A Toxic Setback for the Anti-Plastic Campaigners
By Jon Entine Tuesday, April 19, 2011
A triumph for sound science.
Advocacy groups targeting plastic products made with bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates took it on the chin last week.
A comprehensive review by the German Society of Toxicology of thousands of studies on BPA concluded, “[BPA] exposure represents no noteworthy risk to the health of the human population, including newborns and babies.” The group, which included several scientists who have advised regulatory caution on BPA, bucked calls by advocacy groups to lower safe exposure levels.
This is a huge development in this ongoing saga and a major endorsement of the scientific method. Over the past decade, German toxicologists had been among the most aggressive in arguing for precautionary standards when regulating plastic additives. BPA is used to line metal cans and make epoxy products and polycarbonate plastics, including children’s sippy cups. Phthalates are softeners used to manufacture vinyl products, from gym mats to cabling and medical tubing.
Researchers generally agree BPA is neither mutagenic nor likely to be a carcinogen. But some 200 studies—almost all small-scale “explorative” studies on rats—have suggested that BPA might trigger biological activity, including possible neurological or endocrinological effects, and have called it an “endocrine disruptor.” But after an extensive review of some 5,000 studies, the German toxicologists reaffirmed the scientific consensus that BPA is safe when used even by the most vulnerable populations—young children and pregnant women: “After having carefully considered all arguments, the Committee had to conclude that the criticism was scientifically not justified; moreover, recently published additional data further support the reliability of … studies demonstrating a lack of estrogen-dependent effects.”
BPA has been declared safe based on peer-reviewed scientific evidence by every major government agency in every major industrial country in the world. In the past few years, Canada, France, and Denmark have instituted precautionary restrictions on BPA use in some infant products, in defiance of recommendations from their science advisory boards. Some state and local politicians in the United States have done so too.
The German science panel took a notable swipe at the critics’ central argument, the ultra-precautionary view that biological activity equates to harm. Certainly, BPA can impact the endocrine system, as can many substances, including foods such as tofu and nuts. “Explorative studies may identify a chemical-induced biological event, but this event many not translate into an adverse health effect,” the panel noted. “The long-term low-dose safety-studies on BPA demonstrate this.” (The American Magazine)