What The Chemical Industry Doesn’t Want You To Know About Everyday Products.

October 14, 2008

The global chemical industry annually produces about 6 billion pounds of bisphenol A (BPA), an integral component of a vast array of plastic products, generating at least $6 billion in annual sales. The value of BPA-based manufactured goods is probably incalculable. Environmental Working Group studies have found BPA in more than half the canned foods and beverages sampled from supermarkets across the U.S.

Soon after scientists Frederick Vom Saal and Wade Welshons found the first hard evidence that miniscule amounts of BPA caused irreversible changes in the prostates of fetal mice, a scientist from Dow Chemical Company showed up at the Missouri lab. He disputed the data and declared, as Vom Saal recalls, “We want you to know how distressed we are by your research.”

“It was not a subtle threat,” Vom Saal says. “It was really, really clear, and we ended up saying, threatening us is really not a good idea.”

The Missouri scientists redoubled their investigations of BPA. Industry officials and scientist allies fired back, sometimes in nose-to-nose debates at scientific gatherings, sometimes more insidiously. “I heard [chemical industry officials] were making blatantly false statements about our research,” says Welshons. “They were skilled at creating doubt when none existed.”

The industry’s increasingly noisy denials backfired. By the turn of the millennium, dozens of scientists were launching their own investigations of the chemical. But the chemical industry can be expected to fight aggressively against more regulation. Earlier this year, the industry spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to defeat a California legislative proposal to ban BPA in food packaging. The Chemistry Council and allied companies and industry groups hired an army of lobbyists. Tactics included an industry email to food banks charging that a BPA ban would mean the end of distributions of canned goods for the poor.

Straight to the source

Filed in: toxic • Tags: ,

About the Author:

After a varied past of being a test driver for automotive television programs, a Hollywood studio lackey, and an online media sales director, David is now the publisher and editor of The Good Human. In his spare time he rides motorcycles, drinks good beer, and builds stuff in the garage. You can follow him on Twitter at @thegoodhuman or G+ at Google
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Comments (8)

  1. Oh my goodness. It seems that BPA is popping up all over the place these days. I recently saw an ad on TV for Clorox’s line of Green Works products, which are supposedly more “natural” and less harmful to the environment. It makes me wonder whether a huge chemical cleaning corporation is really capable of such a dramatic change. What do you think?

  2. David says:

    I have been saying for a very long time that there are wonderful, safe, nontoxic alternatives to any Clorox product that is sold, including their so-called “green” products. Why support a company that continues to make toxic bleach?

  3. Lauren says:

    Well I see some one does not believe in the FDA, nor do they read the studies that are published. BPA is not has bad has the study that the news blew to much larger than life. The study was bias against the plastics industry, it was in part sponsored by a group that was for getting rid of plastics in England’s National Health Service. I found this out from a Ecology Professor at my university. Also “the prostates of fetal mice” a mouse is not a human, we are VERY different any one who took biology in high school should have learned this, some thing work well on animals but not on humans, and vice verse.

    On the point of Clorox, there are issues with there green products, most are made from coconut based cleaners, and with the growing demand for coconuts there are more mono culture coconut plantation popping up in what used to be rain forests. I give them cookies for trying. But I do at the same point say yes bleach is Toxic, but so is Washing Soda and that is a natural cleaning product. And I would hate to go in to a hospital and lay on a bed that had not been disinfected with Bleach especially if the person had something like say Small Pox that is killed by bleach, so yea it does allow things like MRSA Staph infections to happen but that is also the result of Germ crazed society.

    What I’m saying is don’t jump to conclusion’s especially when I I look at people who are in our 20’s we all were fed with BPA releasing bottles and we seem to be OK.

  4. David says:

    You are right Lauren – we should believe everything the FDA says, since they have been right 100% of the time through history, and we should just keep using plastic that leeches into our food even though there are safe alternatives. Canada, California, several other states, the Congress and even Walmart want BPA banned. So I guess I am not the only one “not” reading reports.

  5. Istok says:

    Good point David. The FDA cannot check everything all the time. Industry groups use the FDA to condone their clients bad behavior. What if the FDA is wrong? Hell lets just ban all scientists that study food and related products because the FDA is 100% right all the time.
    Lauren if you think BPA is safe because the FDA says so why don’t you be the “lab rat” they perform the tests on? I’ll bet you are thinking twice about the products you are exposing your kids to even though your pay stub says “Dow” on it.

  6. david says:

    Great points Istok, great points!

  7. Xandra says:

    @ Lauren:

    Mice may look very different from humans, but we are not as different as you may think. Genetically the different between humans and wheat (yes, a plant) is only about 30% … meaning we share 70% of the same genes with wheat … and mice are much much higher than that. In addition, there are various aspects of mice biology that are in fact extremely similar or identical to humans – that’s why they are used in particular for a lot of scientific research concerning human health. Generally, the scientists that use mice as lab animals do in fact know which parts are very different and which parts are very similar. My point is, there is a lot of assumed difference that is *not* corrected in high school biology. In fact, high school biology is generally *extremely* far behind the times in terms of the accuracy of the information. I’d say take a *college* genetics and biology course before you discuss how mice are not good lab animals. And make sure it’s a college that actually keeps up it’s science department.

    Also, professors are as fallible as scientists funded by corporations or public interest groups. Adding “PhD” to the end of your name does a lot to convince people that your opinions are facts, when in fact they are not.

    That said, I am much more likely to believe a group that is attempting to protect public health than one that is attempting to protect its own special interests. The fact that the scientists were approached by the Dow Chemical Company as stated in the article stinks very much.

    @ all:

    I wish I could remember where I read it, but I am certain I read a report with evidence that stated that the FDA is not a flawless organization, and in fact has been influenced by money and politics to rule one way or the other on various things in their purview. So, not only are they unable to check everything all the time, but there is good reason to suspect their motives.

  8. Xandra says:

    And as for the bleach – vinegar and peroxide are actually more disinfectant.