Using stupid science to replace other stupid science is just stupid

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Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 1.55.27 PMIf you re looking for an example of the absurdity of what happens when activist groups stick their noses in areas that are way above their pay grade, look no further. It doesn t get any better than this.

Although on the surface, this discussion appears to address one more of the gazillion black marks against BPA a component of many plastics underneath there is a second story. It is about what happens when a problem chemical is identified and beaten to death for a myriad of reasons most of which have little or nothing to do with science and we try to replace it with another chemical.

You have heard us comment on just this many, many times. The typical take-home message is the following: Whatever new chemical is replacing the problem chemical in question will almost certainly be less studied and also lack the long-term safety record and data of the old chemical. This is rather evident.

What is less evident and almost comical is that the flawed methods used to evaluate the old chemical will be the same ones that will be used to evaluate the new chemical. If you re thinking that this is a disconnect in logic here, you are not alone.

Let s assume that BPA is a public health concern (it is a concern to many, but not a real one) and that academicians and environmental groups many of whom have made careers by using questionable (and this is being kind) methods to demonize a particular chemical succeed in getting it banned. What happens next?

The answer is that the faulty science used to get rid of chemical #1 applies just as well to chemical #2. Does this get us anywhere? (Hint: no)

Yet that is exactly what has been going on for a number of years as groups and individuals employ silly, but effective scare tactics to get something banned. In this case it is BPA.

The knock on BPA is that it interacts with estrogen receptors in the body and that this causes changes in sexual development and just about every other condition known to man.

Yes, BPA does bind to estrogen receptors in vitro(out of the body), but does so very poorly. How poorly? About 12,500 fold weaker than estradiol one of the endogenous (and essential) sex hormones. This effectively means that BPA will badly lose the fight to get to the estrogen receptor it will already be filled by an estrogen, or unfilled, waiting for its normal companion to come along.

Enter bisphenol-S. Chemically, it does exactly what BPA does react with another chemical to form a plastic. In this case it is a different plastic, and instead of leaching small amounts of BPA, this new plastic will leach small amounts of BPS. Is this better or worse?

The answer is: who knows? The same tests used to determine the safety or risk of the old chemical will be used for the new one. And these tests give results that range from hypothetical to downright idiotic. Also, keep in mind that BPA plastics have been used for more than 50 years. BPS not so.

These safety determinations are almost all conducted in rats, usually at very high doses amounts that have no relationship to what happens to humans in real life.

ACSH s Dr. Josh Bloom says, It is not difficult to set up an experiment which is designed (essentially predetermined) to show some effect in some animal model. But, its relevance to human health is questionable at best, and most commonly zero.

He continues, There are some scientists who are so desperate to come up with an answer to one particular glaring problem the lack of any effect of large doses of BPA, while something is observed at very small doses have come up with a piece of idiocy called the low dose theory to explain this. Here is a better explanation their experiments are meaningless.

The latest edition of Scientific American has an article entitled BPA-Free Plastic Containers May Be Just as Hazardous that discusses just this. How do you know whether a BPA replacement is better or worse (and most likely neither) than BPA itself?

Dr. Bloom says, You don t. If the science used to determine the risk of BPA is faulty, the same will hold true for BP-Anything. This leaves you back at square minus one. Moreover, since BPA has been shown, over and over again, to be risk-free, it s hard to imagine how another chemical could be shown to have less risk. Perhaps someone can explain to me any way that this is wrong. Good luck.

ACSH has a publication on the low dose effect. You can find it here.