Multnomah County Board of Commissioners passes ban on sale of some products with Bisphenol A

October 27, 2011

Multnomah County has adopted a policy restricting the sale in the county of all reusable beverage containers used by infants, children and adults that contain the chemical Bisphenol A.

The Board of Commissioners, acting in its capacity as the Board of Health, on Oct. 27 voted unanimously to pass the policy on Bisphenol A, also known as BPA. The 5-0 vote came after the board both reviewed the county Health Department’s analysis of the chemical and heard entirely supportive testimony from local residents.

“I’m really proud that we can take this action to protect our community and our children from the harmful effects of this chemical,” said Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen. “Restricting the sale of products with BPA puts the health of our residents first and ensures they have access to affordable, safe alternatives.”

Bisphenol A is an industrial chemical used in the manufacture of hard plastic containers like baby bottles, sippy cups and water bottles. The chemical is also used to line metal cans for food and infant formula.

Bisphenol A can leach from these bottles and containers into what we eat and drink. Once consumed, the industrial chemical can disrupt the natural activity of hormones in the body. Scientific studies have linked low-level exposure of the chemical to heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer and reproductive issues.

The commissioners heard testimony in favor of the ban from more than 25 people, including City Commissioner Dan Saltzman, state Sen. Jackie Dingfelder and state Reps. Alyssa Keny-Guyer and Jefferson Smith. No one testified in opposition.

The Health Department’s analysis found that babies and young children are more vulnerable to the effects of Bisphenol A. Disruption of an infant’s hormonal system can affect their development, putting them at risk for behavioral problems, breast and prostate cancer and a variety of other issues.

Furthermore, babies’ small size and different metabolism puts them at risk for increased exposure – researchers estimate Bisphenol A levels in the bloodstream of children less than 2 years old are about 11 times higher than those for adults.

BPA exposure also brings up issues of health equity. Because statistics show African-American and low-income mothers breast-feed at lower rates, babies from these backgrounds are more likely to drink formula or drink more often from plastic bottles, increasing their exposure to Bisphenol A.

Multnomah County pursued this policy restricting Bisphenol A after a similar proposal failed in the Oregon Legislature. Several counties in New York have already passed restrictions on Bisphenol A, as have at least 10 states—including Washington and California.

To learn more about what’s next, read this FAQ and this information prepared by the Health Department.