said Anne Hulick, a member of the coalition.
The substance can be absorbed through skin contact and is cumulative. With many people exposed to it daily, BPA represents a significant public health risk, Hulick said.
And unlike many other harmful chemicals, the dangers of Bisphenol-A are more in the timing of exposure than the quantity. Even a very small dose at the wrong time can have disastrous consequences, she said. Studies have even linked prenatal contact with diseases that surface later on in life, she said.
Hulick said the proposed ban is one part of a greater effort to encourage comprehensive reform of laws to protect people from toxic chemicals in consumer products.
When Gov. M. Jodi Rell signed the 2009 bill into law, Connecticut was the first state in the nation to pass a ban on the substance. Now 30 other states have pending chemical reform legislation. As the coalition was proposing the ban at a press conference in the Legislative Office Building on Wednesday, similar groups throughout the country were proposing laws to protect people from chemicals.
The only applicable federal law in place is the Federal Toxic Substances Control Act that has not been updated since 1976, Hulick said, adding that the law has not been effective.
“Because that law has been so ineffective and there are now over 82,000 chemicals in commerce, most of which have never been tested for safety, the public is becoming increasingly alarmed and aware of the research,” she said.
People have begun looking to individual states to enact protective legislation because of the federal government’s inability to adequately address the issue, she said. And Connecticut has been a leader in tackling the issue, in large part thanks to the work of many lawmakers who recognize the gravity of the situation, Hulick said.
On Friday Meyer said he expects bi-partisan support for the bill especially when his colleagues learn there are safer alternatives to the chemical on the market. Many retailers have already started using the alternatives, he said.
While Connecticut would likely be the first state to enact a ban on paper receipts containing BPA, Meyer said he doesn’t mind breaking ground in that area.
“We have really led the country when it comes to these bans on toxic chemicals,” he said. “The Environment Committee of the Connecticut General Assembly has really been very forward-looking here. I’m not going to have a problem being the first state to do it, based on the evidence that’s been made available to us.”
Meyer agreed with Hulick that a more comprehensive look at the laws on toxic chemicals is in order. The Environmental Committee has been examining one potentially harmful chemical per year but he said that has been an inefficient way to address the problem.
As an alternative, the legislature passed a bill in 2010 that established the Chemical Innovations Institute. That group, based at the University of Connecticut, is charged with studying potentially toxic chemicals and reporting those findings to the legislature and the governor, Meyer said. The hope is that the institute will be able to take a broader look at the issue.
But that group is still in its formative stages. A board of directors has been assembled consisting of both public and private sector individuals, Meyer said. Unfortunately, the institute has been unable to begin its studies due to a lack of funding.
While the state currently has no money available to fund the project, Meyer said the group has applied for grants from various foundations. They are also looking into whether there are any federal dollars available.