CHEMICALS:

Industry opposition scuttles bipartisan Senate bid for BPA curbs

A bipartisan Senate deal to limit the use of controversial chemical bisphenol A (BPA) was scuttled hours ago amid opposition from the industry's main trade group, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said today.

Feinstein told reporters that she and Sen. Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.) had reached agreement last night on adding language to the Senate's pending food safety bill, which cleared a key procedural hurdle today on a 74-25 vote, to set a six-month window for banning BPA from baby bottles and children's drinking cups.

But the American Chemistry Council (ACC), chemical manufacturers' chief Washington lobbying arm, "opposes even that" and has mobilized other Republicans against any attempt to address BPA on the food legislation, Feinstein said.

"I don't understand how a chemical group would oppose taking a chemical which, at the very least, may impact the endocrine systems of infants [out of products] because they want to make money on it," the California Democrat added, calling the situation "very, very frustrating."

Feinstein and Enzi, the ranking Republican on the Senate committee in charge of the food safety measure, were in negotiations yesterday over how to address her long-standing concern -- echoed by other Democrats and environmental groups -- over the potential risk posed by BPA in children's food and drink containers (E&E Daily, Nov. 17).

Six baby-bottle manufacturers last year agreed to wind down their use of BPA, a synthetic estrogen still widely used in canned goods and hard plastics, but a proposal to ban the substance from children's packaging in Feinstein's home state failed to clear the California Legislature this year after a lobbying push by the chemical industry (Greenwire, Sept. 7).

Feinstein said she and Enzi had reached accord late yesterday, but following the objections raised by ACC, other GOP senators indicated they could not support her six-month time frame for limiting use of BPA. Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) was among those declining to support Feinstein's language, she said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had suggested earlier in the year that Feinstein could see her BPA amendment considered during the food safety debate, but the limited time remaining in the post-election lame-duck session could change the dynamics. Feinstein said she would talk to Reid about the possibility of a vote.

"I hope to at least do that," she said, "to put it on the map."

Burr's office and ACC could not be reached for immediate comment on the BPA proposal.

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