Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Dumb and Dumber BPA "Science"

by Angela Logomasini on January 16, 2013

Rationalizations to support claims that the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) poses a real and serious health threat have gone from dumb to dumber! Even reputable researchers make their case by regularly citing one inconclusive study to suggest another inconclusive study is meaningful. But science doesn’t work that way.

Used to make hard, clear plastics and resins that line cans containing everything from soda to soup, BPA is a target of the greens who get plenty help from researchers who use creative rationalizations to spin their findings.

A recent example comes from one of the authors of yet another study on BPA using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). It suggests that BPA levels could contribute to heart and kidney disease. But reliance on NHANES data raises a host of questions about the study’s value, as explained in a prior post and in a peer reviewed paper detailing why it isn’t reasonable to draw conclusions from this data. Without even considering that serious defect, we can see from one of the researchers comments that the study isn’t particularly compelling anyway. One of the study’s authors, Dr. Leonardo Trasande, explains in Science Daily:

While our cross-sectional study cannot definitively confirm that BPA contributes to heart disease or kidney dysfunction in children, together with our previous study of BPA and obesity, this new data adds to already existing concerns about BPA as a contributor to cardiovascular risk in children and adolescents.

In other words, the value of this latest study rests at least in part on the value of the prior study for which Trasande is also an author. This prior study appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association last year that suggested BPA contributes to obesity, but, as I noted then, the authors say the findings are inconclusive. Specifically, Trasande and coauthors state within the JAMA study:

BPA exposure is plausibly linked to childhood obesity, but evidence is lacking to date … This cross-sectional study, when considered in isolation, is at best hypothesis generating.

Why and how could a study with findings are “at best hypothesis generating” strengthen an “unconfirmed” finding of another study? Supposedly it can because the authors in the JAMA study maintain that it is more than “hypothesis generating” because of findings from yet another study. This one dates back to 2004, and it too is inconclusive, as I detailed in my post on the JAMA study.

Perhaps most telling of all are the studies that Trasnade and his colleagues don’t mention, including a recent rodent study that could not find an association between BPA and obesity. They also don’t mention an EPA-funded study that shows humans pass BPA quickly from the human body — making it unlikely to have any impacts. Nor do they mention, the study questioning the underlying NHANES data.

In sum, ignoring evidence to the contrary, Trasade suggests that his latest inconclusive study is meaningful because of finding of the inclusive JAMA study, which is only made more than “hypothesis generating” because of the existence of yet another inconclusive study.

This very fishy line of reasoning really isn’t about science. It’s about an agenda, as Trasnade explains in Science Daily:

It [his research] further supports the call to limit exposure of BPA in this country, especially in children … Removing it from aluminum cans is probably one of the best ways we can limit exposure. There are alternatives that manufacturers can use to line aluminum cans.

While he may mean well, this advice is the more dangerous proposition because BPA resins are used to prevent the development of pathogens like E. coli in our food. Without it, many people could suffer from real kidney disease, and some could die.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

NYU School of Medicine Tells Big Lies About BPA

The Dihydrogen Monoxide Award

January 9. 2013 ~

We spend a lot of time and effort ferreting through outrageous media coverage of science issues in determining our Dihydrogen Monoxide Award winners but this time, we’re doing something a little different.

This week’s award goes to the dutiful flacks at the NYU School of Medicine for their January 9, 2013 news release on the results of a study of the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) whose co-lead author is a university researcher. In fairness, we should state that a flack’s job is to get media coverage of whatever it is they’re pushing. However, we don’t think that should include shopping around false information in pursuit media coverage and the January 9 release is chock full of blatantly false information.

Let’s start with this whopper, which nicely sets the stage for whipping the media into a frenzy. It’s a close cousin of the old “banned substance” lie:

“The study adds to the growing concerns about BPA, which was recently banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration…”

FACT: The US Food and Drug Administration has done nothing of the sort – ever! As a matter of fact, the FDA has explicitly refused to ban BPA. Oh dear, did the good PR folks at NYU forget that the FDA gave a gigantic smack-down to the Natural Resources Defense Council when the agency rejected the NRDC’s petition to ban BPA? Not very professional, kids. As an antidote for this sort of problem, we recommend reading. It’s very helpful, especially for those interested in facts. Just think of the motto of Faber College – Knowledge is Good.

Apparently not content with promoting the exact opposite position of an American regulatory agency, NYU’s School of Medicine decided to look north and east for new positions to misrepresent:

“Its use has been banned in the European Union and Canada…”

Wow! These guys are just makin’ up stuff left and right! As recently as September 2012, Canada went out of its way to affirm the safety of BPA in food contact applications.

Not only that, but Health Canada also went so far as to note that their position affirming the safety of BPA was the same as policies in the European Union, the United States and Japan!

“… based on the overall weight of evidence, the findings of the previous assessment remain unchanged and Health Canada’s Food Directorate continues to conclude that current dietary exposure to BPA through food packaging uses is not expected to pose a health risk to the general population, including newborns and young children. This conclusion is consistent with those of other food regulatory agencies in other countries, including notably the United States, the European Union and Japan.” (Emphasis added)

As for the European Union, not only has the EU’s food safety body declared BPA safe for use in food contact, it went out of its way to explain why French efforts to ban the stuff are wrong headed.

