Monday, October 15, 2007

Banning bisphenol A

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

Today is Blog Action Day. And the topic is the environment. Add to that BlogHer Acts Canada's focus on getting Canada to pass a ban on bisphenol A. Of course I'm joining in.

I've written about bisphenol A before. It's a chemical found in many plastic products, particularly polycarbonates, but also the lining of tin cans. If the plastic is clear and rigid, chances are that there's some bisphenol A in there. But, of course, such labeling is not required, so one can't be sure.
Although it isn't supposed to, it does leach into food; chemically speaking, it is an estrogen receptor and has hormone-disrupting properties at incredibly low levels.

As I planned out in that previous post, we have switched to using glass containers for more foods and stopped using polycarbonate bottles. We have not discontinued all use of plastics, but now serve most of Scooter's food on/in #5 plastics (one of the least toxic).

But I would like to take this moment for a little rant. I mentioned this in a comment over at BlogHers Act Canada, but let me say a little more.

Before Scooter was born, Trillian and I did the whole new-parent thing and carefully researched everything. Even though I intended to breastfeed for at least a year, I knew that Scooter would need to take some feedings from bottles once I went back to work at 5+ months. And so we settled on Avent bottles, even bought the adapter so that I could pump from my Medela pump directly into a bottle. Even when Scooter refused the bottle at first, we stuck with Avent, trying out different nipples (eventually ending up with the sippy cup mouthpiece). So I panicked when I realized that we've been exposing our son to bisphenol A all along.

That's bad enough. I try not to beat myself up about it since I didn't know at the time and can't change what has already happened. But I thought maybe Avent would be concerned about this too. Go to their site, however, and this is what you'll find.

Now the Avent site refers to various regulatory agencies that have approved bisphenol A for food-grade products and that claim there is no danger from it. They hide behind these studies--I say 'hide,' because many of these studies have been funded by the chemical industry or conducted by panels with likely conflicts of interest.

I am both angered and dumb-founded by this whole thing. This chemical is an estrogen receptor. That means it upset the hormone balance in men and women alike. And in such a way that it can lead to things like obesity and early puberty, not to mention low sperm count in men and a greater disposition towards breast cancer for women.

And yet governments assure us that they have determined "safe" levels, often with the help of those very considerate folks who produce bisphenol A. Take one last look at the chart over in the Wikipedia article. Now I'm not saying that every study on that chart is as sound as the next, but look at the general trend, look at the wide range of effects. And look at where the US and Canada put their limits.

In addition to my post here, I will be sending a letter to Avent. I will explain why I will never use their products again and how angry I am that they continue to ignore the science.

Are you angry too? Write a post, write a letter, sign the petition. Make your voice heard. When we all yell about the same thing, it's a lot harder to ignore.


Lisa b said...

wasn't it recently announced that a large number of chemicals are under review by the Candian government? I thought that was part of the series in the globe?

Mouse said...

I think it's something like 200 chemicals that they've decided to put "under study." The issue, of course, is that this is still likely to take ages before there's any action.

Aliki2006 said...

I'm going to add my name to that petition, for certain. I must have my head in the sand because I didn't know anything about this! Although I breastfed Tessa for 21 months, I could only breastfeed Liam for 3 months and we used Avent bottle and sippy cups.

Great. Another thing to worry about.

Lisa b said...

Oh what I meant was that we pretty much know its bad stuff and there are lots of bad things.
I signed the petition bc that, and this type of action, are as you point out a much better way to get some action.
I worked for ....let me just post this.

kittenpie said...

Yes. Yes. And Yes. It just makes me queasy to think of my girl drinking bottle after bottle for a full year. Now I'm wondering about her sippy cups, of which one or two are still in circulation.

Laural Dawn said...

This was really scary. I just read Lisa B's blog and now yours. Literally I had not heard about all of this. I mean I'd heard it mentioned but chose not to read because it's all way too scientific for me. (bad excuse, I know).
I was all set to buy avent bottles.
I'll add my name to the petition - and pull my head out f the sand.
Thanks for the heads up!

Anonymous said...

It's an outrage! I found your posting today by doing a Google search to find out if my Sleepcountry mattress has PBDE's in it. There's a CNN front page story in the US edition about biotoxins. Your blog from May was very interesting. Your question about what to do with all the old plastic bottles - have a big "toss em out" campaign in your neighborhood and then truck them over to the nearest corporate office and leave them on the front doorstep...oh, and don't forget to call the newspapers and tv stations first to document all the drama. I'm afraid the only thing that will stop poisioning us is a CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT - that's about the only thing that will get the attention of the people responsible.

Anonymous said...

I know it is easy to believe reports when it says something is bad, but sometimes you need to look deeper. There are a lot of people who want to portray BPA as dangerous, including trial lawyers and environmental groups who fund raise on this issue. The reality is that every independent expert panel that has looked into the safety of BPA has concluded it is safe. I know that does not make for sensationalized media attention but if it was dangerous would not the FDA, European Food Safety Authority, Japanese Ministry of Health, Harvard, and several others have said so. No, in fact they have said it is safe. Be careful not to beleive everything you read from these blogs.

Mouse said...

