Eugene Weekly : Viewpoint : 5.27.10

Way Beyond ‘Chatter’
Oregon Toxics Alliance responds to claims of BPA safety 
By Lisa Arkin, Oregon Toxics Alliance

A representative from RiteMade, a company that uses Bisphenol-A (BPA) in its paper products, recently tried to counter an EW exposé about the hazards of this synthetic chemical. The Weekly’s article (4/15) addressed concerns from the scientific community that BPA may easily be absorbed by human skin after the toxin leaches from paper sales receipts. RiteMade flippantly dismissed scientific evidence linking BPA with human illnesses as “quite a bit of chatter,” and countered with a full-page ad touting the safety of the chemical (4/29). BPA is found in common products such as baby bottles, baby formula can liners, polycarbonate plastic water bottles and thermal sales receipts. 

Oregon Toxics Alliance (OTA) was quoted in EW’s disclosure about controversial BPA. We supported the 2009 Oregon bill to ban BPA in products specifically marketed for use by children under the age of 3. The bill didn’t quite pass, but only by a very slim margin. It will be re-introduced in the Legislature in 2011. 

The so-called national “chatter” about BPA was recently amplified by the release of the 2008-2009 President’s Cancer Panel (originally appointed by George W. Bush to monitor the National Cancer Program) which singles out BPA as potentially harmful. The panel warned that “more than 130 studies have linked BPA to breast cancer, obesity and other disorders.” 

In addition, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and researchers publishing in a number of prestigious journals such as The Journal of the American Medical Association and The Journal of Reproductive Toxicology advise taking a precautionary, more protective approach to regulating BPA. 

Canada, Connecticut and Minnesota have instituted restrictions on BPA in consumer products, and legislation to restrict the use of BPA has been introduced in 21 other states, including Oregon, in the past year. 

If OTA had the resources to pay for a full-page ad, I would discuss in great detail the numerous scientific studies that draw a close association between BPA and breast cancer, gestational diabetes, type 2 diabetes and even cardiovascular disease. 

For example, researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch warn that attention must be given to BPA exposures in pregnant women. There is grave concern that pre-natal exposures to BPA in the womb may trigger a cascade of developmental changes that set the stage for future adult disease, including an elevated incidence of diabetes. I would urge new parents to consult the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website, which instructs parents to examine worn-out baby bottles and discard them if damaged because scratches in BPA-containing bottles “lead to greater release of BPA.”

Both the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the President’s Cancer Panel conclude that BPA is an estrogen-mimicking chemical known to leach into food from packaging and plastic containers. In addition to its potential reproductive health effects and links to breast cancer, BPA reduces the effectiveness of three common chemotherapeutic agents used to treat breast cancer. That’s harm coming from every direction.

This is hardly chatter. It should sound, to those of us concerned about toxics and human health, like a scream for help. We need stronger regulations to protect fetuses, infants and children. 

OTA believes that toxic chemical exposures happen in mixtures, not in isolation. We also call upon government agencies and research institutions to adequately measure the interrelationships of multiple chemical exposures. It is important to learn whether synergistic interactions of harmful chemicals pose even greater health problems than previously suspected. 

Together, we can stand up to corporations like RiteMade and tell them we know putting BPA in consumer products is not the right way to make a healthy world! 

Lisa Arkin is executive director of Oregon Toxics Alliance in Eugene. OTA is sponsoring a conversation on reducing toxics for the health of all people from 6:15 to 7:45 pm Monday, June 7, at the Eugene Public Library. As Oregon’s leader for the National Conversation on Public Health and Chemical Exposures, OTA will deliver the public’s feedback directly to federal agencies to help determine a national action agenda on toxic chemicals. Free food, beverages and childcare will be provided. RSVP for childcare by calling 465-8860 or visit