Scientists and environmental and health advocates who have raised concerns about the chemical Bisphenol A -- used commonly in hard plastics and a variety of other products (for a list, click here)-- are calling a soon-to-be-released government report on health concerns bogus.
They charge that the government unduly favors industry, and has ignored or downplayed health concerns. In this case, Bisphenol A is concerning because it mimics the human hormones, which control body processes in minute quantities. Studies have linked exposure in lab animals to a variety of ailments -- from obesity to breast cancer. Veterans of the domestic chemical wars -- the fights to ban toxic pesticides like DDT and industrial workhorses like PCBs -- will find the latest volley in the Bisphenol A controversy familiar.
Here's the story line:
Act I: Industry develops a new chemical that provides a useful function. Government approval comes swiftly after minimal precautionary testing, and the chemical is used for decades.
Act II: Scientists working independently of government or industry raise concerns about the now-common chemical based on animal studies that show serious health effects from exposure.
Act III: Industry calls the results inconclusive and stands by the safety of its product. The government promises to look into it. The public barely registers the controversy about a chemical with an odd-sounding name.
Act IV: The government reports on the chemical's safety and finds little concern. Industry claims vindication. Critics blast the ties to the industry.
Act V: Either new evidence supports the health risk claims, and the government bans the substance, or it remains in circulation indefinitely. The name of the chemical, which has become a part of the environment and the human body in the meantime, only now begins to enter the consciousness of the American public.
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