Well, there’s yet more evidence out there that the hysteria about the chemical Bisphenol-A (more commonly called BPA) was just a bunch of hooey promoted by green activists who want BPA and many other useful and perfectly safe chemicals banned.
I’ve written about BPA (here, here, and here, and for a useful fact sheet, go here) for years, trying to explain that BPA isn’t the scary thing it’s made out to be and now a two-year government study of rats has found that there’s really nothing to worry about.
The study’s results are explained in an impressive 249-page report, which was a joint effort by the National Toxicology Program, the National Institutes of Health, and the Food and Drug Administration. The study’s researchers are clear: "BPA produced minimal effects" and that the effects they did see appeared to be "within the range of normal biological variation” which means they could have occurred by chance.
The finding bolsters the Food and Drug Administration's 2014 assessment that water bottles and other products containing BPA are not making people sick.
"[It] supports our determination that currently authorized uses of BPA continue to be safe for consumers," said Dr. Stephen Ostroff, the FDA's deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, in a statement issued by the agency.
The study's findings are at odds with claims by advocacy groups that exposure to BPA is associated with a wide range of health effects including cancer, obesity and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Indeed. Anti-chemical and environmental activists have, for years, been saying that BPA causes a whole host of health problems and have pointed to studies that suggest the same. Yet, those studies have always found correlations, not actual causation. Finding correlations between a substance and a disease can be helpful, but these sorts of studies are limited and are never viewed by the scientific community as “proof” that a substance is bad or harmful.
Consider this example of activists’ scary claims against BPA. Activists often say that BPA causes obesity because sodas are bottled in plastic containers that contain BPA. Okay, fine, plastic soda bottles do contain barely detectable levels of BPA, but those bottles also contain a whole lot of sugary drink. Might it be the cola that’s contributing to someone’s weight problem, over the trace amounts of BPA they’re ingesting by drinking a soda?
But, wait. Is it really the soda? One must also consider the fact that people who drink large quantities of high-calorie, sugary drinks usually don’t have great eating habits. Could it be the Big Mac or greasy pizza they’re eating along with that soda that’s causing this person’s weight problems?
Yes, it might be that, or it might be the fact that people who don’t care much about eating well, also tend not to exercise. Perhaps it’s the lack of exercise?
See how this works? It’s very easy to make correlations, but finding the actual causes of disorders, like obesity, is a bit tougher.
NPR also explains that many of the studies pushed by the anti-BPA crowd don’t meet the basics of scientific standards:
Critics of the chemical point to numerous small studies done by academic researchers. These studies, usually of rodents, have suggested that BPA can disrupt the body's hormone system in ways that affect health.
But studies that met the FDA's Good Laboratory Practice standards have suggested that BPA is safe at levels encountered by consumers. So the agency has approved its use in most consumer products.
This study should reassure consumers that BPA is a perfectly safe chemical that’s used by manufacturers to make products safer, more durable, and less expensive. But consumers should also consider who is to blame for this decade-long campaign of misinformation about BPA: anti-chemical activists groups like the Environmental Working Group, the Breast Cancer Fund, and the Safer Chemicals, Healthier Families Campaign (which is really just a collection of about 200 radical environmental and anti-business organizations), so called mommy blogs like Mamavation and so many individual activists who stoked consumer fears while ignoring the safety record of BPA. These groups are prolific pushers of junk science, they like and fabricate and terrorize all consumers in an effort to take product development and safety back decades—and they don’t care how many people they harm as a result.
Consumers should also pause to consider the cost of manufacturing changes as consumer demand grew for BPA-free products. Moms, in particular, should feel angry about all the false and baseless claims that children had been harmed, which lead not only to a whole lot of unpleasant anxiety but to the FDA banning BPA in all children’s products, and as a result increased the price on these products.
Consumers should also feel outraged that many manufacturers, instead of pushing back on the activists, capitulated to the demands and then simply switched out BPA for a chemical called BPS, which, as IWF Senior Fellow Angela Logomasini explained, is actually a more potent “endocrine disrupter” that the human body does not metabolize as easily as BPA. Is that improvement? No, that’s a cynical gesture by product manufacturers to give the activists a win while appearing to “care” for human health and mother earth. Wouldn’t it have been easier to fight back and stand up for product safety?
Moms should also be disgusted that they paid extra to get BPA-free products—money that could have gone into college funds or to pay for family vacations, for food, clothing, heat. Eventually, every thing became BPA-free, but consumers paid for those products to be redesigned and reformulated. Again, the consumer lost.
Who won? The anti-chemical activists who got rich off needlessly worried moms and other consumers who believed the myth that BPA was harmful because these groups refused to acknowledge the overwhelming evidence that BPA is safe.
We can’t turn back the clock on the BPA farce, but hopefully consumers will be wise to the tactics employed by activists—tactics that do nothing to protect consumers or improve the environment.