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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

A history of "safe" products, bisphenol-A

Is BPA safe? That's hard to answer when official US agencies are in the pockets of big business. Can their assessments even be trusted? The concern with BPA started in 2008 with a study that made the US news.


Bisphenol-A is one of many plasticizers added to plastic products to make them flexible. It is used in a variety of plastics that touch food products. BPA is also used in carbonless paper and thermal paper, like for the printing of receipts. BPA is an endocrine disruptor, which means, it binds to estrogen receptors and acts like real hormones in the body, causing problems. While it's a known endocrine disruptor, the FDA and European Food Safety Authority both claim there is no problem with BPA even though the FDA banned BPA from baby bottles in 2012. (Inconsistency anyone?) From Wikipedia:
The FDA states "BPA is safe at the current levels occurring in foods" based on extensive research, including two more studies issued by the agency in early 2014.[5] The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) reviewed new scientific information on BPA in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2015: EFSA’s experts concluded on each occasion that they could not identify any new evidence which would lead them to revise their opinion that the presently known levels of exposure to BPA is safe; however, the EFSA does recognize some uncertainties, and will continue to investigate them.
The WHO also found no reason to ban BPA (source). Plastics marked with a recycle symbol 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 are very unlikely to contain BPA, but some plastics in category 7 may have BPA. Category 7 is the catch-all for plastic types.

A panel of experts also concluded, in 2006, that BPA was a problem (section Politics of Bisphenol-A):
In 2006, the first of two government-sponsored assessments of the BPA literature was coordinated by the Division of Extramural Research and Training at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. The meeting brought together 38 experts on endocrine disruptors and BPA in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The meeting's final product, the Chapel Hill Consensus Statement, concluded with certainty, on the basis of several hundred studies, that BPA at concentrations found in the human body is associated with “organizational changes in the prostate, breast, testis, mammary glands, body size, brain structure and chemistry, and behavior of laboratory animals.” (See Chapel Hill Consensus Statement. PMID 17768031. Secondary link here.)
In 2008, the Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction (CERHR, part of NTP which is part of NIH), sponsored an assessment of the literature, and released it's report of BPA.  The report found “some concern for effects on the brain, behavior and prostate gland in fetuses, infants and children at current human exposures to BPA.”

Even some doctors, after they read some studies about BPA, have gotten rid of all plastics that touch food in their house. 

Studies of BPA

While the FDA, EPA and EFSA all claim BPA is safe some studies say it can cause problems (from Wikipedia link below):
  1. BPA encourages blastoma
  2. Higher rates of breast cancer. Some breast cancers are susceptible to high levels of estrogen, which BPA mimics. There is correlation here but causation has not yet been proven. 
  3. In studies involving mice, BPA is associated with increased asthma problems. 
  4. On Wikipedia there is also a table showing doses of BPA and problems found with that does in lab animals. Each entry links to a footnote and then to a study. 
  5. From 1988-1994 the CDC found BPA in the urine of 95% of tested adults. Source
  6. In 2009 Consumer Reports found some canned foods exceeded the FDAs "Cumulative Exposure Daily Intake Limit".
  7. A study from 2011 found Americans had twice the BPA levels in their bodies as Canadians. Source.
So let's see how big government agencies are contradicting themselves. They admit BPA is an endocrine disruptor, but it's safe. Those two ideas are not compatible at all. Playing with hormones is not safe! Even doctors warn of complications from birth control pills or abusing testosterone. Yet ONE chemical (BPA) that acts exactly like a hormone is magically safe? "Absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence."

Almost all the studies are based on animals. Animals are used in studies throughout the world and, with experience, certain animals are found to mimic specific human systems fairly closely. (I'm not saying it's right or wrong to use animals, I'm just informing.) The scientific community accepts results using animals in testing, except for certain chemicals like BPA. Isn't that another piece of inconsistency?

A more conservative plan must be implemented when it comes to the health of hundreds of millions of people. An item should be assumed dangerous (within reason) until proven safe. Absence of evidence of harm does not make an item safe.

Who says it's not safe

  1. Low doses of BPA are harmful. Includes table showing level of exposure, and the harm found at that level. 2007. EWG.org. 
  2. More studies on BPA. Has good references so you can find the actual study somewhere.

Other studies

  1. BPA found in many canned foods with plastic liners. 2007. EWG.org.
  2. Polycarbonate bottles leach BPA. 2009. NIH.gov. 

Links

  1. Chapel Hill Consensus Statement. 2007.
  2. Ourstolenfuture has more links to studies. 
  3. NIH page on BPA. With links to more articles and studies.National Toxicology Program (NTP) site. Part of the US NIH.
  4. The making and unmaking of BPA. A short history of BPA.
  5. Wikipedia bisphenol-A.
  6. Which agencies claim BPA is safe or unsafe

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