The Biography of BPA
BPA has returned to the headlines with some news that everyone should know.
We've talked about this chemical (a.k.a. bisphenol-A) here before. It's a fairly ubiquitous compound found in all kinds of products, including soda can linings, dental sealants, adhesives, and polycarbonate plastics.
It's certainly a useful chemical, but scientists have found that BPA has a tendency to leach out of the products that contain it. When it does, it's able to easily enter the human body where it mimics hormones and can cause, even at small exposure levels, all kinds of havoc.
BPA has gotten a lot of press in the last few years when it was discovered in (and leaching out of) hard plastic baby and water bottles. Retailers like WalMart and Toys R Us responded by pulling BPA baby bottles off their shelves, manufacturers have started providing BPA-free alternatives (there's a good list of options here), and companies like Nalgene have removed all polycarbonate plastics from their product lines.
But BPA is still out there in plenty of places, and according to the latest issue of the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health (IJOEH), it's increasing every woman's breast cancer risk.
Researchers looked at over 400 separate studies on a handful of common toxic agents, chief among them BPA and phthalates, and found that early exposures -- particularly during fetal development and childhood -- are closely linked to eventual breast cancer diagnoses. In fact, the earlier in life women are exposed to BPA, the greater the likelihood they'll develop this disease.
How did this happen? How did we come to let a chemical so clearly dangerous run so free in our lives? An important article in Fast Company magazine tells the must-read tale.
Of the more than 100 independently funded experiments on BPA, about 90% have found evidence of adverse health effects at levels similar to what humans are exposed to. On the other hand, every single industry-funded study on BPA -- 14 in all -- has found no such effects.
It is the industry-funded studies that have held sway among regulators. This is thanks largely to a small group of "product defense" consultants -- also funded by the chemical industry -- who have worked to sow doubt about negative effects of BPA by using a playbook that borrows from the wars over tobacco, asbestos, and other public-health controversies.
That's it in a nutshell: BPA is harming our health in terrible ways. If there's change this country needs, that's it. We must do whatever it takes to make absolutely sure that not one thin dime of profit is ever again given priority over even a single human life. That's the kind of healthy change I'm hoping for. Here's hoping regulators are ready to make it.