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[greenyes] FW: [mnkids] Study Cites Risk of Compound in Plastic Bottles

-----Original Message-----
From: kschuler@no.address [mailto:kschuler@no.address]
Sent: Wednesday, April 13, 2005 9:31 AM
To: susanh@no.address
Subject: [mnkids] Study Cites Risk of Compound in Plastic Bottles

MN Kids Enviro Health <mnkids@no.address> -- posted by kschuler@no.address

Study Cites Risk of Compound in Plastic Bottles
Report urges the EPA to restrict bisphenol A, found widely in liquid and
food containers.
By Marla Cone
LA Times Staff Writer

April 13, 2005

Evidence is mounting that a chemical in plastic that is one of the
world's most widely used industrial compounds may be risky in the small
amounts that seep from bottles and food packaging, according to a report
to be published this week in a scientific journal.

The authors of the report, who reviewed more than 100 studies, urged the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to re-evaluate the risks of
bisphenol A and consider restricting its use.

Bisphenol A, or BPA, has been detected in nearly all humans tested in
the U.S. It is a key building block in the manufacture of hard, clear
polycarbonate plastics, including baby bottles, water bottles and other
food and beverage containers. The chemical can leach from the plastic,
especially when the containers are heated, cleaned with harsh detergents
or exposed to acidic foods or drinks.

The chemical is the focus of a contentious debate involving industrial
compounds that can mimic sex hormones. Toxicologists say that exposure
to man-made hormones skews the developing reproductive systems and
brains of newborn animals and could be having the same effects on human
fetuses and young children.

Since the late 1990s, some experiments have found no effects at the
doses of BPA that people are exposed to, and others have suggested that
the chemical mimics estrogen, blocks testosterone and harms lab animals
at low doses. Plastics industry representatives say the trace amounts
that migrate from some products pose no danger and are far below safety
thresholds set by the EPA and other agencies.

In the new report, to be published online in Environmental Health
Perspectives on Thursday, scientists Frederick vom Saal and Claude
Hughes say that as of December, 115 studies have been published
examining low doses of the chemical, and 94 of them found harmful

In an interview Tuesday, Vom Saal, a reproductive biologist at
University of Missouri in Columbia, said there is now an "overwhelming
weight of evidence" that the plastics compound is harmful.

"This is a snowball running down a hill, where the evidence is
accumulating at a faster and faster rate," Vom Saal said.

"You can't open a scientific journal related to sex hormones and not
read an article that would just floor you about this chemical.... The
chemical industry's position that this is a weak chemical has been
proven totally false. This is a phenomenally potent chemical as a sex

In their study, Vom Saal and Hughes suggest an explanation for the
conflicting results of studies: All 11 of those funded by chemical
companies found no risk, while 90% of the 104 government-funded,
non-industry studies reported harmful effects.

One report, released by the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis last fall
and funded by the American Plastics Council, concluded that "the
evidence is very weak" that BPA has estrogen effects on males.

The scientists at Harvard reviewed the results of 19 experiments on male
animals published before April 2002 and found no consistent findings.

However, Vom Saal said, the Harvard report was prepared before at least
60 other studies found harmful effects in lab animals, and it was too
narrowly focused because it looked at effects in males only.

Steven G. Hentges, executive director of the polycarbonate business unit
of the American Plastics Council, said Tuesday that unlike the Harvard
report, the new report lists numbers of studies and pieces of data
without analyzing them to determine their strengths or weaknesses and
whether they are relevant to human beings.

"The sum of weak evidence does not make strong evidence," Hentges said.
"If you look at all the evidence together, it supports our conclusion
that BPA is not a risk to human health at the very low levels people are
exposed to. This paper does not change that conclusion. It has an
opinion, not a scientific conclusion."

Vom Saal and the plastics industry have been in an escalating battle
since 1997, when Vom Saal became the first researcher to reveal effects
in mice exposed to low doses of BPA. His discovery triggered new
scientific studies by industry and government.

The chemical, used in polycarbonate plastics manufacture for half a
century, is not subject to any bans, even in Europe, which has
prohibited many hormone-disrupting compounds. The EPA last evaluated its
risks in the 1980s, and a review by the European Union was published in

In California, the Legislature is considering a bill, introduced by
Assemblywoman Wilma Chan (D-Alameda), chairwoman of the Assembly's
Health Committee, that would ban products intended for children that
contain BPA or other compounds called phthalates, used in some plastic

The plastics industry says there is no scientific basis for removing the
chemicals from children's products.

Polycarbonate plastics, which are useful in items such as baby bottles
because they are durable, lightweight and shatter-resistant, cannot be
made without BPA. Hentges said the products have had "a strong and long
safety record" for more than 50 years.

In addition to its use in hard plastics, BPA lines food and beverage
cans and is found in dental fillings and sealants, including some used
to prevent cavities in children.

Some government-funded tests on rodents exposed to low levels have
reported decreased testosterone, enlarged prostates and lower sperm
counts in newborn males and early puberty and disrupted hormonal cycles
in females. They also have reported hyperactivity and other neurological
changes in lab animals.

Kathleen Schuler, MPH
Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy
2105 First Av. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55404
office: 612-870-3468
cell: 612-382-5917
fax: 612-813-5612

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