April 27, 2008

WP: BPA Caper Being Blown Wide Open

The Washington Post apparently wants some of that think-of-the-children Pulitzer Pie the Chicago Tribune's been having. They have another front page story on BPA and the health risk it poses to infants and pre-pubescent kids, even at extremely low levels of exposure.

In this week's episode, we meet Sunoco, duPont, and BASF, independent mom&pop BPA shops who fund the research and manipulate government debate over regulation, just like their friends in the tobacco industry:

As the country's preeminent BPA researcher, [University of Missouri, Columbia reproductive scientist Frederick] vom Saal finds that his work is regularly attacked by the chemical industry. "We were not prepared at all for walking into a political minefield," said vom Saal, whose research is funded by foundations and the National Institutes of Health.

The chemical industry, meanwhile, has funded scientists who have served on expert review panels that advise the government about the safety of chemical compounds.

Last year, NIH convened two panels to help it analyze BPA risks. One panel, led by vom Saal, consisted of 38 international experts on BPA who work for universities or governments. Last August, it found a strong cause for health concerns, including cancer and early puberty.

The second panel included 12 scientists, none of whom had worked on BPA. In November, it found "some concern" about neurological effects of the compound in children but minimal concern that it would cause cancer or early puberty. The second group relied on Sciences International, an Alexandria-based consulting firm, to choose and summarize research for panel members.

The government later learned that Sciences International had done work for Dow and BASF, two BPA manufacturers. After inquiries by Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), the government canceled its contract with the firm and audited its work. The panel reported "minimal" concern about the compound's impact on reproduction and development while saying it had "some concern" about effects on neurological development.

If that's the first time you've heard of another NIH-funded panel on BPA, you're not alone. Vom Saal's panel was convened separately using some NIH grant money, but it happened outside/alongside the industry consultant-run panel that got all the publicity last summer. Even now, it's hard to find discussion or mention of it [and their report (pdf) could certainly use some punching up; it was definitely written by scientists, not policy lobbyists and media hacks.]

Studies on Chemical In Plastics Questioned [washingtonpost]
38 BPA experts conclude there's "great concern" of health effects (BPA) [environmentalhealthnews.org, pdf]

Previously, Apr 2008: NIH grows some w/r/t BPA, says it might be a toxic after all
Previously, Sept 2007: JPMA points to industry-run NIH panel, says relax! BPA's fine

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