Chinese Factory Workers With Elevated BPA Means So Very Little

Today’s Washington Post gives good play to the latest report raising thinly based alarms about bisphenol A, or BPA, a chemical used to harden plastics and make consumer packaging safer.  The Page A16 story, “Study: BPA has effect on sperm” reports: 

The study of more than 200 Chinese factory workers found that those who were exposed to bisphenol A, or BPA, were more likely to have lower sperm counts and poorer sperm quality. The study, published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, is the first to produce evidence that the chemical could adversely affect sperm quality in humans.

 A scientist studies the sperm count of 200 men — just 200 — working in Chinese factories that produce BPA or use it in the production process and concludes that BPA is a threat to the general public. What, were members of the Society for the Consumption of Vast Amounts of BPA unavailable as test subjects? 

As the American Chemistry Council’s Steven G. Hentges, Ph.D., said in a statement

This study of Chinese workers with high exposure to BPA is of limited relevance to consumers who, by contrast, are exposed to only very low levels of BPA. 

Studies from the U.S. CDC and Health Canada have shown that typical consumer exposure to BPA, from all sources, is more than 1,000 time lower than government-established safe intake levels. 

We’re accustomed to the hyping of the supposed risks of BPA, exaggerations that serve the interests of the class-action lawyers and “consumer activists” who raise money by scaring people. 

Sure, you could understand why Chinese Factory Worker Today might have written about this study, but it’s hard to detect the study’s relevance to American readers. So you have to wonder about the Post’s news judgment in giving it such good play, especially when you consider other reports that the Post deemed not newsworthy, e.g., this major announcement from the European Food Safety Authority, charged by the EU with assessing  risk regarding food and feed safety.

Following a detailed and comprehensive review of recent scientific literature and studies on the toxicity of bisphenol A at low doses, scientists on the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) CEF[1] Panel conclude they could not identify any new evidence which would lead them to revise the current Tolerable Daily Intake[2] for BPA of 0.05 mg/kg body weight[3] set by EFSA in its 2006 opinion and re-confirmed in its 2008 opinion[4]. The Panel also state that the data currently available do not provide convincing evidence of neurobehavioural toxicity of BPA.

A major body of independent scientists examined 800 studies of BPA and found no reason to change the current exposure standards, reaffirming that bisphenol A does not pose a risk to consumers. But the EFSA report’s first mention in the Post is a single paragraph in today’s story.

BPA serves a valuable purpose, preventing plastics from cracking or shattering and when used in packaging, preserving the taste and quality of food and beverages while preventing their contamination. If hype, scaremongering and bad science succeed in driving BPA out of the marketplace, we’ll have more people stepping on broken plastic and cutting themselves, and more seriously, more people will die of food poisoning.

Now THAT’s real risk, well worthy of news coverage.

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