Trust robust science, don’t blame BPA

The exposure of a fraud who stoked BPA fears to advance his career should remind us all to trust robust science from authoritative sources.

On September 10, NBC News in the United States revealed that Anoop Shankar, a researcher at West Virginia University, had fabricated his qualifications to obtain his position and also allegedly altered his research findings.

This is of particular interest for the BPA Coalition because several of his studies, published from 2011 to 2013, claimed that BPA exposure could be linked to diabetes or obesity despite known shortcomings in his research method. One WVU press release went so far as to claim that limiting exposure to BPA would prevent 10 percent of diabetes cases. While the industry pointed out regularly that studies like the Shankar ones are incapable of showing a causal link, media and activists grabbed hold of his studies because it confirmed what they wanted to hear: BPA is bad. This is wrong. In fact, over and over, health agencies regulating BPA for use in human contact applications have found that BPA-based materials do not pose any safety or health problems. Indeed, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) assessed all of Shankar’s now-questionable studies in its 2014 initial report, and determined that the studies were “not suitable to study exposure-disease associations.”

It seems that many people fall prey to confirmation bias when it comes to BPA. …

Dutch public health institute ‘state of knowledge’ on BPA: not a risk

The news about bisphenol-A (BPA) continues. Last week, the Netherlands’ National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) issued Part 1 of its investigation into BPA.

RIVM’s report did not evaluate or cite specific studies but summarizes conclusions from earlier evaluations. Part 1 “gives an overview of the state of knowledge about BPA”. The institute’s appraisal of the available information will follow in Part 2, to be issued in the course of 2015.

So, what is the state of knowledge?

  • “the available data do not indicate a risk for most groups of consumers and patients”
  • “to date, scientific studies have not found conclusive evidence of possible adverse effects caused by BPA”
  • “some studies have expressed concern about the possible exposure of infants and young children in light of the present uncertainties and the higher sensitivity of people in these age groups”
  • “a causal relationship between BPA exposure and endocrine-mediated effects is still uncertain”
  • “there is still no conclusive evidence available that proves a low-dose effect”

These points are framed clearly from a regulators perspective. What is clear is that no primary study has been able to show harm to humans.

We take risk regulation very seriously and fully agree that there should be safe limits for exposure to a wide range of substances, including BPA. As an industry, we fully cooperate with ris…

Anecdotal studies – proceed with caution! Wrong conclusions may lie ahead.

Often times there seems to be an apparent contradiction between studies picked up by the media showing “effects of BPA”, and the regulatory conclusions that BPA does not pose a risk. The latest such case occurred last week when, in a blog post for the “Well” section of the New York Times, journalist Deborah Blum reported on two exploratory studies and one literature review on BPA and fertility. The sensationalist post headline implied that BPA could be “an ovarian toxicant”.

We should be skeptical when faced with such a headline for one major reason: on several occasions, large-scale regulatory studies have tested BPA for this type of toxicity but have not seen any such effects on fertility at realistic doses of exposure for humans.

Is it then plausible that these large studies on BPA toxicity missed something important on female fertility?

No. The scientific evidence discussed in the NY Wellness blog post consists of exploratory studies, either performed on so-called “petri dish” (= a cell-culture dish) and/or with a low number of animals. The observations reported in these “in vitro” exploratory studies are not time or dose dependent and they are not observed in comprehensive studies covering and extending the dose range.

How can we explain this discrepancy between exploratory in vitro experiments and comprehensive in vivo experiments?

It is essential to consider the doses of bisph…

What is a large scale study? What is an exploratory study?

What is a large-scale regulatory study?

Scientific studies vary greatly. Some are exploratory studies, which may simply consider a handful of test samples or use limited data analysis. A large-scale study, such as those required by regulatory authorities around the world like the US FDA or the EFSA, covers several generations of the test animal, uses a large number of animals, tests an extended dose range, and applies generally and scientifically accepted study designs that are relevant for the assessment of the risks of a given substance to humans.

Back to School

For many people, the first of September is the first day of the 2014-2015 academic year.

On your way to school, BPA-based applications probably don’t come to mind, but your school day would be very different without them. BPA is a key component to two types of plastic, namely polycarbonate and epoxy resins, and BPA applications add value throughout our daily activities.

The glasses that you wear to see the chalkboard use shatter-resistant polycarbonate lenses, which are also safer in case of playground incidents.

One day soon you may be riding to school in a car with polycarbonate windows, which manufacturers may soon use because polycarbonate windows are shatter-resistant and lightweight, and therefore reduce the car’s weight so that it consumes less fuel. If you take the bus, it is possible that the bus shelter you wait at uses polycarbonate sheets to protect you from the wind and rain.

In your classroom, the lights may be powered with electricity generated by wind turbines. Many turbines blades are made with BPA-based epoxy resins; materials which enable wind turbine blades to be lighter without sacrificing durability.

We hope that students today study chemistry and discover this essential science. One day, they may use their education to contribute to the improvement of our living and working conditions with their own chemistry-based inventions.…