Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Bisphenol A Brouhaha from A Balanced Toxicologist


The safety of  Bisphenol A has divided the public.  I've complained about the bias in the media, their fear-mongering and just plain misinterpretation ("stretching") of research findings. 

But it's not just the media, even researchers can be less than fully objective as we're reminded by Emily Monosson, herself a toxicologist and a blogger (aka The Neighborhood Toxicologist), who's posted  a thoughtful piece on the chemical controversy amongst researchers, even governmental agencies, like the FDA ("we're pretty sure it's safe") and The National Toxicology Program ("it should be banned").  Like many of us, Monosson threw away the suspect plastic bottles but still questions whether BPA is "the evil twin of estrogen." 

This trustworthy toxicologist is keeping an open mind, something I really appreciate on this often confusing and complex chemical, so it's no surprise she's particularly attuned to skewed perceptions on "both sides of the fence" - from scientists working in industrial,  environmental, and yes, academic arenas.  True, the debate within scientific circles is not cut and dry.  Nor is the issue going to be resolved any time soon.  Part of the problem with studying the risks, Monosson  points out, involves the older toxicity testing procedures that often use multi-generational studies.  They take time. 

So what's the bottom line for her?  Well, no surprise, she's reasonably cautious but not dramatic and yes, she has faith in science:
Despite the uncertainties, aren’t all of these studies enough to require that industry remove the chemical from our food and drink? While I am skeptical of studies produced by industries whose bottom line depends upon a particular chemical and in sticking with decades old testing procedures, I also know that a chemical posing an imminent danger is good for academic business, generating more grant money, more publications, and more consulting. It’s not an ideal system, but given time the scientific method prevails – and in the interim we have guidance from the expert panels.
Thanks, Emily.  If only we read this stuff in the national media!

FYI:  The FDA delayed its report on Bisphenol A - it was due to be released at the end of November.  It's unclear when the report will be finished. 

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