Sunday, November 01, 2009

BPA Safer than Birth Control Pills: Where's My Refund for the BPA-Free Bottles?

Bisphenol-a (aka BPA), the exiled former chemical in hard, clear plastic including sippy cups and baby bottles, may have been prematurely purged.  The plastic non grata turns out to look rather safe according to a new EPA-funded animal study.  Worries over BPA  have focused on it's possible estrogenic effects, much like, say estrogen found in birth control pills.  So researchers fed rats small doses of either BPA or oral contraceptive pills (I swear to you) then studied health risks in their female off-spring.  Yes, the momma rats got pregnant, I assume before the study.  Anyhow, afterwards researchers found genital defects, fertility problems, and masculine behaviors in the females born to rats who'd eaten the birth control pills but not for those born to the mother rats fed BPA. 

This study should serve as news to all those who pooh-poohed (scientifically sound) research because it was funded by the plastic industry.  Here's one paid for by the EPA.  And it doesn't involve rats being injected with BPA (as many that claim harm), which the experts say is not only more dangerous, but isn't how most people, especially developing fetuses and infants, come into contact with BPA.  

Now I'd like my Baby Einstein-esque refund on those pricey Swiss water bottles.  This BPA brouhaha is starting to look like another case of scientific evidence gone amok in not only the public imagination, but government health organizations and the media. Another instance of scientific evidence being misinterpreted, in this case, the dangers being exaggerated. That may be the lesson from parenting in the twenty-first century.

Now, if only I could get a refund on all the other products and services I'd bought or bought into based on inaccurate evidence.


Honestly, as a parent I'm relieved.  I got a little scared and threw away the old baby bottles.  As a researcher, though, I wasn't so scared or surprised about the latest study since I'd been reading up on the BPA studies for a couple years now (thank you, STATS.org who did a recent very detailed review of the research) and didn't think it was the big bad toxin.   The psychologist in me, though, is still worried.  Worried  about the danger that one day might be found not so dangerous.  False alarms can have some negative consequences.  Like people not believing anything the experts tell me. 

So when the real threat comes I may not believe it. 

Read about the study on NPR.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...
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Philipp Wickey said...

Dr. Palumbo,

Maybe bpa is something to worry about, or maybe it is not.

Regardless of what any government agency, scientist, or op-ed piece says, it is still pollution. And no matter how you define it, pollution is not good for anything or anyone.

I say if you want to experiment with your own or your child's body, that is fine, you are an individual.

But everywhere I turn there is plastic, and it is forced (I could leave my family and friends and move to cave I suppose)into my environment whether I want it there or not, and that is wrong and it is sad.

Respectively,
Philipp Wickey

john said...

I find this to be very misleading on 2 important accounts. The journal even makes me even wonder who the researchers were working for.
1) Research done thus far concludes that there is good reason to assume that BPA may lead to a laundry list of ill effects. This includes much much more than just female sexual organ malformations. (ie. several types of CANCER, problems with learning/attention, aggression, as well as obesity et cetera, et cetera)
2) This is the most invalid comparison I could imagine using. Taking birth control while pregnant is already known to cause some serious problems, to say that another hazard is slightly less harmful with regards to one isolated symptom is just ridiculous. The only thing to test that would make any sense at all would be the effect of BPA vs no BPA.
If I told you that cocaine could hurt a fetus more than alcohol, you wouldn't go on to conclude that alcohol is safe for a fetus would you?!
~ John Kinzer

Polly Palumbo, Ph.D. said...

thanks for your comments. john, there are a lot of scientists who believe bpa is not a great danger, studies suggesting harm are someimes flawed and far from conclusive. like i've said many times, i threw out the old baby bottles, but i am not gonna panic.

as for this study, no, it's hardly a stellar one but it is not ridiculous as the chief concern about bpa is its estrogenic effects. i have't read the paper in a while but i don't think the researchers declared bpa utterly safe, their conclusions found it safer than bc pills.