San Francisco ban abolishing chemicals in baby
By Elizabeth Daley, Bay City News Service
December 4, 2006
SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - A pending San Francisco law prohibiting
the manufacture, sale and distribution of baby products containing
certain possibly harmful chemicals has been stayed after the city
was challenged by two separate lawsuits filed by retailers, manufacturers
The law was supposed to have gone into effect Dec. 1, according
to city attorney spokesman Matt Dorsey. The lawsuits are set to
be heard Jan. 8.
The chemicals in question, phthalates and bisphenol A, which
can be found in household items, teething rings, soft plastic
toys and baby bottles, can cause reproductive defects and early
onset puberty, according to the California Public Interest Research
A report delivered to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors
in October states that other countries have enacted similar legislation
banning the chemicals and states such as Maryland have considered
banning the chemicals as well.
In their October report to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors,
San Francisco Legislative Analysts wrote "monitoring and
enforcement could be expensive, depending upon the number of covered
businesses. It might be worthwhile to consider whether a voluntary
compliance program might be most efficient. Public education might
create a change in market conditions such that divesting of banned
products voluntarily would be attractive."
However lawsuits filed by retailers against the city of San Francisco
do not indicate compliance. Manufacturers and chemists allege
that the city of San Francisco does not have the jurisdiction
to pass such a ban and that evidence indicating the possible harm
caused by the chemicals is insufficient.
Richard Woo, owner of San Francisco based retailer Citikids Baby
News and co-plaintiff in one of the cases against San Francisco
said he would be willing to post warning signs in his store stating
that the products in question may cause harm, but in passing the
ban, "I feel that the city is getting involved in something
they have no jurisdiction over."
Woo, who was at one time a biochemist, said the chemicals might
be present in one third of the plastic products his store sells.
According to Woo, the chemicals in question have been on the
market for more than 50 years.
"The other substitute products they are proposing do not
have a track record. They will probably have to do studies and
when they do, they will find they get some similar results, that
it's harmful to the human body, all these are petrochemical products.
They are all derived from petroleum."
Still, certain manufacturers such as Born Free, in Austin, Texas,
have started to manufacture baby products such as baby bottles
and drinking cups that do not contain phthalates or bisphenol
A, preventing possible harm that may be caused by the chemicals.
Whole Foods Market stopped selling baby products containing baby
bottles and drinking cups for kids made of plastic that contained
phthalates after receiving "emerging scientific evidence
of their risk," the store reported.
"After thoroughly reviewing current scientific work on this
subject, it is clear to us there is still substantial research
to be done.
Meanwhile, we are following recommendations from creditable experts
that polycarbonate drinking containers for children could be risky
so we have decided to take precaution and offer only polycarbonate-free
bottles and cups for them at this time," said Joe Dickson,
quality and standards coordinator for Whole Foods Market based
in Austin, Texas.
"Children's products simply should not contain toxic chemicals,"
said CALPIRG health advocate Emily Clayton. Clayton urged shoppers
to carefully examine all items purchased for hazardous materials
or chemicals that may lurk within.
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