Monday, September 6, 2010

BPA in plastics - No certainty about its safety

The New York Times has an interesting article on the science and the politics surrounding bisphenol-A, a chemical found in many plastics and linings in food packaging. It is a known endochrine disruptor and some studies have linked it to a several health problems not the least of which are cancer and disruption of male development in mammals. Being that one of our major thrusts has been to convince Penn State to eliminate the sale of plastic water bottles, it might serve to get a good read on this.

Here is a speck from the middle that I think nicely highlights how groups are arrayed in this fight:
Perhaps not surprisingly, the issue of whether BPA is safe has become highly partisan.

Environmental groups and many Democrats want BPA banned, blaming it for an array of ills that includes cancer, obesity, infertility and behavior problems. Environmentalists think the United States should adopt the “precautionary principle,” a better-safe-than-sorry approach favored in the European Union. The principle says, in essence, that if there are plausible health concerns about a chemical, even if they are not proved, people should not be exposed to it until studies show it is safe. The United States takes the opposite approach: chemicals are not banned unless there is proof of harm.

Many Republicans, anti-regulation activists and the food-packaging and chemical industries insist that BPA is harmless and all but indispensable to keeping canned food safe by sealing the cans and preventing corrosion, and to producing many other products at reasonable prices. They argue that the chemical has been demonized, and that adopting the precautionary principle would lead to needless and ruinously expensive bans on safe and useful products. Both sides are closely watching the issue unfold, because BPA is widely seen as a test case in an era of mounting worry about household chemicals, pollution and the possible links between illness and environmental exposures, especially in fetuses and young children.

“This isn’t the only endocrine-disrupting chemical on the block,” said Patricia Hunt, a biologist at Washington State University, in Pullman. “It’s just the one that’s captured the attention, because researchers like me have gotten into the field and gone, ‘Holy cats! We’re all exposed to this.’ There’s been a heavy industry response, and we’ve gathered our forces together a little more strongly to shine a light on it. This is the poster child for this group of chemicals. Academic scientists are saying we need to do something, and we need to do it fast.”
Read on here.

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