The Dangers Of Crying Wolf On BPA

Anyone with an interest in the science of bisphenol A (BPA)–a chemical used to make hard, clear plastics and resins that line food containers — should read Trevor Butterworth’s recent Q&A with researcher Richard M. Sharpe, who specializes in male reproductive health issues at the University of Edinburgh.

I’ve commented many times on significant problems surrounding many of the recent studies on BPA and how hype about its risks can harm human health. Sharpe has been critical as well, and in December 2009, he lamented:

“research on Bisphenol A has … become literally bogged down in the mire of controversy, much of which stems from the earliest findings and seems to have little to do with the current state of the science … Fundamental, repetitive work on bisphenol A has sucked in tens, probably hundreds, of millions of dollars from government bodies and industry which, at a time when research money is thin on the ground, looks increasingly like an investment with a nil return.”

Judging from the Butterworth’s interview things have not changed much. Sharpe notes some additional dangers that arise from alarmist journalism and bad science:

My concern is that by feeding the public a continual stream of alarm stories that are poorly based, as with many of the stories about bisphenol A, people will become desensitized; the public is not stupid, people know it cannot all be true, especially when they see that everyone is living longer. But what happens if we discover an environmental chemical (or mixture) that we really do think poses a threat to human health, how are we going to get them to take serious notice of it, rather than filing it away with all the other alarmist stuff?

Read the full interview on