SACRAMENTO — Despite a fierce lobbying effort by the U.S. chemical industry, the state Senate narrowly approved a proposal Tuesday that would ban the use of a substance in baby bottles, toddler sippy cups and food containers that independent scientists say is a threat to childhood development.
The bill by state Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) that would prohibit the use of bisphenol A -- commonly dubbed BPA -- now goes to the Assembly, where it is expected to face a wall of resistance from manufacturers of the products that contain the chemical.
Industry leaders have focused on California for a lobbying and public relations campaign they hope will turn back efforts by health and consumer groups to outlaw use of the chemical, a component in many types of plastic and plastic-lined containers.
Researchers from the chemical industry say the public health threat has been vastly overblown, and manufacturers of BPA argue that it has passed muster with nearly a dozen regulatory agencies in Europe and the United States.
But more than 200 independent scientific studies have linked BPA to brain development problems and behavioral troubles in young children, the early onset of puberty and several types of cancer. Scientists say the chemical can leach into a liquid, particularly when a bottle or cup is heated.
Pavley said on the Senate floor that the goal of her legislation is to protect "the most vulnerable" and that affordable alternatives are available to the chemical industry.
The measure squeaked through with a bare majority, largely on partisan lines, though two Democrats -- Sens. Ron Calderon of Montebello and Gloria Negrete McLeod of Chino -- voted with the Republicans. The tally was 21 to 16.
Sen. George Runner (R-Lancaster) called the bill a "knee-jerk reaction" that sidesteps state efforts to more fully weigh conflicting claims of potential chemical threats.
The author of that review process disagreed. Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) said there is "good reason to have concern" about BPA -- and to act now instead of waiting for a review that could take several years after its 2011 launch.
A statement issued Tuesday by the American Chemistry Council, which represents manufacturers of BPA, said the Senate had voted "to needlessly restrict consumer products deemed to be safe by scientific experts worldwide.
"It is apparent that elected officials have bowed to pressure from vocal special interest groups," the statement said.