Monday, March 15, 2010

BPA, A CASUALTY OF THE WAR ON CHEMICALS

BPA, Bisphenol-A, is a chemical used in the manufacture of shatter-proof plastic in baby bottles and in resin coatings that protect canned food and vegetables. It is also used in eyeglass lenses, bike helmets, and electronic circuit boards. It is also present in dental fillings, CDs, Blackberries, cell phones, and medical devices. It is ubiquitous.

But it “may” harm human development, says the Environmental Working Group, which has directed a campaign against it since 2007. EWG claimed that the CDC, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found detectable levels of BPA in the urine of 93 % of Americans over the age of six.

But virtually every chemical can be detected in urine and blood, according to Dr. Gilbert Ross, Medical Director of ACSH, the American Council of Science and Health. That does not mean that they are harmful, says the CDC. And the levels that leach into food or drink are so incredibly small that they can barely be measured.

A study by the Harvard School of Public Health found that students had 69% more BPA in their urine after drinking liquids from BPA-based plastic bottles for a week, than students who did not drink primarily from them. All students’ levels were well below the Federal safety-standards limits.

Two Canadian activists have described how they ran a baby rally and a campaign with the help of the Canadian media to frighten soccer moms into petitioning the Government of Canada to ban BPA from babies’ bottles. Their good luck came when Dr. Mark Richardson, the head of Health Canada’s investigation of BPA, said in a speech to doctors in Arizona, that exposures to BPA “are so low as to be totally inconsequential, in my view.” To toxic terrorists, that was an opportunity. They demanded that Dr. Richardson be investigated for bias. He was immediately reassigned.

The Food and Drug Administration made a similar slip. The FDA had examined the safety of BPA in hundreds of studies as recently as 2008 and had found no significant health hazards. On June 2, 2009, Representatives Henry Waxman and Bart Stupak sent a letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg requesting another investigation of BPA.

The FDA re-investigated and in January issued its report indicating that BPA does not pose a risk at low levels of human exposure. But its report then went on for another 320 pages “to recommend ways to limit exposure.” Why, if no risk, activists asked.

To appease them, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences is spending $30 million to research BPA’s health effects in behavior, obesity, diabetes, reproductive disorders, asthma, heart disease, etc. etc. etc. And the FDA has called for public comment in advance of a further reassessment.

Meanwhile, action was under way in Connecticut. Attorney General Blumenthal, with support from the attorneys general of New Jersey and Delaware, took up pollution by BPA . He announced a “major public health victory” when six companies that manufacture babies’ bottles volunteered to stop using BPA. He went further. “I am calling for a complete ban against BPA in baby products to stop this needless and negligent public health threat.” The FDA and its European counterpart, the European Food Safety Authority, have said BPA is safe in the amounts used in baby bottles.

Blumenthal last March went before the Connecticut state legislature to argue for a ban on BPA in babies’ bottles, infant-formula cans, baby food containers, and other food packaging and products marketed for infants and toddlers.. In the legislature, Blumenthal was opposed by several corporations using BPA-based baby bottles.

Not only did they not prevail, but Blumenthal called for a Richardson investigation of the motivation of Coca Cola, Del Monte, and other corporations for trying to stop the ban. The ban passed last summer.

Besides Canada and Connecticut, Minnesota has banned it, and it is pending in a larger bill for food safety in the House of Representatives. Chicago banned it from store shelves. It has not passed the California Assembly for two years, and the California Science Panel of seven doctors has turned it down. New York’s Suffolk County banned it. New Jersey and Delaware have not.

Three manufacturers and three retailers including Wal-Mart and Toys”R”Us have said they would discontinue sales of BPA’d plastic baby bottles, sippy cups, and other food containers.

Nevertheless, there is no evidence of harm from BPA, just as there was and is none from Alar on apples, or DDT or PCBs’ bans. “This is an irrational issue . . . fueled by fear,” according to Dr. Ross. There is not one shred of evidence that BPA has ever posed a health hazard.

Still another study of this best-tested chemical has appeared. Published on line on February 17, the study exposed pregnant rodents to a range of BPA dietary doses from low to high. It found that even low doses of BPA did not affect brain, reproduction, or development. It is reported in Toxicological Sciences.

And what is to be the replacement for BPA, and what is its safety profile? On these essential points, there is no interest among the Environmental Working Group, Attorney General Blumenthal, and the toxic terrorists.

By Natalie Sirkin
c2010
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