Ending the Hysteria over BPA

By November 24, 2009Briefly Legal, Regulations

From Michael Shaw at HealthNewsDigest.com, “It’s Time To End The Anti-BPA Hysteria,” covering numerous examples of the bad science, hyped reports, campaigning journalism and fear-mongering on the useful plastics additive, Bisphenol A.

Finally, “hysteria” is the best way to refer to the posture of Consumer Reports on BPA, as presented in the December, 2009 issue. The piece “Concern over canned foods” is rife with errors, but space allows me to mention only two.

Consumer Reports claims that dietary exposure to BPA is close to levels shown to cause harm in animal studies. Yet, the lowest oral exposures to BPA that cause adverse effects in animals are 500,000 times higher than typical human exposure.

Consumer Reports conflates oral ingestion data with animal studies in which BPA was directly injected into the blood, thus bypassing all metabolic pathways. As author Trevor Butterworth reminds us, every regulator and risk assessment in the world has rejected injection studies as a relevant method for assessing human risk from BPA, since our exposure to the chemical is through ingestion. Large, statistically rigorous, multi-generational reproductive toxicity studies have failed to reproduce the findings of injection-based studies.

Indeed, an EPA-funded rodent study recently published in Toxicological Sciences found that low-dose exposures of bisphenol A (BPA) showed no effects on the range of reproductive functions and behavioral activities measured.

See also this summary of a new EPA report from STATS, non-profit, non-partisan Statistical Assessment Service at George Mason University, “New independent study by EPA refutes BPA risk“: [A] second independent study by the Environmental Protection Agency, published in the leading toxicological journal, Toxicological Sciences, has failed to find evidence of the low-dose hypothesis claimed by environmental activists and widely reported in the media.”

Unfortunately, as former Ohio Treasurer Ken Blackwell has written, a BPA scare can help drum up business, for trial lawyers especially. See “A Chemical Scare Campaign Is Good Business for Some.”

The public would be well served by a high-profile, dispassionate assessment of these issues. We suggest a Senate hearing as venue.

David Michaels, President Obama’s nominee to head the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, has been a prominent promoter of the “BPA is DANGEROUS” school of thought from his position as director of the Project on Scientific Knowledge and Public Policy.  A headline on a piece Michaels wrote for The Washington Post on BPA proclaimed, “If Two Similar Studies Completely Disagree, Look at How the Funders Framed the Issue.”

Agreed, SKAPP was formed with money from the trial lawyer industry and is supported by George Soros’ Open Society Institute. And Business Insurance reports, “Surging legal action over BPA targets manufacturers.”

So, yes, a Senate hearing would be a good place to explore the issues surrounding BPA, science and political advocacy as front for the litigation industry. How about at the Senate HELP Committee’s confirmation hearing for Michaels?

Alas, too late. Chairman Tom Harkin pushed through Michaels’ committee approval with no hearing.

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