May 11 - Plastic Additives: What's In Your Water?

The May/June Guide of Green Guide has a story on Bisphenol A that you may want to check out. Bisphenol A has been a long-cited concern amongst Environment and Health Non-profits as an additive in plastics and can-liners. The additive is cited most in relation to Polycabonate Bottles, used in office water coolers, baby milk bottles, and the hard-plastic personal water bottles popularized by nature lovers as a "Nalgene" bottle (which is, technically, a brand name).

But why is it a concern, you might ask?

… A growing number of scientists are concluding, from some animal tests, that exposure to BPA in the womb raises the risk of certain cancers, hampers fertility and could contribute to childhood behavioral problems such as hyperactivity.

According to its critics, BPA mimics naturally occurring estrogen, a hormone that is part of the endocrine system, the body's finely tuned messaging service. "These hormones control the development of the brain, the reproductive system and many other systems in the developing fetus," says Frederick vom Saal, Ph.D…

Plastic water and baby bottles, food and beverage can linings and dental sealants are the most commonly encountered uses of this chemical. Unfortunately, it doesn't stay put. BPA has been found to leach from bottles into babies' milk or formula; it migrates from can liners into foods and soda and from epoxy resin-lined vats into wine; and it is found in the mouths of people who've recently had their teeth sealed. Ninety-five percent of Americans were found to have the chemical in their urine in a 2004 biomonitoring study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)…

….Vom Saal… notes that these (current) safety levels are based on 1980s toxicity studies in rats. In those studies, conducted at relatively high doses, the only sign of toxicity was reduced body weight. However, when it comes to hormone disruption, different doses can activate or suppress different genes, vom Saal explains. "That's why early toxicity studies found that the high doses were safe. The studies didn't look at the low doses that are now proving to cause a myriad of harmful effects in animals, including chromosomal damage in female egg cells and an increase in embryonic death in mice. A follow-up to this is a study indicating a relationship of BPA blood levels to miscarriages in Japanese women," he says.

Vom Saal counters that the studies showing BPA is safe are "profoundly flawed and in some cases exhibit outright fraud." Last year, he published a paper showing that 100 percent of the industry-funded studies, 11 in all, found no harmful effects from BPA, while 90 percent of government-funded low-dose studies, 104 in number, found harmful effects. "Among people who have actually read this literature there is no debate, just an illusion of controversy," he says.

The full article details both sides of the argument thoroughly, and is very well-written. CAW maintains concerns over plastics additives and last year supported a bill to ban to ban BPA in baby toys and feeding products, unfortunately defeated at the beginning of 2006.

CAW continues its watch over legislation that can protect California’s children from potentially damaging product additives. In addition, our organization expects to finish compiling a web-page of health links relating to plastics on its plastics issues page within the next few weeks. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, we suggest non-canned goods when able, and drinking your water out of a glass.