If this paper were about science, says Geoffrey Kabat: Purported link between BPA from cash receipts and health effects

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466583_32876683Earlier this week, we discussed a study conducted by Frederick vom Saal, the best-known fringe anti-BPA activist posing as a scientist, attempting to link high levels of BPA in the blood stream and urine from the handling of thermal paper cash receipts to increased risk of serious diseases. Yet, as ACSH advisor Dr. Geoffrey Kabat points out in his op-ed in Forbes, the literature attempting to support this link is based on animal studies or studies using human data from one point in time. However, we know that BPA is rapidly metabolized and excreted in the urine and the FDA and the European Food Safety Commission, among others, have concluded that exposure to BPA at the levels found in the real world is safe.

As Kabat concludes, If this paper were about science, the authors would have restricted themselves to conducting careful experiments that tested whether exposure to BPA from cashier receipts resulted in concentrations of the active compound of a magnitude consistent with physiologic effects and, importantly, how this source of exposure compares with other sources of exposure (i.e., consuming canned food). They would have resisted the temptation to assert a link between this exposure and serious adverse health effects. But that would have meant foregoing the appeal to fear that makes these underwhelming experiments newsworthy.

Instead, he points out, the journal PLoS ONE, which published this study, probably chose to do so in an attempt to increase their impact factor, which has declined recently. The impact factor ranks journals in terms of importance.

Ultimately, the dogged pursuit of BPA amounts to a professional neurosis.

ACSH s Dr. Josh Bloom points out an obvious bias in the study: If you dissolve chemicals in certain solvents and apply them to the skin, many of them will penetrate the skin, even though this does not reflect the way you would handle the chemical in real life. The sanitizers used by study subjects before touching the receipts are mostly alcohol, which makes the skin much more permeable to many chemicals, including BPA. This artificially increases the absorption of the chemical in a way that does not mimic what happens in real life situations.

He goes on. A great example of this is sodium cyanide. If you hold the solid in your hand, nothing will happen. But if you dissolve it in a solvent called DMSO and then apply it to your skin, it will end up in your blood, and will probably kill you. In a similar way, vom Saal s group was essentially forcing more BPA into the blood. However, BPA is not toxic and despite these high levels reported by vom Saal, they are still well within the levels considered safe.

ACSH s Dr. Gil Ross adds, Of course, if vom Saal and his coterie had actually believed that BPA was toxic, he would have intentionally exposed his study subjects to danger, which would violate pretty much every rule of human toxicology research.This alone should demonstrate the silliness of the BPA concerns."