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Bisphenol A: Chemical Industry Defends Itself, Condemned

The Washington Post gives prominent Page One display Sunday to the ongoing scientic, policy, PR, political and legal disputes over the use of Bisphenol A (BPA) in plastics. It's an archetypical story: Industry under attack for methods, motives -- doesn't care about the public. Congress investigates. From "Studies on Chemical In Plastics Questioned":

Despite more than 100 published studies by government scientists and university laboratories that have raised health concerns about a chemical compound that is central to the multibillion-dollar plastics industry, the Food and Drug Administration has deemed it safe largely because of two studies, both funded by an industry trade group.

The agency says it has relied on research backed by the American Plastics Council because it had input on its design, monitored its progress and reviewed the raw data.

The compound, bisphenol A (BPA), has been linked to breast and prostate cancer, behavioral disorders and reproductive health problems in laboratory animals.

Congressional Democrats are investigating, and here's the basic line of attack:

"Tobacco figured this out, and essentially it's the same model," said David Michaels, who was a federal regulator in the Clinton administration. "If you fight the science, you're able to postpone regulation and victim compensation, as well. As in this case, eventually the science becomes overwhelming. But if you can get five or 10 years of avoiding pollution control or production of chemicals, you've greatly increased your product."

As said, this is a typical story -- although more thorough than many -- with industry as the bad guy, the FDA as the bought-and-paid-for lackeys, and scientists and activists as heroes interested only in the public good.

Missing, though, is an acknowledgement of the trial bar's role in the debate. All signs point to an orchestrated campaign to exaggerate the risks, villify industry, and then...Well..

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A California mother sued Nalge Nunc International Corp, claiming the company knew, but downplayed risks, that a toxic substance in its popular Nalgene plastic sports bottles could leach into the bottles' contents and sicken consumers.

The case, filed on Tuesday [April 22], is believed to be the first consumer class action over the use of Bisphenol A, or BPA, in plastic sports bottles since Canada moved to ban baby bottles containing the substance and the U.S. government expressed concern over its safety last week.

In other BPA news, Wal-Mart will stop selling products with the chemical and Nalgene will phase out its use in water bottles.

P.S. The alleged "politicization of science" is a favorite line of attack these days. Over at Shopfloor.org we took a look at how the Union of Concerned Scientists "entrusted" a Washington Post reporter with a story about Endangered Species Act listings, eventually creating a Washington, D.C., "scandal" that destroyed a public servant's reputation over a policy dispute. The post is "Anatomy of a Beltway Takedown."

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.