When environmental activists asserted years ago that bisphenol A (BPA) poses a health risk, the claim incited a pervasive fear of water bottles and other plastic containers. Consumers were so panic-stricken that “BPA Free” became a popular marketing message.
When environmental activists asserted years ago that bisphenol A (BPA) poses a health risk, the claim incited a pervasive fear of water bottles and other plastic containers. Consumers were so panic-stricken that “BPA Free” became a popular marketing message. As it turns out, the collective decision to shun products containing BPA was unwarranted.
A new study in the journal Toxicological Sciences found that BPA had no adverse health effects on rats. In the study, by the National Toxicology Program (NTP), rats were exposed to increasing doses of BPA to determine what level could produce adverse effects. Female rats received daily doses of BPA from gestation (day 6) until the start of labor, and their pups were dosed from birth to termination.
Human exposure to BPA is estimated at less than 1 μg/kg bw/day. The rats in the NTP study received 2.5 to 2,700 μg/kg bw/day, amounts that far exceeded the level of human exposure. Even at such high levels, BPA did not produce adverse health effects in the rats. It was not until doses reached 100,000 to 300,000 μg/kg bw/day that the researchers observed adverse outcomes, such as depressed gestational and postnatal body weight gain, and effects on the ovary and serum hormones.
Consumer and environmental advocacy groups often dismiss studies that contradict their positions because the studies were funded by corporations with an interest in the results. However, the NTP study is impervious to such criticism because it was conducted by an independent organization.
The BPA saga is not an anomaly. Rigorous scientific studies have exonerated many other chemicals, drugs and medical devices that were previously condemned for posing a health risk. For example, breast implants were associated with a litany of adverse health effects for years, but the claims were later refuted by a large body of scientific evidence, summarized by the IOM report. More recently, incretin-based therapies were linked to adverse effects on the pancreas, including cancer (see ISS’ post on this issue here). However, FDA and EU regulators recently reported that “Both agencies agree that assertions concerning a causal association between incretin-based drugs and pancreatitis or pancreatic cancer, as expressed recently in the scientific literature and in the media, are inconsistent with the current data.” Like the NTP study, the research that confirmed the safety of these products, and many others, was conducted by sources that were not funded by corporations with a vested interested in the outcomes.
As the BPA controversy illustrates, misguided studies and anecdotal reports have the power to influence public opinion and damage a product’s reputation. But the arguments against a product crumble when confronted with rigorous studies based on accepted scientific principles.
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