On Tuesday, Aug. 11, the Schenectady County Legislature voted to ban children’s beverage containers containing a chemical called Bisphenol A, otherwise known as BPA, from store shelves within the county.
The law, approved unanimously with one legislator absent, was introduced by legislator Angelo Santabarbara, R-Rotterdam, and co-sponsored by Dr. Brian Gordon, D-Niskayuna.
BPA is a chemical used in the manufacturing of plastics and is found in a variety of everyday items, including water bottles, food and drink packaging, food can linings, dental sealants, Cds, DVDs, eyeglasses and automobiles.
According to the organization Clean New York, BPA has been known since the 1930s to mimic estrogen. In recent decades, scientists have documented health problems amongst their subjects, including animals ranging from mice to rats to primates. The health effects identified through research include infertility, obesity, diabetes, breast cancer, damage to the brain, ADHD and behavioral challenges, as well as prostate cancer.
As a nurse, I’ve seen an increase in diseases that are environmental in origin: cancer, birth defects, asthma, etc., said Joan Sheehan, a nurse and vice-president of the Capital Region Against Breast Cancer, during the public hearing.
`An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,` said Sheehan, commending the Legislature for taking on this issue.
Brian McGarry, who is running for a seat on the Rotterdam Town Council on the GOP line, spoke in opposition of the bill.
`This seems to be more of an issue for a federal decision, not a local one,` said McGarry. `With the county legislators saying this is a bad product to be in food products, sippy cups, etc., parents will be afraid to buy these products for fear of these products causing autism,` he said, adding that `complete review of scientific data has been conducted by scientific and government bodies worldwide,` and that they have concluded that BPA safe to use.
`It’s bad governance and I encourage you vote against it,` said McGarry.
Otherwise, the new legislation was met with positive reception during the public hearing. During the Legislature debate and vote, the bill was met with no opposition.
`As parents, we have enough to worry about and we shouldn’t have to worry about buying products for our children that are harmful,` said Santabarbara.
`I’m a father of two and I wouldn’t want to take any chances with my children and I’m sure you wouldn’t want to take chances with your children,` said Santabarbara.
He went on to note that other government bodies have already recognized the risks of BPA. He said several counties and states are considering a ban and many companies have already voluntarily started banning BPA. As public awareness rises, safer alternatives are becoming more available, said Santabarbara.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D -Brooklyn, introduced a similar law to ban BPA from children’s products and the Suffolk County Legislature passed itsown local legislation.
`If we don’t take action that’s an irresponsible thing to do,` said Santabarbara. `I introduced this back in March because I’m concerned and I urge everyone to show unified support of this proposal,` he said.
Joe Suhrada, R-Rotterdam, said that while he was generally for the ban, he had spoken with many members of the scientific community who were still debating the issue.
`I’m very pleased to see that the county is working on this in a bipartisan matter. I will support this tonight. I have spoken to many people within the scientific community and there appears to be some split there, but we should err on the side of caution when it comes to products that go into our children’s bodies,` said Suhrada.
He also commented on the environmental impact of BPA.
`[Imagine] the trickle down effect of products entering the waste stream and contaminating water,` said Suhrada.
Santabarabra also commended the Legislature for working together on the issue and said he hopes the law serves as a model for higher levels of government.
`As the elected representatives of Schenectady County, we are closest to the people and our voice needs to be heard,` said Santabarbara. `There is a better way and we need to encourage it. I commend the county Legislature for working together for what is in the best interest of our communities. I look forward to continuing our cooperative efforts on future proposals for the betterment of our residents.`