Whoa, Nelly! How can a guy get so many fundamental facts wrong in ginning up a news release and not get banned from writing future news releases? It’s a mystery to us too.

There there’s the classic “banned from baby bottles,” line. It thrives on misinterpreting the facts:

“Its use has been banned… in the United States for use in baby bottles and sippy cups.”

This is a factual statement. But what makes it such a cheap shot is the fact that the only reason FDA took the action of banning BPA from baby bottles is because it was asked to ban it for that purpose – BY THE PEOPLE WHO MAKE BABY BOTTLES!

Check out this coverage by USA Today. First, we have the headline:

After baby bottle makers voluntarily ban BPA, FDA makes it official

Then there’s the third paragraph of the USA Today article, which we conveniently repeat hear for your review:

“Consumers can be confident these products do not contain BPA,” FDA spokeswoman Shelly Burgess said. She said the agency did not act because it believes BPA is unsafe but because the bottle industry wanted a formal ban for baby products. “We continue to support the safety of BPA for use in products that hold food.”

Let me repeat that: “She said the agency did not act because it believes BPA is unsafe but because the bottle industry wanted a formal ban for baby products.”

See what we mean? The people who make baby bottles stopped using the stuff years ago and asked the FDA to formally ban the stuff, which it did, and in the process the FDA reiterated “… the safety of BPA.”

One thing that was not factually flawed was how the news release tried to make the case for more money for more research. After all, that may be the point here – to use a bunch of false information to create a lot of bad reporting to raise more money so more researchers can increase their prestige and salaries by conducting more research. It’s kind of a vicious cycle, you know?

So congratulations to the cracker-jack flack squad at NYU’s School of Medicine for winning this week’s Dihydrogen Monoxide Award! We give this award four stars. After all, it manages to completely misrepresent the BPA policy positions affecting a score of nations and hundreds of millions of people. It takes a special kind of skill to pull a boner of this proportion.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

BPA Studies Alleging Toxicity Unreproduceable


Previous Studies On Toxic Effects of BPA Couldn't Be Reproduced

Jan. 2, 2013 — Following a three-year study using more than 2,800 mice, a University of Missouri researcher was not able to replicate a series of previous studies by another research group investigating the controversial chemical BPA. The MU study is not claiming that BPA is safe, but that the previous series of studies are not reproducible. The MU study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, also investigated an estrogenic compound found in plants, genistein, in the same three-year study.
"Our findings don't say anything about the positive or negative effects of BPA or genistein," said Cheryl Rosenfeld, associate professor of biomedical sciences in MU's Bond Life Science Center. "Rather, our series of experiments did not detect the same findings as reported by another group on the potential developmental effects of BPA and genistein when exposure of young occurs in the womb."
Creating reliable data on the effects of the chemicals on mice is important to human health since people are frequently exposed to BPA and genistein and humans share similar biological functions with mice. BPA is a chemical used in certain plastic bottles and may be found in the lining of some canned goods and receipt paper. Genistein occurs naturally in soy beans and is sold as a dietary supplement. Research by Fredrick VomSaal, professor of biological science at MU, and others suggests the chemicals may have other adverse effects on many animals, including humans.

Researcher who conducted the original series of experiments claimed that exposure to BPA and genestein resulted in yellow coat color, or agouti, offspring that were more susceptible to obesity and type 2 diabetes compared to their brown coat color, healthy siblings. However, Rosenfeld and her team did not obtain the same results when repeating the study over a three-year period.
After failing to repeat the original experiments findings with similar numbers of animals,

Rosenfeld's group extended the studies to include animal numbers that surpassed the prior studies to verify that their findings were not a fluke and to provide sufficient number of animals to ensure that significant differences would be detected if they existed. However, even these additional numbers of animals and extended experiments failed to reproduce the earlier findings. However, the current studies demonstrate that a maternal diet enriched in estrogenic compounds leads to a greater number of offspring that express an agouti gene compared to those that do not, even though equal ratios should have been born.

"This finding suggests that certain uterine environments may favor animals with a 'thrifty genotype' meaning that the agouti gene of mice may help them survive in unfavorable uterine environments over those mice devoid of this gene, Yet, the downside of this expression of the agouti during early development is that the animals may be at risk for later metabolic disorders, such as obesity and diabetes" Rosenfeld said. "In this aspect, humans also have an agouti gene that encodes for the agouti signaling protein (ASIP) that is expressed in fat tissue and pancreas, and there is some correlation that obese individuals exhibit greater expression of this gene compared to leaner individuals. Therefore, the agouti gene may have evolved to permit humans the ability to survive famine, but its enhanced expression may also potentiate metabolic diseases under bountiful food conditions."

While the research casts doubt on the previous study, Rosenfeld said that by understanding the genetic profile of the mice in the first series of studies, scientists could learn more about the correlation between certain genes and obesity. This could eventually influence prevention and treatment programs for patients with diabetes and other obesity-related diseases in humans.

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