A vote Tuesday by the Suffolk County Legislature will make the county the first in the nation to implement a ban on retail receipts coated with the chemical BPA, which backers say is linked to breast and prostate cancers and other serious disorders.
"Once again this institution is going to set the standard for other states to follow," Legis. Steve Stern (D-Huntington) said after the 16-1 vote to impose a ban a year after the measure is signed into law. Aides said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone supports the measure.
Suffolk in 2009 became the first county in the nation to ban the use of BPA in baby bottles and children's sippy cups. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration last summer announced that BPA would no longer be allowed in baby bottles and the cups.
Connecticut passed legislation late last year to ban receipt paper coated with BPA. But the bill will not take effect until 2015 unless the Environmental Protection Agency formally identifies an alternative to BPA by next year, Stern said. Suffolk's ban will carry a penalty of $500 for the first violation and $1,000 for subsequent ones.
Paper for sales receipts is coated with BPA so that it reacts to heat to create a printed image. The thermal paper is used at ATMs, gas stations, restaurants and other retailers.
The measure passed after lawmakers heard from anti-breast cancer advocates who urged action.
"We've got to end this disease and a bad-acting chemical like [BPA] is at the top of the list," said Karen Miller, a Huntington breast cancer survivor who points to suspected environmental causes of cancer.
But Stephen Rosario, senior director of the American Chemistry Council, urged lawmakers to table the measure. Rosario said BPA is safe, has a "low potential" to penetrate skin and is biodegradable. He questioned the use of alternatives, which contain another chemical, BPS. The chemical is under review and testing is expected to be completed next year.
Legis. Thomas Cilmi (R-Bay Shore) the lone opponent of the measure, questioned a ban of a chemical that is "potentially harmful."
Said Cilmi: "Let's not go down the slippery slope banning things that may have some level of risk."
Stern said BPA, a synthetic estrogen, can alter immune systems, cause hyperactivity and reproductive health problems and also presents cancer risks.In other action, the legislature:
Approved a special election in the First Legislative District for Jan. 15 despite objections by Republican lawmakers. The winner will replace former Legis. Edward Romaine, a Center Moriches Republican who was elected Brookhaven Town supervisor.
Approved expansion of the usage of the opiate antidote Narcan. The pilot, which officials say has saved 43 lives since May, will be expanded from three county police precincts to all seven.
Passed a measure to provide county property tax exemptions, now permitted under state law, for new residential and commercial construction or additions that meet LEEDS environmental standards. Those reaching the highest standard, platinum, can get exemption for six years and assessment reductions lasting up to 10 years.