PORTLAND – Would any of us knowingly agree to the use of toxic chemicals in our children’s food and drink packaging — especially if there were safer alternatives? Of course not.

That’s why the chemical industry would have us believe that the jury is still out on the harmful health effects of bisphenol-A, or BPA.

It is a chemical used to harden plastics that is found in many products, including baby bottles and toys, the epoxy resin lining most food and drink cans and point-of-sale receipts.

The reality is that there is a near-total consensus in the scientific community that BPA is harmful to human health. In order to demonstrate this, Toxics Action Center looked at the scientific studies published on BPA during the first half of 2010.

Our suspicions were proven correct — that the chemical industry is clouding the debate with doubt and distortion when the science clearly shows a link between BPA and its health effects, in a manner that is not unlike the tobacco industry’s attempts for decades to frame cigarettes as safe and non-addictive.

Between January and June of this year, 81 scientific studies were published on BPA. Of these 81 studies, 75 of them — more than 90 percent — concluded that humans are exposed to BPA or that BPA is linked with negative health impacts (you can read the full report at www.toxicsaction.org).

Together, these 75 studies indicate that BPA is associated with a disturbingly long laundry list of health problems: early onset of puberty, diabetes, disruptions to growth hormones and developmental programming, different types of cancer, disruptions to gene expression, changes in external behavior, memory loss, interference with response to testosterone, male sexual dysfunction, heart disease, interference with brain function, impaired reproductive activity and genital formation, impaired embryonic development, obesity, impaired nervous system development, liver damage, interference with the immune system, asthma, low birth weight and gastrointestinal inflammation.

Some of the studies released this year indicate that BPA is transferred from mother to fetus and from mother to infants in breast milk.

Others show that BPA leaches from food storage containers into food or liquid while another study shows that humans can be exposed to BPA from dental sealants in their mouths.

Not surprisingly, the chemical industry has funded studies that paint a different picture. But is industry-funded science really trustworthy?

A 2008 review of scientific literature concerning BPA published in Environmental Health Perspectives found that no industry-funded study published to date concluded that BPA is harmful, while 93 percent of independently funded studies found evidence of harm.

Massachusetts-based Julie Goodman, who claimed in her Jan. 29 column in The Portland Press Herald that studies about the health impacts of BPA are “inconclusive,” helped to author one of these industry-funded studies. Goodman’s testimony opposing action on BPA at legislative hearings has been financially supported by the chemical industry.

Why didn’t she disclose to Mainers that she’s been funded by the industry? Perhaps that would have made her opinions seem less reliable.

Goodman also fails to mention that Maine’s own health experts at the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reviewed the scientific literature and concluded: “The current consensus of most scientists, as well as U.S. and international governmental agencies, is that there is sufficient evidence that BPA produces adverse effects at environmentally relevant exposures.”

The bottom line is that the chemical industry and their paid frontmen and women deliberately mislead the public on the harm caused by BPA.

The reality is that the scientific evidence against BPA is overwhelming and safer alternatives to BPA are already in use. Ninety-five percent of Maine legislators said “yes” to creating the Kid-Safe Products Act, and it’s working as it was intended.

Maine lawmakers need to ignore chemical industry smokescreens and vote to keep toxic BPA out of baby bottles and sippy cups. It’s just common sense.

 

– Special to The Press Herald