Utne Blogs > Environment

Everyone’s Abuzz Over BPA

 by Keith Goetzman

Tags: Environment, toxins, bisphenol A, BPA, canned foods, food containers, water bottles, Consumer Reports, Grist, Civil Eats, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, E Magazine, Sierra Club Green Home, Washington Post, Business Insurance, Delaware News Journal, Keith Goetzman,

While the FDA holes up and takes a good, hard look at the health effects of the widely used plastic additive bisphenol A, there’s a flurry of news and activity on the BPA front.

Consumer Reports has ginned up considerable media attention with its recent study of BPA in canned food, which found the substance showing up widely in soups, juices, and canned vegetables. Check out coverage at Grist, Civil Eats, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and see the Consumer Reports blogs for coverage of the industry reaction.

A study published days ago in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives found a correlation between aggression in young girls and high BPA exposure during pregnancy by their moms. Read stories about it at E Magazine and Sierra Club Green Home. Another study covered in today's Washington Post found that Chinese men exposed to high BPA levels suffered erectile dysfunction.

And now the mighty Kristof hath taken up the cause with his pen. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof weighed in on Saturday with “Chemicals in Our Food, and Bodies.” Springboarding off the Consumer Reports hullabaloo, he sums up some of the alarming science and pronounces endocrine disruptors—the dangerous class of chemicals to which BPA belongs—scarier than “threats from warlords, bandits, and tarantulas.”

Apparently, he’s not the only one scared by the BPA situation. Business Insurance reports that 25 BPA-related lawsuits that seek class-action status were consolidated last year, seeking damages from companies that include baby-bottle makers Avent, Evenflo, Gerber, and Playtex, as well as the maker of the ubiquitous Nalgene bottles. The most frightening aspect for the corporate defendants is that the strategically worded suits specifically do not allege bodily injury, and thus insurance will likely not cover the companies' court costs. (Instead the suits seek economic and punitive damages.) The story suggests that BPA may be next major cause for plaintiffs’ attorneys.

Finally, there may be broader reform afoot in the area of chemical safety. The Wilmington, Delaware, News Journal  reports that “momentum is gathering to strengthen the government’s primary mechanism for banning harmful chemicals or limiting their use in consumer products, the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act.” The story notes that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a September speech that there are “troubling gaps” in the data on many widely used chemicals.

“Many are turning to government for assurance that chemicals have been assessed using the best available science, and that unacceptable risks haven’t been ignored,” Jackson said. “Right now, we are failing to get this job done.”

Sources: Consumer Reports, Grist, Civil Eats, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, E Magazine, Sierra Club Green HomeWashington Post, Business Insurance, Delaware Online