No Need to Fear Plastics

Reading the headline of a Washington Post story today, you would think that government researchers have made a new and major finding on a chemical that should make us all quiver in our boots.  The headline reads:  “U.S. Cites Fears on Chemical In Plastics.”  At issue is a yet-to-be-peer-reviewed brief released by the National Toxicology Program that reviewed existing research on the chemical Bisphenol A, which is found in some plastics products.  Instead of discovering a problem, the draft brief underscores the fact that researchers have been unable to find any impact on humans from the chemical.  The key conclusions in the brief are as follows:

“The NTP has negligible concern that exposure of pregnant women to bisphenol A will result in fetal or neonatal mortality, birth defects or reduced birth weight and growth in their offspring,” and 

“The NTP concurs with the conclusion of the CERHR Expert Panel on Bisphenol A that there is negligible concern that exposure to bisphenol A causes reproductive effects in non-occupationally exposed adults and minimal concern for workers exposed to higher levels in occupational settings.”

The only real finding of health effects involves studies showing health impacts on rodents that were exposed to “high” levels of the substance.  Because of such findings, the NTP says it has some “concern” that there “might” be some impact on humans.  Yet administering massive doses of a substance to lab rats (which are bred to be highly susceptible to cancer) is not the same as human exposure to trace levels of the substance. 

After all, if government officials are so concerned about Bisphenol A for such reasons, they might want to show equal concern for carrots, broccoli, coffee, and myriad other foods that contain substances that give rodents cancer when they are exposed to high doses.    But then that’s not reasonable.  Nor are the worries raised by the Washington Post and the NTP researchers.