11 January, 2006

Bisphenol A on the hot seat

Brita filter pitchers, Nalgene bottles, and some sippy cups are all made from a chemical that has been linked in many independent studies to serious developmental disorders. The chemical, Bisphenol A, is the main component of the hard, clear plastic called polycarbonate.

Bisphenol A can be released from the plastic when scrubbed with detergents, scuffed, or fogged from exposure to sunlight. It can then enter the body of a person or animal eating or drinking out of the polycarbonate container. In the body, it imitates estrogen and causes all manner of sexual disorders, from low sperm counts to genital cancers.
At the hearing on Tuesday, Fred vom Saal, a reproductive biologist at the University of Missouri-Columbia, said the effects of low doses of bisphenol A, known as BPA, are clear in animal studies.

"Every aspect of maleness is disrupted," Vom Saal said, including the animals' sperm counts, prostate size and behavior, because it blocks testosterone production.
Now California is considering banning polycarbonate in baby toys. Unsurprisingly, the plastics industry has sent its pet scientists out to prevent regulation.
"Human exposure is extraordinarily low," said Steve Hentges of the polycarbonate division of the American Plastics Council. "And there is no evidence that any human has been harmed by use of these products."
Unfortunately for the plastics industry, these scientists are probably charging way too much for their services. The good news for any industry seeking to prevent regulation is that Chris Hoofnagle, a lawyer at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, has created a handy guide to preventing regulation -- even if you know nothing about the industry. And his guide is brilliantly written as a deck of poker cards, for easy memorization. Next time, perhaps the plastics industry will take on some high school student-council vice-president who would gladly accept a volunteer "internship" testifying in Sacramento. She could probably do a perfectly competent job.

Just to bring her up to speed, let's see -- so far, the plastics industry has used:
2 of spades
3 of clubs
5 of hearts
5 of diamonds
and at the end of the LA Times story, a hint of the deadly 8 of diamonds.
I am sure that Jack of Spades is waiting in the wings.

Meanwhile, the story gives a great insight into the power of the purse when it comes to the alleged objectivity of science:
Vom Saal countered that 140 animal studies have found hormone-altering effects from low exposure to the plastics chemical. In a published review of the studies, Vom Saal reported that every one funded by industry showed no effects while more than 90% of the government-funded studies found effects.
Go figure!

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?