Perhaps there’s no such thing as coincidence. Carl Jung didn’t think there was—to him, it was all synchronicity. But you don’t have to be a Jungian or a flaky New-Ager to think that when two studies released the same week tell us something is bad for us, perhaps we ought to pay attention.
It's been a bad week for bisphenol A—commonly known as BPA—a component of many polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins that are found all over our environment, from plastic water bottles, to the inside lining of metal cans, to the toys children put in their mouths.
Scientists, including researchers at the US Department of Health and Human Services and the Food and Drug Administration, have expressed concern over BPAs for years now, particularly for fetuses and young children. One cause for concern is that scientists believe it mimics estrogen, which can cause all kinds of problems with our brains, reproductive organs, body size, and behavior.
As if the potential threat of man boobs, breast cancer, and enlarged prostates weren’t scary enough, this week, new evidence in the case against BPA was added to the pile. On Monday, news emerged in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that studies in rats showed BPA could interfere with gene expressions partly responsible for the development of the central nervous system. Researchers speculate that could “possibly play a role” in creating neurological disorders.
Just today, a second study emerged from the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health linking early childhood exposure to BPA with a higher risk for wheeze and asthma.
The study found that 90 percent of the children, tested at ages 3, 5 and 7, demonstrated detectable levels of BPA. “Just as smoking increases the risk of lung cancer but not everyone who smokes gets lung cancer, not every child exposed to BPA will develop asthma,” explained lead author Kathleen Donohue, MD, an assistant professor at Columbia, in a press release. Still, after controlling for other environmental factors like second-hand smoke, the researchers found wheeze and asthma risk increases at “fairly routine, low doses of exposure to BPA, Dr. Donohue explained.
As the test results in this second study indicate, BPA exposure is nearly ubiquitous. In a wide-ranging study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2003-2004, researchers found detectable levels of BPA in 93 percent of subjects six years and older. The FDA recognizes something is wrong: It banned BPA from baby bottles and children’s sippy cups just last year.
But why this chemical is still permitted in any of the objects that contain what we eat and drink is mystery. As a Mayo Clinic nutritionist recently noted , The American Chemistry Council, a plastics industry group, insists that BPA poses no health risks. According to OpenSecrets.org, the group spent over $9 million on lobbying expenses last year, and more than $10 million the year before that, along with half-a-million on political contributions, including direct contributions to candidates on both sides of the aisle, all over the country. A full 61 of the 81 lobbyists acting on behalf of the council have previously held government jobs.
Perhaps that has something to do with it.