Rest easy, beagles. Another chemical scare looks like a false alarm.
Feb. 11, 2015 – © The Wall Street Journal
The periodic scares over chemicals in vaccines, foods and other products are typically a war on the periodic table, and one compound that on all of the evidence deserves exoneration is bisphenol-A, or BPA. The latest research deserves more attention before more federal dollars are wasted.
BPA is used in the lining of metal cans and plastics to ensure structural integrity and keep things like E.coli out of food. It has been widely used for more than 50 years as a coating in everything from soup cans to bike helmets. The chemical has undergone testing in more than 4,500 studies over three decades, and the Food and Drug Administration has twice affirmed, most recently in November, that human exposure to low levels of BPA isn’t dangerous.
Anti-chemical activists have nonetheless maligned BPA as a toxic substance that might act as an “endocrine disrupter” by mimicking hormones in the body. BPA has been allegedly linked to cancer, obesity, impotence, you name it. Many companies such as the water-bottle maker Nalgene have stopped using it and label their products “BPA-free.”
The latest study, published in January by Justin Teeguarden of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and FDA researchers, knocks down the idea that humans could be at risk of absorbing high levels of BPA into the bloodstream. The researchers fed people tomato soup with traceable BPA—and the body essentially neutralized 998 out of every 1,000 BPA molecules. The entire BPA sample moved through the body in 24 hours.
The fear that BPA might be absorbed into the bloodstream caught traction thanks in part to a 2013 study in which the authors slipped BPA solutions under the tongues of sleeping beagles and found that the pups absorbed more BPA in their blood than other animals had in previous studies. BPA opponents waved around the Snoopy scare as evidence that the chemical was unsafe, calling on regulators to reconsider their all-clear messages.
Now the question is: How many more taxpayer-funded BPA studies are really necessary? The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, an arm of the National Institutes of Health, has shelled out more than $100 million for research on BPA since 1997. Three prominent BPA critics have received $20 million and have failed to turn up causation between BPA and adverse health effects. Yet the studies always conclude that more research is needed and so the grants are renewed. Nice work if you can get it.
Scientists and politicians claim there isn’t enough federal research funding to support all of today’s important projects. Here’s one idea: Reallocate the money for redundant BPA studies into something more productive.