Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Bisphenol A and You

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical building block that is used primarily to make polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins. It is used in many common items including plastic bottles, the liners in metal food cans, and dental fillings... and more than likely, it can also be found in you. BPA has been detected in the urine of 93% of the the U.S. population over six years of age.

In animals, BPA is an endocrine disrupter: an exogenous substance that acts like hormones in the endocrine system and disrupts the physiologic function of endogenous hormones. The theory of endocrine disruption posits that low-dose exposure to chemicals that interact with hormone receptors may alter human development. The timing of the exposure is also important because different hormone pathways are active during different stages of development.

A major concern in the scientific community is that exposure to endocrine disruptors in the womb or early in life is associated with neurodevelopmental disorders including reduced IQ, ADHD, and autism.

Now there is evidence that BPA might make people more susceptible to obesity, so now we know the average American will finally wake up and take notice!

Bill Moyer's Journal recently investigated the safety of BPA and the rather weak regulatory efforts of the EPA. I highly recommend watching the report or reading the transcript. The investigation highlights the battle between the EPA and the American Chemistry Council (ACC), a powerful trade and lobbying association. EPA biologist, L. Earl Gray, Jr., charged the industry with flooding the EPA with studies. David Rosner, professor of history and public health at Columbia University, explained why, telling the paper chemical makers have "… learned that if you play on the uncertainty of danger, you're going to be able to stop regulatory action…"
Susanne Rust, a journalist for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and also a graduate student in Biological Anthropology, examined the science involved in the BPA debate:
NARRATOR: In all, Rust evaluated 258 studies done over two decades involving lab animals with spines, the type scientists consider most relevant to human beings.

SUZANNE RUST: Right away, you could see that 80% of these studies all found that this chemical caused harm.

NARRATOR: More than half the studies, 168 of them, evaluated Bisphenol A at low doses. The vast majority of those - 132 of the 168 - showed harm to lab animals. And, Rust would report, "nearly three-fourths of the studies that found the chemical had no harmful effects were funded by industry." Rust's overall conclusion: an overwhelming majority of the studies found BPA to be harmful in lab animals - causing breast and testicular cancer, diabetes, hyperactivity, obesity, low sperm counts, miscarriage and other reproductive failures. Studies paid for by the chemical industry were much less likely to find damaging effects or disease.

MARK KATCHES:That's where this story took on a whole different dynamic. Because you were able to show, conclusively, through that analysis of all those studies, that hundreds of researchers across the world had found problems with Bisphenol A. And yet, nobody had done anything, and only a few studies had found that it was safe. And most of those studies were funded by the chemical industry themselves. And, and that's when you knew you had something really, really special to tell to readers.
And so, I repeat that really special message to my blog readers. We can't assume that plastics are safe just because our government lets us use them. Only recently, after two decades of studies, has the House Energy and Commerce Committe investigated the chemical industry's influence on the FDA's regulation of BPA.

Canada's government has announced its intention to ban the sale of plastic baby bottles containing BPA, and the California State Senate voted to forbid the use of BPA in childcare products. However, until these items are banned everywhere, you can still take matters into your own hands and find plenty of BPA-free products online.

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