Chemical Regulation May Move From State to Local Level
Balkanization of regulatory programs in Oregon?
Associated Oregon Industries 
Following recent events in California, there are emerging efforts in Oregon to move regulatory controls from the state level down to the hundreds of local governments. A current example is Multnomah County’s attempt to ban the sale of products containing Bisphenol-A (BPA).
When a legislative ban on the sale of products packaged in materials containing BPA failed to pass the 2011 Legislature, Multnomah County executive Jeff Cogan proposed a local ban on the product. Cogan appointed a workgroup to look into how such a ban would function; the workgroup will report its findings later this fall.
BPA is used to make polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins – and both applications have been approved for use in contact with food by FDA, European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), and many other government agencies for decades. Because it is used in epoxy resin canned food linings, BPA protects food from contamination and spoilage. Cans with epoxy resin linings have a shelf life of two years or longer, which becomes very important in areas of our country where fresh fruits and vegetables are not always easily accessible or affordable. Such durably packaged foods are also essential in disaster-relief and military operations and very helpful to food banks, as well as other organizations that routinely feed large numbers of people.
There has been a great deal of discussion in recent months about government “over-reach” at the state and federal level. This county effort to address food safety policy by instituting a broad ban on BPA is a perfect example of such over-reach, focusing more on a government official’s personal agenda, rather than the public’s best interest.
When considering whether it is appropriate to spend county resources on a BPA ban, Multnomah County residents should know that a person’s real-world exposure to BPA is extremely low. In fact, a person would have to consume 1,300 pounds of food and beverages in contact with polycarbonate containers every day for the rest of their life just to reach the safe intake level set by the government bodies in the U.S. and Europe. Or, as another example, a person would have to eat or drink the contents of 1,140 cans of food or beverage every day for a lifetime to reach the safe intake limit.
We all want safe consumer products and affordable food for ourselves and our families, but we also want government officials to rely on well documented research when deciding where to focus their efforts. We encourage county executives to direct their attention to pressing local issues, and not attempt to override scientific experts from around the world.