Our Stolen Futurea book by Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski, and John Peterson Myers
 
 

 

 

The following was published on FoxNews by Steven Milloy, the industry flack who writes junkscience.com. A similar screed was published by Gilbert Ross from the ACSH, a industry-funded PR operation.

This version of Milloy's piece is the edition available on 23 April 2005. It may be altered subsequently because it contains some truly ludicrous assertions. This may reflect Milloy's past experience working for a tobacco industry effort to undermine public health standards.

Comments in similar boxes below identify and analyze errors in Milloy's commentary as it was available online 23 April 2005. They are placed to the left of the relevant text passages.   California's Bogus Baby Bottle Scare

By Steven Milloy

The California State Assembly is about to consider legislation intended to frighten parents about the safety of baby bottles, teethers, pacifiers and other plastic toys.

Assemblywoman Wilma Chan, D-Oakland, has introduced a bill (AB319) that would ban the manufacture and sale of any toy or child care article intended for use by a child under three years of age if that product contains the chemical bisphenol-A (BPA).

for background on BPA...

AB319’s provisions claim that BPA is an “estrogen-mimicking endocrine disruptor chemical” that “has been shown to have hormone disrupting effects.”

"unfounded allegations from a 1990s-era, environmental activist-generated scare..."

Wrong. Milloy either doesn't keep up with the scientific literature or willfully ignores it. Thousands of scientific papers have been published since 1992 on endocrine disruption. Recent important examples can be seen here.

At the June 2005 international meeting of the Endocrine Society (the premier scientific society for researchers studying endocrinology) there will be 2 special panels on endocrine disruption. This is just one example of many of the importance with which public health scientists now view endocrine disruption.

  The bill echoes unfounded allegations from a 1990s-era, environmental activist-generated scare about chemicals in the environment supposedly interfering with hormonal processes to cause everything from cancer to infertility to attention deficit disorder.

So what is BPA and does it pose a risk to children’s health?

BPA has been used for more than 50 years to make polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins that are found in countless products, including food storage containers, CDs/DVDs, sports safety equipment, toys, and lifesaving medical devices to name a few.

The CDC reports that 95% of Americans have measurable levels of BPA in their urine. While those levels are low by traditional toxicological standards, they are well within the range shown to cause dramatic changes in cell function.   Everyone uses BPA and most of us have spent our entire lives with products made with it.

"relatively low toxicity..."

Wrong. BPA used to be thought of as a 'weak estrogen.' As vom Saal and Hughes summarize, however, many scientific studies from many different independent laboratories have confirmed that it has adverse effects a levels thousands of times lower than those found in the studies on which EPA's current risk assessment is based. That assessment was completed in 1988. One study demonstrates that BPA is more powerful than the potent drug diethylstilbestrol at provoking calcium influx into cells, a response important to many physiological processes.

  Not only does BPA have relatively low toxicity, but only minute traces of it may be detected in consumer products. BPA is excreted rapidly from the body within a day and it doesn’t build-up in tissues.

 

"typical human exposures to BPA are 100 times to 1,000 times lower..."

This is true, but they are out of date. Human exposures are lower than current guidelines. But the EPA's was completed in 1988, before any low dose experiments were done (there have now been over 100), and scientific literature on low dose effects has more than doubled since the EU finished its assessment.

  Typical human exposures to BPA are 100 times to 1,000 times lower than the levels permitted by government guidelines — rules that are set way below actual safety levels.

 

"Human exposure levels are typically more than one million times lower..."

This is false. As is made abundantly clear by the scientific literature vom Saal and Hughes review, adverse effects in animals are seen well within the range of exposures regularly experienced by many people. And some of the effects on basic cellular processes take place at levels far beneath common human exposures.

  Human exposure levels are typically more than one million times lower than levels shown to be safe in experiments involving multiple generations of laboratory animals.

 

"Scientific review panels from the U.S., ..."

This repeats the error above. These panels were conducted before most of the current scientific research on this issue was started.

Curiously, it omits reference to a US government-sponsored assessment of low dose effects, which found them to be scientifically valid. This assessment, by the National Toxicology Program, specifically addressed vom Saal's results, concluding they were credible, and was highly critical of two industry studies which reported no effect.

  Scientific review panels from the U.S., European Union and Japanese governments have reviewed the data on BPA and none have found that typical human exposures to BPA pose any detectable risk of harm.

 

Earlier this month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration responded to a request from California Assemblyman Greg Aghazarian who asked whether BPA was safe for use in contact with food and beverages.

