Today we watched as a most intriguing line was clearly drawn on the BPA front. Sides were chosen without reserve and it all began with the FDA's bolstered defense of the toxic chemical, which was quickly followed by tips for decreasing BPA exposure.
Huh? Did I miss something?
Washington (AP) Sept. 16, 2008 – FDA Defends Plastic Linked with Health Risks
“Right now, our tentative conclusion is that it's safe, so we're not recommending any change in habits,” said Laura Tarantino, head of the FDA's office of food additive safety. But she acknowledged, “there are a number of things people can do to lower their exposure.”
Okay, so now that the FDA has come right out with it, how did the rest of the world respond? Articles diametrically opposed could be found in most major news reports.
Scientists reviewed the health of 1,455 American adults and found that people with higher concentrations of BPA in their urine were slightly more likely to have heart disease and diabetes.The researchers also estimate that most Americans are exposed to a higher level of BPA each day than the current Environmental Protection Agency recommendation.
In an accompanying editorial, Frederick S. vom Saal and John Peterson Myers take the government to task, asking the United States and Europe to follow Canada's lead and regulate BPA.
“The FDA and the European Food Safety Authority have chosen to ignore warnings from expert panels and other government agencies and have continued to declare BPA ‘safe,'” wrote the authors.
. . . Ultimately, though, it may not even matter what the FDA does — a new report by the Investor Environmental Health Network says that consumers, manufacturers and retailers are already forgoing the chemical, buying and selling BPA-free bottles and other products. Wal-Mart and Toys ‘R Us have already announced their intention to shift away from products containing BPA. Which shouldn't be surprising — in America, commerce leaves science and the government in the dust.
The first large study in humans of a chemical widely used in everyday plastics has found that people with higher levels of bisphenol A had higher rates of heart disease, diabetes and liver abnormalities, a finding that immediately became the focus of the increasingly heated debate over the safety of the chemical.
The research, published yesterday in the Journal of the American Medical Association by a team of British and American scientists, compared the health status of 1,455 men and women with the levels of the chemical, known as BPA, in their urine.
The researchers divided the subjects into four statistical groupings according to their BPA levels and found that those in the quartile with the highest concentrations were nearly three times as likely to have cardiovascular disease than those with the lowest levels, and 2.4 times as likely to have diabetes. Higher BPA levels were also associated with abnormal concentrations of three liver enzymes.
. . . On Capitol Hill, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) cited the study as he opened an investigation of the way the FDA has regulated the chemical, joining several Democrats, led by Rep. John D. Dingell (Mich.), who have been looking into whether chemical manufacturers unduly influenced the agency's stance.
. . . More than 100 studies have linked BPA exposure to health effects in animals. The FDA maintains that BPA is safe largely on the basis of two studies funded by the chemical industry, a fact that was repeatedly cited at yesterday's forum.
“We're concerned that the FDA is basing its conclusion on two studies while downplaying the results of hundreds of other studies,” said Amber Wise of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “This appears to be a case of cherry-picking data with potentially high cost to human health.”
Though the FDA has ruled BPA safe, not everyone in the government agrees. Earlier this month the National Toxicology Program (NTP), a federal agency that gauges the safety of chemicals, reported that its research shows “some concern” about the effects of BPA on the brain development of fetuses and young children.
These articles are a small sampling of the responses in opposition to the FDA's announcement. We are personally more convinced than ever that a cautionary approach is warranted in relation to toxic plastic.
The people have spoken – when will the FDA listen?