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BPA-Free, but Not Toxic-Free

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Consumers are demanding BPA-free products, but the alternatives are no safer.

The word is out about bisphenol-A (BPA), the chemical that is commonly used in drinking containers, children’s toys, and other plastic products: it’s been linked to diabetes, asthma, cancer, obesity, and altered prostate and neurological development, among other illnesses. Unfortunately, the alternatives that industry is using are no safer, despite the “BPA-free” marketing ploys—but federal regulators continue to protect the chemical industry by refusing to ban these dangerous compounds.

The chemical industry has, in response to consumer demand (and an FDA ban of BPA in plastic baby bottles), used bisphenol-S (BPS) to replace BPA. However, reports indicate that BPS is just as toxic as BPA. Studies have found that even small amounts of BPS—as little as one part per trillion—can disrupt cellular functioning and impair brain development. Studies have also shown that BPS causes breast cancer cells to aggressively multiply. BPS has also been linked to heart arrhythmia and endocrine disruption, causing puberty at a premature age in females.

Despite this alarming data, nearly 81% of Americans have detectable levels of BPS in their urine.

We reported recently on other endocrine disrupting chemicals that many experts believe are behind the male fertility crisis our nation is facing, leading one researcher to remark that “not everyone who wants to reproduce will be able to.”

It is incumbent upon consumers to protect themselves from these exposures, but that can be difficult given the ubiquity of these chemicals. As we pointed out, they are in dental offices, checkout receipts, and many consumer goods.

This is where regulators should step in to protect Americans from harmful chemicals, but crony capitalism stands in the way. A recent six-year study looking at the effects of BPA found that, even in small amounts, the chemical can cause developmental changes in fetal brains. Yet the FDA doesn’t seem to care. Academic studies are often ignored by the FDA because academics tend not to follow the federal regulatory guidelines for toxicity testing—guidelines that haven’t been updated in over 40 years. Changing standards at federal agencies can be difficult; bureaucracies tend to be stubborn things, and federal agencies even more so, as they are meant (in theory) to be resistant to changing political winds. Experts now, however, are warning that these 40-year-old standards could be putting us in danger. While FDA guidelines look for obvious changes (exposure to a chemical resulting in a tumor), they are failing to capture the real dangers posed by chronic exposure chemicals that may not be acutely toxic, at the trace levels found in food packaging, for example, but still pose risks to human health. Industry studies are a different matter: in 2008, the FDA concluded that BPA posed no risk to human health based on two industry-funded studies, while 100 peer-reviewed studies that found evidence of harm were ignored. This deference to industry, which is all too common in our crony government, is ruining our health and cannot be allowed to stand.




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