Another case of plastiphobia?
Typical of Reuters’ science articles, there’s a scare element in an article today titled “Panel worried about baby bottle chemical.” The article was referring to the findings of a scientific panel that is studying the safety of bisphenol A. The chemical is a used to produce polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins.
According to the website on bisphenol maintained by three countries’ plastics trade groups, the plastics are used for such products as baby and water bottles, medical equipment, sports safety equipment, cell phones and other consumer electronics, household appliances, etc.; the resins are used for industrial floorings, adhesives, industrial protective coatings, powder coatings, automotive primers, can coatings and printed circuit boards.
The scientific panel was convened by the National Toxicology Program, Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction, which issued its conclusions yesterday. Here’s their synopsis of their conclusions, which are categorized as “some concern,” “minimal concern,” “negligible concern.” Their findings expressing “some concern” mean that the panel “identified gaps in the available scientific data on the possible effects of bisphenol A” and suggested areas where additional research is needed:
Expert Panel Conclusions
For pregnant women and fetuses:
The Expert Panel expressed some concern that exposure to Bisphenol A in utero causes neural and behavioral effects
The Expert Panel had expressed minimal concern that exposure to Bisphenol A in utero causes effects on the prostate.
The Expert Panel expressed minimal concern that exposure to Bisphenol A in utero potentially causes accelerations in puberty.
The Expert Panel expressed negligible concern that exposure to Bisphenol A in utero produces birth defects and malformations.
For infants and children:
The Expert Panel expressed some concern that exposure to Bisphenol A causes neural and behavioral effects
The Expert Panel had expressed minimal concern that exposure to Bisphenol A potentially causes accelerations in puberty.
The Expert Panel expressed negligible concern for adverse reproductive effects following exposures in the general population to Bisphenol A. For highly exposed subgroups, such as occupationally exposed populations, the level of concern is elevated to minimal.
[The conclusions noted above are those of the Bisphenol A Expert Panel and should not be construed to represent the views of the NTP.
The American Chemistry Council put out a statement on those findings, noting that they are consistent with evaluations of other expert panels worldwide.
The findings of the CERHR evaluation are consistent with other recent comprehensive evaluations of the safety of bisphenol A in which government and scientific bodies worldwide examined the same scientific information. Most recently, the European Food Safety Authority released a report on the safety of bisphenol A by a panel of 21 independent scientific experts from throughout the European Union. All of these evaluations support the conclusion that bisphenol A is not a risk to human health at the extremely low levels to which consumers might be exposed.
The bisphenol A website pointed to other scientific panels that have reached similar conclusions (the most recent ones appear below):
Key examples of recent assessments and their conclusions include:
· In January 2007, the European Food Safety Authority released a comprehensive
assessment of bisphenol A that was conducted by a panel of 21 independent scientific
experts from throughout the European Union. Based on their review of the most
recent scientific information, the panel increased by a factor of five the safe intake
level for bisphenol A that was established in 2002. The increase was based on the
panel’s view that there is now more certainty about the safety of bisphenol A.
· In June 2006, a panel of scientific experts reported the results of their weight-of-theevidence
evaluation of low-dose reproductive and developmental effects of bisphenol
A. Considering studies published through February 2006 and the results of a 2004
evaluation (see below), the panel concluded “the weight of evidence does not support
the hypothesis that low oral doses of BPA adversely affect human reproductive and
· In January 2006, the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR,
Bundesinstitut fÃ¼r Risikobewertung) released a statement with their views on the
safety of polycarbonate baby bottles. They noted “The BfR does not recognize any
health risk for babies that are fed from baby bottles made of polycarbonate.”
· A November 2005 statement from the US Food and Drug Administration on the
safety of food contact products made from polycarbonate concluded “based on all the
evidence available at this time, FDA sees no reason to change its long-held position
that current uses with food are safe.”
Plastics, whether polycarbonate or phthalates, and indeed just about every “chemical” (think of chlorine) have been subjected to study after study to try to determine if they are “perfectly safe.” Risk vs. risk, that is, the risk trade-offs that should be examined, would seem to be an important part of such studies.