Statement regarding the use of bisphenol A

The LA Times has an interesting story about a statement regarding the use of bisphenol A, a compound that has many uses in the plastics industry and also happens to have estrogenic effects.

The scientists -- including four from federal health agencies -- reviewed about 700 studies before concluding that people are exposed to levels of the chemical exceeding those that harm lab animals. Infants and fetuses are most vulnerable, they said.

This is an important point. Organisms in utero can be exquisitely sensitive to growth factors and hormones, sometimes hundreds or even thousands of times more sensitive than their adult counterparts. Our youngin's should be the first place we look for effects of bisphenol A exposure.

The statement, published online by the journal Reproductive Toxicology, was accompanied by a new study by researchers from the National Institutes of Health finding uterine damage in newborn animals exposed to BPA. That damage is a possible predictor of reproductive diseases in women, including fibroids, endometriosis, cystic ovaries and cancers. It is the first time BPA has been linked to female reproductive tract disorders, although earlier studies have found early-stage prostate and breast cancer and decreased sperm counts in animals exposed to low doses.

Note the cautionary nature of the statement, which is appropriate given that we don't have any human studies to back up these statements. It is important to note that....

The scientists' statement and new study -- along with five accompanying scientific reviews that summarize the 700 studies -- intensify a highly contentious debate over whether the plastic compound poses a public threat. So far no governmental agency here or abroad has restricted its use.

...but there is legitimate concern. Humans are likely to be exposed to more bisphenol A than are our rodent test subjects. This stuff is in literally just about every single plastic we use. And bisphenol A isn't the only estrogenic compound in use today, by a long shot. It's possible that bisphenol A might act synergistically with other compounds to mess us up developmentally, or contribute to various forms of cancer, who knows. I think this statement expresses a good balance of skepticism and plausibility.

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