Posted by: Shaun | April 16, 2008

Plastics make it possible…to cause damage to your fetus

A new report by the National Toxicology Program has raised concerns about a chemical called bisphenol A (BPA) that is ubiquitous in plastic products. (You can download the full report here.)  According to the report, the chemical poses risks to neural and behavioral development of very young children, both pre- and post-natal.  There is also a potential link to breast cancer and prostate cancer in humans, a correlation that has long been demonstrated in laboratory animals.

The Washington Post explains the significance of this by noting that this is first time the federal government has raised concerns about BPA, which can be detected in the urine of 93% of Americans over 6 years of age.  The NTB will host a conference on the issue in May and seek peer review for its preliminary findings.

Even if some risk is confirmed, don’t look for any action to restrict the use of BPA on the government’s part.  U.S. regulatory agencies usually have a single response when it comes to questions of possible health risks of consumer products: “prove it.”  And, since it is notoriously difficult to prove a causal relationship between suspected toxicants and the illnesses with which they are associated, they mostly flow freely through the environment…and our urinary tracts.

In fact, another type of suspected developmental toxicants found in many children’s toys, phthalates, have been banned in both the state of California and the European Union, but remain unrestricted by the federal government.  This despite the risks entailed and the knowledge that cost-effective alternatives to the chemical exist.  This leads to an interesting situation where Chinese manufacturers have dual assembly lines for the same product: one making a phthalate free version for export to the E.U. and another making products for lax U.S. regulatory market.  (Think about that the next time you want to rage against Chinese “toxic toys.”)

So it seems we have a choice.  Either we can take precautionary steps to restrict such chemicals now and pay a marginally higher price for some products or we can wait until all the evidence is in, which may take forty years of long-term study with millions of consumers exposed to toxins all the while.  I don’t know about you, but I’d pay an extra couple of bucks for a non-carcinogenic compact disc…


  1. […] and NTP has revised its conclusions in a report published last month, as Americanus has previously reported.  Still, the industrial-regulatory nexus of faux enforcement and revolving doors is growing quite […]

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