HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Connecticut moved a step closer Tuesday to banning the sale of plastic baby bottles, food containers and cups containing a chemical that has been restricted in Canada and that some scientists say is a health threat.
A legislative committee unanimously endorsed restrictions on making, selling or distributing products in Connecticut made with bisphenol-A, or BPA. The substance is commonly used to harden plastic and make it shatterproof, and to line the insides of certain food containers.
Connecticut, California, Oregon, Hawaii and several other states are considering a ban or limits on the chemical. Suffolk County, on New York's Long Island, last month became the first place in the nation to enact a ban. Canada announced a ban on the substance in baby bottles, becoming the first country last year to restrict the sale of the chemical.
If approved by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. M. Jodi Rell, the law would phase in restrictions over the next few years to prohibit making, selling or distributing baby bottles and certain other products made with BPA. Warning labels also would be required on all food products -- not just infant formulas and others intended for children -- that come in containers made with BPA and sold in Connecticut.
"We are sending a valid signal to the industry that we need to protect our children from these toxins and they need to do their research to find us viable alternatives," said state Rep. James Spallone, D-Essex, co-chairman of the committee that endorsed the proposal.
Experts disagree on whether BPA poses health risks to humans. Some scientists and activists believe BPA mimics some effects of the hormone estrogen and long-term exposure is harmful to humans. Animal studies have linked BPA with breast, prostate and reproductive system abnormalities and some cancers.
But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and European Union both say the chemical is safe. The chemicals industry says that so little BPA leaches out of plastic containers made with it that the levels are far too low to harm consumers. In addition to food and beverage containers, BPA can be found in many reusable sports water bottles, compact discs, DVDs, eyeglass lenses and sports safety goggles and helmets.
The Washington, D.C.-based Grocery Manufacturers Association, which represents companies that make food, beverages and consumer products, said in a written statement Tuesday that it agrees with the FDA "that there is no need for consumers to change their purchasing or consumption patterns."
"Product safety and regulatory decisions are made on the entire body of scientific evidence, which to date supports the safety of BPA," the association said in its statement.
The National Conference of State Legislatures is monitoring 54 bills in 20 states that address BPA use, said Scott Hendrick, a policy associate for the organization.
Some, like Connecticut's measure, would include bans on making and selling certain items, particularly those used by babies and children. Other proposals ask the federal government to step in and to push manufacturers to find alternatives.
So far, Hendrick said, no state has passed a BPA ban, but a California bill came close last year. A measure that would have barred BPA above certain levels in some children's products was approved by California's Senate, but died without action by the full State Assembly before it adjourned.
Several companies that make children's bottles, cups, toys and other items have already voluntarily stopped manufacturing products with BPA. Some U.S. stores, such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Toys "R'' Us, also are phasing out products that contain BPA.