As anti-chemical activists attempt to ban the safe but controversial chemical Bisphenol A from plastic products, a new study claims the most viable replacement chemical presents greater human health concerns than the exhaustively tested Bisphenol A.
Studies Show BPA Is Safe
Anti-chemical activists claim Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical providing strength and flexibility to plastic products, poses threats to human health. The activists point to studies showing rats develop health complications when continuously fed mega-doses of BPA. Scientists report, however, that humans do not ingest nearly enough BPA to pose a threat to human health.
Clinical tests and observational studies confirm the scientists’ reports. As a result, scientific bodies such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the European Food Safety Authority, Health Canada, and Food Standards Australia New Zealand, have all found BPA is safe for humans.
Using the precautionary principle, however, anti-chemical activists have succeeded in banning BPA in Canada and Japan. Activists are targeting individual states and municipalities in the United States, hoping to impose similar bans.
Concerns About BPA Replacement
Responding to the politically driven BPA bans, manufacturers have sought to find a replacement for the chemical, which is used in a wide array of products such as cash register receipts, food containers, and sippy cups for children’s beverages. Bisphenol S (BPS) has emerged as the most viable alternative. However, a recent study claims BPS mimics estrogen and can cause severe endocrine disruption. Notably, BPS is up to 19 times more absorbable in the skin than BPA, according to a recent study by René Viñas and Cheryl S. Watson of the University of Texas, published in the ACS journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
“Our study is the first to demonstrate that the BPA-substitute BPS can induce rapid nongenomic signaling in estrogen-responsive pituitary cells at low (femtomolar to picomolar) concentrations. Another cause for concern is that BPS also interferes with physiologic E2 signaling that leads to several functional end points,” the authors explained.
“BPS, once considered a safe substitute for BPA, disrupts membrane-initiated E2-induced cell signaling, leading to altered cell proliferation, cell death, and PRL [prolactin] release,” the study concluded.
Neither Chemical Concerns Scientists
Dr. Gilbert Ross, the medical/executive director for the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), says there is no need to look for safe BPA alternatives because BPA is safe for human use. Even so, Ross said the Viñas/Watson study is suspect because it makes the same erroneous assumption that chemicals that harm rats in mega-dose quantities also harm humans in much smaller quantities.
“Rats are not little people,” Ross explained. “Rodent physiology is markedly different from humans’.”
Ross said current laws regulating the introduction of harmful chemicals into the marketplace are already strong enough.
“Witness the lack of significant episodes of chemical-induced harm. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) alleged in 2011 that there were a bunch of toxic-chemical-related clusters. We debunked that big-time,” he said.
“Our society has an irrational fear of chemicals, called ‘chemophobia,'” said Ross. “Our world is becoming highly risk-averse, and it’s stifling progress and innovation in many fields.”
Safe in Five Thousand Studies
Henry I. Miller, the Robert Wesson Fellow in Scientific Philosophy and Public Policy at the Hoover Institution, says he has doubts about replacing BPA with BPS because studies purporting to show risks from BPA are not only wrong but have been comprehensively refuted in multiple scientific studies.
“There have already been more than 5,000 studies of BPA over the past several decades, and none of them have ever shown any human harm from the chemical in normal consumer use,” Miller observed. “It’s easy to make a case that continued research on BPA is a waste of time and a waste of increasingly scarce research funding. The only thing it seems to do is generate more junk science, more bad reporting, and more unwarranted fear among consumers.”
Angela Logomasini, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, agreed, saying BPA is falling victim to hype and scaremongering, not science.
“Its replacement, BPS, is less tested, but I don’t have any real concerns about it, either. The Greens do because they claim that it is an endocrine disrupter, but I think that’s a lot of junk science,” said Logomasini.
John Dale Dunn, a policy advisor for The Heartland Institute and the American Council on Science and Health, said claims that BPA and BPS harm human health through endocrine disruption are incredibly unreliable and plagued by scandal.
“One of the problems with the asserted claims regarding endocrine disrupters is the conclusions don’t stand up to scrutiny. Activists often mine data for nonexistent human health impacts and misrepresent the results of actual scientific studies,” said Dunn.
“The field is rife with panic-mongering,” Dunn explained. “Predictably, politicians have jumped in because it’s so easy to scare people into thinking something is going to happen to them because of this chemical or that one. You say ‘endocrine disrupter’ and people associate that with abnormalities at birth. But the truth of the matter is there just aren’t a lot of eunuchs running around because of something in the water.”
Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.
“Bisphenol S Disrupts Estradiol-Induced Nongenomic Signaling in a Rat Pituitary Cell Line: Effects on Cell Functions,” Environmental Health Perspectives, March 2013, http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/1205826/