In a move that surprised no one, the FDA has aligned itself with the chemical industry and declared that Bisphenol-A, a plastics chemical previously linked to neural defects, is safe enough for babies to drink! Echoing the profit-minded desires of the chemical companies that manufacture plastic products, the FDA said in a draft report that the chemical poses no harm to adults or infants when consumed at typical exposure levels.
This is no surprise to anyone who has watched the FDA for very long: The agency’s decisions are almost unanimously in favor of private industry and almost never seek to protect the public from exposure to dangerous chemicals, pharmaceuticals or food ingredients. The FDA, it could be reasonably stated, has flatly abandoned the public and sold out to the very industries it is supposed to regulate.
Several months ago, The National Toxicology Program (part of the National Institutes of Health) issued a report that warned Bisphenol-A could cause neural problems and behavioral problems in infants and children. That report contributed to a wave of concern that resulted in the following:
• Toys ‘R Us removed plastic baby bottles from store shelves, resorting to BPA-free bottles.
• The BornFree company (www.NewBornFree.com) experienced a surge in sales of its BPA-free baby bottles.
• The Nalgene company completely abandoned the use of Bisphenol-A in its plastics, rolling out a BPA-free product line.
• Wal-Mart announced it would stop carrying many products containing Bisphenol-A.
• The State of California proposed legislation that would have banned food and beverage products containing Bisphenol-A. Under pressure from the chemical industry, however, that legislation failed to pass.
Nobody knows if Bisphenol-A is safe for children
Even the FDA had to admit, in its draft report, that “complete certainty of absolute harmlessness is scientifically impossible to establish.” In other words, they don’t know if it’s harmless to children. Yet interestingly, they’ve decided to give it their stamp of approval anyway, potentially exposing tens of millions of children to a chemical that may cause neural development problems.
This does not seem to concern the FDA. Or at least it does not seem to outweigh the influence and pressure from the plastics industry, which is of course claiming the chemical is absolutely harmless. Is this yet another example of the FDA selling out to industry? On the surface, it certainly seems so.
Even the Environmental Working Group (www.EWG.org) strongly criticized the FDA’s report, saying “We have long since lost faith in FDA’s ability to be an impartial authority on FDA’s safety. Time and again, FDA has sided with special interests instead of the public interest on this chemical.”
Protecting industry, not consumers
The FDA, you see, has a long and well-documented history of erring on the side of disaster. Rather than taking the default position that a possibly harmful chemical with unknown exposure levels should be restricted from the food supply until further research is done, the FDA does the opposite: It declares the chemical to be safe until evidence proves it to be dangerous.
This is a reckless strategy that will only lead to disaster for the health of the population. It is my belief that all synthetic chemicals should be assumed dangerous unless proven safe, and they should only be allowed in the food supply (via food packaging, beverage bottles, etc.) if they are proven safe with overwhelming scientific evidence.
FDA decisions are based on fiction, not fact
So how much scientific evidence does the FDA have right now, demonstrating Bisphenol-A to be safe on human babies? None. All they have is a LACK of evidence showing the chemical to be dangerous. And that’s not sufficient scientific support upon which decisions about toxic chemical exposure should be made.
The Environmental Working Group issued a statement strongly criticizing the FDA’s assessment of Bisphenol-A safety. The original statement is found at http://www.ewg.org/node/27024 and says:
1. The FDA limited its assessment to studies that conformed to rigid, 50-year old study designs that feed animals high amounts of BPA and analyze the animals for overt signs of poisoning and toxicity. FDA admits in their assessment that the studies they use to set the safety level do not adequately address the impacts of early life exposure to the developing brain, behavior and the reproductive system. Notably, the only studies that conformed to these 50-year old study designs, were those funded by industry.
2. By adhering to what it euphemistically calls studies that follow “good laboratory practices,” the FDA ignores more than 100 studies, including many funded by the National Toxicology Program, showing toxic effects of BPA at very low doses.
3. FDA’s so called 2,000-fold margin of safety evaporates if current exposures are compared to any of the low dose studies, particularly the 12 studies the National Toxicology Program highlights in their April 14, 2008 BPA assessment as raising concerns for the safety of infant exposure to BPA.
4. FDA’s exposure calculations underestimate infant ingestion. They calculate formula intake for the average infant instead of focusing on babies who eat the most, thus underestimating risks for half of all infants. They also assume that liquid formula has 2.5 parts per billion (ppb) BPA, even though their own testing of just 14 liquid formulas found up to 5 times more than this (13 ppb). These errors contradict the accepted risk assessment practice of focusing on risks to the most highly exposed population. FDA claims that its analysis was comprehensive, but in reality it underestimates risks to the most vulnerable infants by a wide margin.
So once again, we have the FDA putting the public in harm’s way, betraying the public trust and siding with the chemical industry on a decision that deserves a whole lot more scrutiny. Are plastics really dangerous for your health? I suspect they are, but regardless of what I think, the FDA needs to err on the side of caution, not on the side of industry.
Eating hamburgers is a thousand times worse for your health
Regardless of the question on plastics, I do have to say, for the record, that people tend to focus their fears and concerns on the wrong things when it comes to health. I’ve seen people drinking water out of glass bottles and thinking it’s really good for their health, but they’re eating hamburgers and french fries at the same time! I can assure you that eating hamburgers is a whole lot more dangerous for your health than drinking a microscopic amount of BPA from a plastic bottle.
I even drink out of plastic when I’m traveling, and I’m not the least bit concerned about it. For a healthy person, a little exposure to plastic isn’t going to kill you. (For infants and babies, of course, it’s a different story.) Taking FDA-approved pharmaceuticals, on the other hand, may indeed kill you. And eating fast food, junk food and processed food will kill you in the long run, too. But drinking a few molecules of BPA from your plastic bottle is, in my opinion, of relatively little concern compared to all the other ways consumers are drowning themselves in poison.
Most people need to stop worrying about plastic and start focusing on the toxic foods they’re eating and the toxic personal care products they’re putting on their skin! One barbequed steak contains a million times the cancer-causing residue of a plastic bottle (estimated). Regular use of conventional skin creams, in my opinion, is also a million times more toxic than drinking from plastic water bottles. Plastic residue isn’t killing even close to the number of people as processed food, dangerous medications and toxic personal care products.
People drink soda out of aluminum cans and don’t think twice about it. They microwave their foods and destroy their nutrients without a hint of awareness. They eat processed meats laced with cancer-causing nitrites and haven’t a clue. They swallow extremely dangerous medications that double, triple or quadruple their risks of heart attacks, strokes and liver damage.
So why do people get so riled up over plastic bottles? Because it’s in the mainstream consciousness! But in my opinion, it’s nowhere near as important as talking about food additives, food irradiation, artificial sweeteners, hydrogenated oils, MSG, aspartame, the milling of grains and dozens of other far more dangerous things in the food supply. And that’s not to even mention what’s in the cosmetics and personal care products, which is some of the most toxic stuff you’ll ever find.
I can tell you this: If you drink nothing but superfoods out of plastic bottles, you will still experience outstanding health.
But if you drink junk beverages and liquid sugars out of GLASS bottles, you will destroy your health.
The bottle itself is not nearly as important as what’s IN the bottle. Remember that the next time you get excited over BPA. Concerns over health need to be properly prioritized, and drinking water out of plastic bottle is, in my view, very low on the list of health concerns we should be paying attention to.