A new study from the University of Kansas was published claiming that drinking water from plastic bottles and water coolers containing BPA could cause migraines. It has since been picked up by media such as the British Daily Mail which reported that the study imitated human exposure to BPA in a laboratory where rats were administered BPA once every three days. The results of the study allegedly indicate that rats exposed to BPA became less active, sensitive to loud noise and strong light, were easily startled and demonstrated migraine-like behaviours. Luckily for us, normal human exposure is quite different and these conclusions, as highlighted before, jump the gun.
It is important to remember that we are in fact talking about a very small scale study that tests only one dose of BPA, 500 micrograms/kg; this dose is actually ten times above the current Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI) – that is, the amount of BPA one can absorb safely on a daily basis when drinking or eating from BPA-based utensils.
Simple math tells us the following: a single person weighing 60 kg person would have to consume 1,800 cans of beverages every day to reach the level of BPA considered safe for a daily life-long intake. Even if we consider that the values may slightly vary for a bottle of water, the level used in this study would correspond to 18,000 drink cans per day or an equally high number of bottles! Clearly, this is impossible for one person t…
The Policy from Science Project together with MEP Corinne Lepage (ALDE, France) hosted a luncheon yesterday at the European Parliament to launch a new report, the ‘Systematic review and the future of evidence in chemicals policy’. The room was filled with stakeholders from all wakes of life, including MEPs, NGOs, EFSA, academics, and, of course, the BPA Coalition, in order to discuss the conclusions reached: the report calls for uniform approach to methodology based on evidence in order to ensure transparency, remove bias in scientific reviews and ultimately foster better policy making. That’s not just a conclusion we can all support but one that the Coalition welcomes full-heartedly.
To give you some background, the Policy from Science Project is a collaborative effort between a chemicals policy research consultancy and French NGO Réseau Environnement Santé. The report was drafted out of concern that in Europe, there is room for improvement in the scientific review process leading to policy decisions on chemicals. According to the report, scientific reviews of the toxicology of chemicals, do not always meet the high standards set for the science itself.
The report’s premise is that chemical safety assessments and policy would benefit from utilising best practice standards developed over the past few decades by the non-profit organisation “Cochrane Collaboration” in the field of …
Measuring the presence of chemical substances in humans is an important endeavour; it is legitimate to seek to measure such presence, but a close look at what is measured, how it is done, and how results are communicated is essential to ensuring the scientific relevance and possible policy-making pertinence of such measurements. So, what can be an adequate way of measuring the presence of chemical substances?
Recently, I came across a very interesting animation created by the German platform on allergies, environment and health, alum.de, which looks at the advantages and limitations of so-called human biomonitoring. In a very comprehensive and interactive way, it describes the different steps relating to exposure and sampling, and discusses possible results.
In a nutshell, human biomonitoring can measure the concentration of natural and synthetic substances in the human body through the analysis of body fluids like blood, urine and breast milk, or tissues such as hair, nails, fat, and bones.
The animation conveys well-balanced information and transfers two essential messages: firstly, the timing of sampling is highly relevant, and secondly, the way of measuring accurately depends strongly on the substance. Interestingly, the animation shows that blood samples are not suited to check for the presence of BPA in the human body, although some studies use them to back their claims!
The animation, whi…
Last week I made a call for more rigorous and thorough reporting on science, and this week we have a perfect example of what happens when the media goes for a catchy headline instead of a thoughtful analysis. On the heels of a new study out of Stanford University claiming that women with the highest levels of BPA in their blood were 80 per cent more likely to miscarry, many media outlets including the Daily Mail, the Telegraph and the Independent have pre-emptively sounded the alarm bells and jumped to the conclusion that pregnant women should avoid canned food, cooking or heating plastic, and touching thermal paper cash register receipts, all of which contain low levels of BPA. Many of the articles also include an ominous warning from lead researcher Dr Ruth Lathie advising that “until further studies are performed, women with unexplained miscarriages should avoid BPA exposure in an effort to remove one potential risk factor”.
I’d like to share a few quick details about the study that the media has failed to mention:
- First, the study has not been peer-reviewed and is currently only available as an abstract for conference presentation, which means that without a full look at the data it is not accurate to draw any of the sensationalist conclusions about links between BPA and miscarriages that have been reported in the media.
- Second, this was a very small study of 114 women that reported limited statistical assoc
As some of you may have read, at the end of September, researchers from the Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston published results from a study on BPA in the US journal “Environmental Health Perspectives”. The article concludes that BPA cannot be proven to cause breast cancer in rats at “human relevant” levels.
However, as reported by Forbes, in a previous online version of this very article, the statements regarding BPA explicitly claimed an alleged link between exposure and breast cancer. As we’ve spoken about previously (here, here and here), this was yet another example of incorrect linkage which, unfortunately, is so often the case with academic studies cherry picked by the media. So, what happened?
While the online article was originally entitled “Perinatally Administered Bisphenol A Acts as a Mammary Gland Carcinogen in Rats”, it was later changed to “Perinatally Administered Bisphenol A as a Potential Mammary Gland Carcinogen in Rats” after Forbes rightly pointed out that the research results had been misrepresented in the article. The changed title is only the tip of the iceberg of several significant variations from the first online publication to the final print and the revised online version of the article. As it turned out, the article had to be revised substantially after its publication due to serious flaws in conclusions drawn from the statistics.
In response …