“Considering all the evidence, including measurements by FDA chemists of levels found in canned foods or migrating from baby bottles, FDA sees no reason at this time to ban or otherwise restrict the uses [of BPA] now in practice,” stated the FDA.

Fifty years of experience and a lot of scientific examination of BPA indicate it’s safe — so what’s behind the AB319 scare?

The short answer is the same folks who were behind the 1990s scare about so-called “endocrine disruptors.” They’re led by University of Missouri activist-researcher Frederick vom Saal who claims that BPA is a “phenomenally potent sex hormone” that acts like “birth control pills."

"not only unsubstantiated..."

This is a blatantly false industry mantra, for which there seems little explanation than a clear attempt to misguide and confuse. Repeat a lie often and strongly enough, and people start to believe it.

  But vom Saal has previously made scientific claims that are not only unsubstantiated, but incapable of being substantiated.

"In 2001, for example..."

At least Milloy could get the dates right. The prostate finding was published in 1997. The 'advanced puberty' finding was published in Nature in 1999

  In 2001, for example, he claimed that his experiments on laboratory mice supposedly showed that very low doses of some chemicals — thousands of times lower than safety standards — increased prostate weight in male mice and advanced puberty in female mice.

"No other laboratory..."

Wrong. Dr. Chandra Gupta published research on rats confirming the low dose effects on prostate size. Several industry attempts to replicate the work were flawed by well-documented experimental errors. More broadly, many adverse effects have been reported by many different laboratories at the levels that vom Saal and colleagues found problematic.

  No other laboratory was able to reproduce vom Saal's work — and reproducibility of experimental data is a prerequisite for results to be considered “scientific.”

"also guaranteed..."

Not only have others found the same impact on the developing prostate, vom Saal has a paper in press in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences which confirms his initial results and extends them further.

  Vom Saal also guaranteed that his work would never be reproduced.

His experiments involved a unique strain of mice that he inbred in his laboratory for about 20 years. When the mice stopped producing the results he wanted, he killed them. Without the same strain of mouse, vom Saal's experiments can't be reproduced by others and his work can't be thoroughly evaluated.

Vom Saal’s latest hijinks, conveniently timed for AB 319, are centered around his new claim that of 115 published studies on BPA, 94 of them reported significant effects in rats and mice, while 21 studies did not.

"But vom Saal didn’t make this claim in a peer-reviewed scientific study..."

Wrong. The commentary by vom Saal and Hughes went through a standard peer-review process before being published in Environmental Health Perspectives, the flagship journal of the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

  But vom Saal didn’t make this claim in a peer-reviewed scientific study, but rather in an opinion piece for the health-scare oriented journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

In any event, scientific facts are not determined by simply counting the studies on the various sides of an issue without regard to their quality. Study quality is critical. A single high quality study — like those concerning BPA relied on by international scientific review bodies — can vanquish any number of poor quality ones.

"...only the suspicious vom Saal..."

Wrong. Not only did vom Saal have a co-author in writing the commentary, Dr. Claude Hughes--who was a co-author of the earlier and now out-dated assessment by the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, but the former Associate Director of the National Toxicology Program, Dr. George Lucier, participated with vom Saal in an international teleconference about BPA. Other scientists who study BPA, including Dr. Patricia Hunt, Dr. Ana Soto and Dr. Cheryl Watson have also expressed concern.

  The fact that there are 115 published studies on BPA indicates that there has been a lot of interest in BPA among researchers. But out of all that interest, only the suspicious vom Saal — closely associated with, and championed by the extreme anti-chemical activist movement — is trying to alarm the public about BPA.

 

"...there may also be commercial interests at stake with AB319..."

That's rich. Milloy is insinuating that vom Saal has a financial interest in this company. OSF asked vom Saal, who responded: "I have no financial interest in that company."

But Milloy's comment ... "there may also be commercial interests at stake..." is an ironic understatement. Over 6 billion pounds of bisphenol A are produced each year, making it one of the top plastic molecules in production. The companies that make it have huge commercial interests at stake.

  Finally, there may also be commercial interests at stake with AB319. Earlier this year, vom Saal spoke against BPA at an event in the United Kingdom that was sponsored by a company is selling plastic baby bottles “guaranteed to be free from bisphenol-A.”

The California Assembly ought to take all these facts into consideration before voting to scare the public about baby bottles.

Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and CSRwatch.com, is adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and is the author of Junk Science Judo: Self-defense Against Health Scares and Scams (Cato Institute, 2001).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
   
   

 

 

 

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