Is your Nalgene bottle killing you? Environmentalists say it might be if it's the kind that contains a chemical known as bisphenol A. You'd be hard pressed to find a chemical that's caused more concern and controversy in the last few years.
Used to line the inside of food cans and soft-drink bottles, the chemical compound can also be found in a many plastics used by consumers, including baby bottles and some but not all of the drinking-water bottles distributed by Nalgene and other firms.
Bisphenol A is thought to be an endocrine disrupter, meaning it can affect reproductive systems of mammals, including people. That makes sense, because it was originally discovered when scientists were looking for a synthetic estrogen, the primary female sex hormone.
BPA, as it's known, has been found at elevated levels in women with a history of miscarriage. In lab animals, it has been shown to increase the risk of developing breast cancer; causes aberrations in the chromosomes of grandchildren of rats exposed during pregnancy; and increases the susceptibility of male rats to prostate cancer, among other effects.
Controversy erupted in 2007 when a science panel convened by National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Director David Schwartz said there was little cause for concern about BPA. Later, though, Schwartz's boss, National Institutes of Health Director Elias Zerhouni, announced that the study would be comprehensively re-examined. At the same time, Schwartz announced he was temporarily giving up the reins of the agency.
Just a week before the Schwartz-tapped panel's report, 38 different scientists not appointed by the government had reported in a peer-reviewed science journal after assessing the results of hundreds of other studies that they had "some concern" about BPA causing behavioral and neurological problems for unborn children and infants.
Citing studies by industry-funded scientists, industry officials have said the public has nothing to worry about. However, one of the leading scientific critics of BPA, Dr. Fredrick Vom Saal of the University of Missouri-Columbia, co-authored a 2005 article saying those studies were out of date and in some cases used the wrong kinds of rats to test for estrogenic effects.
The controversy continues to rage. Meanwhile, the chemical has been found in 95 percent of people at concentrations above those that affected lab animals.
For more info:
Are Plastic Bottles Dangerous?: seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/326907_plastic09.html
Environmental Health Perspectives' take on the issue: www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=1280330
Toxic Plastics Chemical in Canned Food: www.ewg.org/reports/bisphenola
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