Actually, 2nd anonymous, I'm not getting most of my information from blogs--other than a scientist friend who has a background in environmental science and biology. I also have enough science training for a basic understanding of the systems bisphenol a interacts with. Moreover, if you'd read my post a little more closely, you might have seen the point that the government studies are generally funded by people with a vested interest in the outcome and that there have been independent studies that demonstrate negative effects of bisphenol a at much lower doses than the levels set by governments. And that any levels would need to be set at all suggests that this is a chemical to watch.

kristina b said...

Wow, I would suspect that anonymous two is part of the industry.

I have a M.Sc. in Chemistry and have read some of the studies out there due to the recent Ontario government interest in potentially banning BPA.

I have a toddler and I`m looking into options into replacing his sippy cup.

I believe in the precautionary principle. If there is any evidence of toxic effects (which there is), then the chemical should be banned.

Anonymous said...

From 2nd anonymous -
I am a Ph.D. Chemist who follows this issue because I use it in presentations about true science vs politically motivated science and how true science rarely wins that contest. The true science is that EVERY INDEPENDENT EXPERT PANEL that has reviewed in-depth (not the quick glances everyone here, including mouse has made) the total science on this issue has come to the same conclusion, BPA is safe. I know that is not convenient to many who have staked their career on this (vom Saal and others) and other organizations who use this issue for fund raising, but experts in the field say it is safe.
If this hypothesis that BPA is so dangerous is true, why will the researchers who make these claims never attend Toxicology forums to discuss their research, because it would then be obvious that their research does not even meet minimum standards to even be published in unbiased journals.
Please keep in mind that just recently the NIH, FDA, European Food Safety Authority, and the Japanese governments have done comprehensive risk assessments on this chemical, all saying it is safe. Is it just possible that they are right, or are all of them in "industries" back pocket.

Mouse said...

Dear Anonymous,

Maybe it's a stretch to say every government is in the industry's back pocket, but I sure will say you are. Seriously, you should know better than to comment from an ISP that links to your company's name. Just saying.

Funny thing, I see that there was a panel at the NIH that looked at all the existing studies. Their conclusion seems to be that while a number of concerns are negligible, bisphenol a has affected age of puberty in mice. Moreover, their main conclusion seems to be that we just don't know, that there are no studies that give us enough information for any conclusions about human effects. No, I haven't gone and checked out the other reports, but I'm not surprised to see you're spinning this study. Just saying.


Lisa b said...

wow mouse. If it was possible to be more shocked I would be. This is a new low.
congrats on being picked up through google searches though. I really hope lots of other people see this trail.

I've got to get sitemeter.

cinnamon gurl said...

My dad is a chemist who specilized in plastics for his entire 30-year career working for a large multi-national chemical company. He sings the praises of plastics at every opportunity and thinks organics are a lot of hooey and believes radical environmentalists don't read the research that he does, and even HE thinks bis-A is bad and to be avoided, especially in cans and baby bottles because they get heated up.

Anonymous said...

From 2nd anonymous,

I have no issue saying I am work for a can company, I never said differently. I find it interesting that you allow people to choose an Anonymous identity but then go and check up on them, thats ethical !!!
I am only laying out other facts that you should want others to consider, which is the whole point of a blog.

From the Eupropean Food Safety Authority (2007).

The Panel also noted that in some studies reporting low-dose effects, only a single dose level was investigated, or there was absence of a dose-response relationship where several dose levels had been used. Many studies also used only small numbers of animals per dose group. There are also a number of other potential confounding factors in these types of study that may contribute to the lack of consistency in the database and this is discussed in more detail in the opinion.”

Like it or not, unless the vom Saal's of the world can convince the expert toxicologist community that the orgins of toxicology (that being the dose makes the poison) are wrong, this is a mute point. But that will not happen because he will not engage scientists, only media and bloggers.

If this chemical is dangerous I would love to be the first to know it, but as all scientists on this blog know, it is very easy to create a test that will show anything is toxic, the real question is how realvent is that to human health. In this case EVERY expert panel has said it is not relavent.

Mouse said...

Short on time tonight:

Again, what I'm seeing from this panel is that the experiments that have been run are insufficient. Period. That is not the same as a conclusion that it's safe.

As for the impugning of my ethics, I have two brief remarks:

1) Blogger gives me a choice of letting only people with Blogger accounts comment or open it to everyone. I do have some readers who are without Blogger accounts (my wife included), and I still want them to have a voice. But most of them do take advantage of the opportunity to fill in the "Nickname" field.

2) As for the ethics of looking at my StatCounter, I've never kept it a secret that I do. Mostly, I use it because I like looking at statistics and the range of places people come from and the searches that bring them to my blog. I don't usually try to put comments with specific visitors--because they usually leave their names.

One final comment to "Anonymous": I am a small-time mommy blogger. While I have taken to writing about environmental issues on occasion, I have made it clear that I am writing from my own perspective. Most of my writing is about my personal experiences and concerns. My core audience is other women, other mothers. I know that it is an accident of Google that you're even bothering with me.

A general note: Since I won't be able to check back here regularly as I'm dealing with the whole buying a house, moving countries thing, I'll be closing comments on this post. I've actually decided to do this in general since I find it difficult to keep track of new comments popping up on posts that are 6 weeks old when my more recent posts are foremost in my mind.