Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Demonizing Bisphenol-A: The BPA File, Part One

By Alan Caruba

In July 2010 I wrote a commentary about Bisphenol-A, more commonly called BPA. It is a chemical that has been in wide, safe use for over 50 years, but has come under a horrendous and unrelenting attack by a variety of specious environmental and consumer groups.

Out of curiosity mostly, I initiated a Google Alert earlier this month to inform me whenever BPA was mentioned in a news story on the Web. Within three weeks I received 20 alerts, almost one a day, and each contained notifications on 15 – 25 different article references. That’s just nuts!

Why are Americans being bombarded in the space of a single month with more than 400 articles in magazines, newspapers, and on the Internet that are designed to frighten them into thinking that a good, safe thing is a bad thing?

It piqued my curiosity and prompted me to dig deeper. It seems that finding out who is behind these attacks on BPA, none of which has any credible science to support their claims, is proving to be a real detective game.

The result is that I have decided to follow the BPA story on a periodic basis in order to track and report how this classic scare campaign is maintained and spread. My research and writings will appear in “The BPA File”, a series that will ultimately be published on the website of The National Anxiety Center. It will appear monthly and elsewhere in places where readers have grown accustomed to seeing my writings.

I founded The National Anxiety Center in 1990 as a clearinghouse for information about just such scare campaigns and this fresh examination of BPA will be published alongside previous works including, “The Subversion of Education in America” and “The Enemies of Meat,” as well as the archive of commentaries written before I began my daily blog, “Warning Signs.”

The reason for this new series is that we have already seen any number of beneficial chemicals and products targeted in this fashion, often to be driven from the marketplace by class action lawsuits or banned by federal agencies and states.

Classic examples range from Alar and DDT to saccharine, all of which came under withering criticism from questionable sources using junk science, yet all of which have been proved over time to be perfectly safe and harmless when properly used. The same is happening today with BPA.

When the American Council on Science and Health, a consumer advocate group, listed “The Top Ten Unfounded Health Scares of 2010”, number one on its list was BPA. The ACSH wrote, “Bisphenol-A has been in use for over five decades in the manufacturing of certain life-saving medical devices as well as in baby and water bottles, dental devices, eyeglass lenses, DVDs and CDs and other electronics.”

BPA also plays an important role in maintaining a healthy food supply. “In addition,” said the ACSH, “it (BPA) has been used to coat the inside of nearly all metal food cans to protect consumers against deadly diseases like botulism.” If activists are successful in their pressure campaigns to ban BPA, my fear is that less-tested and less-safe alternatives will be forced upon unsuspecting consumers.

Here’s a simple question. If any of the charges against BPA are true, why then – in more than 50 year’s time! – has there been no direct connection drawn between BPA and the disease conditions claimed by anti-chemical activists? Answer: because none has ever been established through reliable scientific testing.

Human beings are chemical-processing machines. That’s what our bodies do all day, every day. We live longer, healthier lives precisely because of the discovery and use of chemicals, many of which exist solely to enhance our health and well-being.

Ultimately, as any chemist, pharmacist, or physician will tell you, “The poison is in the dose.” It is the amount of exposure and the route of exposure that determines whether something is harmful or not. Perhaps the best example of this ancient axiom is water. Too much and you can drown in it. Too little and you will suffer dehydration.

The same holds true for other chemicals, many of which are found in nature. Most crops produce their own pesticides to protect against natural predators and the human race has been ingesting trace elements of these chemicals since the dawn of humanity, along with the fruits and vegetables we know to be healthy elements of our diet. The amounts, however, are so miniscule – parts per billion – that they pose no threat.

This exact pattern exists with BPA as well; the so-called ‘endocrine disruptor’ we’re so breathlessly warned about in BPA is identical to a chemical found in soy products like tofu and soy sauce, soy milk and other related products. Strangely, we’re not hearing panicked cries to banish vegetarian food, Chinese carry-out and alternative dairy products for the lactose-intolerant from American society.

So, with Part One of The BPA File we shall begin an investigative journey that will, I promise, astonish you with the brazenness of a global campaign of lies intended to actually endanger your life by denying you the benefits of this particular chemical.

© Alan Caruba, 2011


Rich Kozlovich said...


I am glad you have decided to take this issue head on by doing the historical and scientific research on this subject and all the characters behind it. With your permission I will add The BPA File in Caruba's Corner: Green Myths and Other Lies, section of my blog.

I also appreciated the Browner expose. During her career as EPA director and climate czar Browner was able to openly do more damage to the health and well being of this nation than Alger Hiss could have ever done surreptitiously.


Alan Caruba said...

@Rich: Please do add the BPA series to Caruba's Corner. I intend to write about various aspects of the BPA story through June.


Joanna said...

Mr Caruba,
you are so right!!!
I have a little story to add to the "everything what makes money to the algorians" scare...
as you and some of you readers know, I was born and raised in Poland...(1956)... a very young child , I was helping my Parents to fight the 'Potato Beetle'...
It was a community effort, as many of our village people were small farmers, just like my Parents (2-4 cows, few pigs, dozens of chickens, geese and turkeys, some ducks, rabbits and enough field with vegetables to survive the winter)...
to fight the potato beetle they all join together and were passing through rows of potatoes in groups every day...
I don't think I will ever forget the smell of DDT from an old pantyhose was applied to the potato plants, right at my face level...
I would not overstate the years, if I would say from my 5th birthday (I was a helping hand at our little farm to watch cows and other farm animals to feed without causing a havoc in fields) to my 12th or 14th bithday every year all summer long, on every day bases I was participating against the Potato Beetle DDT action... face other precautionery steps...
at almost 55th birthday?
I am as healthy as any 20-year old wish to be...
the only days off work were to deliver my daughter some 33 years ago...
so, was DDT deadly?
obviously NOT!!!
it reminds me of a salesperson last year a warranty on a flooring for the next 50 years for as little as $xx...
I told him: sweetie ?! in 50 years I could not care less about the flooring!!!!!!

Anthony said...

I find it refreshing to read articles meant for general readership like this. I am a toxicologist. Keep up the good work.

Alan Caruba said...

Thank you, Anthony. It must be hard to be a toxicologist today and have to read and hear all the trash that is written to scare people in one fashion or another.

Alan C.