Put Vox In The Litter Box - Same Old Plastic Scares

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If any of you are still alive out there here's another scare for you to not worry about.  Only, it's the same tired scare that you've seen hundreds of times - chemicals in food containers, and it's just as wrong now as it was 25 years ago. Which makes it is a bit puzzling why Julia Belluz, writing for Vox, would choose this topic, even if what was in it was correct. Belluz usually gets it right. Not this time; she spoke with the wrong people.

As The Four Topps sang in 1965, the article, entitled "The problem with all the plastic that’s leaching into your food - There’s mounting evidence that it’s a health hazard," is the same old song - endocrine disruption - a myth that some academics and environmental groups are hanging onto for dear life, despite mounting evidence that the scares are unfounded. Let's look at some of the claims. 

"And let’s start with the most feared plastic polymer: BPA."

That's a pretty bad place to start, especially since the FDA conducted an extensive two-year study in rats, and found... nothing (See: BPA Is Just As Dangerous As It Never Was).

One area that has been of significant consumer interest is the use of Bisphenol A (BPA) in food packaging. BPA is authorized for use in polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins in certain food and beverage can linings. Given this interest, the FDA has routinely considered and evaluated the scientific evidence surrounding the use of BPA and continues to conclude that BPA is safe for the currently authorized uses in food containers and packaging.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration  Feb 23, 2018

The agency was reiterating something it said back in 2013.

Is BPA safe?

Yes. Based on FDA's ongoing safety review of scientific evidence, the available information continues to support the safety of BPA for the currently approved uses in food containers and packaging. 

"The main cause for concern is that these chemicals can mess with our hormones. Specifically, they can mimic hormones like estrogen..."

Perhaps they can, but they don't do it very well. BPA's binding to estrogen receptors is 10,000-times weaker than 17-ß-estradiol, the estrogenic standard. Or 12,500, if you prefer. 

"That’s why a major pediatricians group, the American Academy of Pediatrics [AAP], in July called on families to limit their use of plastic food containers and demanded “urgently needed” oversight and reforms to the way these substances are regulated in the US."

The AAP policy statement was an embarrassment. The group wrote about five chemicals or chemical classes that parents should be concerned about; each claim was demonstrably wrong (See American Academy Of Pediatrics Goes Crybaby Over 'Scary' Chemicals)

Photo: Autism Investigated

"And last year, a group made of the Center for Food Safety, Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the Environmental Working Group sued the FDA..."

Pretty much the Hall of Fame of Terrible Science.

"So it’s no surprise that just about all Americans have measurable amounts of phthalates and BPA in their bodies."

Bingo. You know you're in Junk Scienceville when you see the term "measurable amount." Typical scaremongering term because it equates the presence of a chemical with harm from that chemical by omitting dose or exposure. Given modern analytical instrumentation, you can find infinitesimally small quantities of commonly used chemicals anywhere on earth, but at levels that are inconsequential. The chemicals have been there all along. Now we can measure them. Were we any safer when we couldn't measure them? 

Now it gets really good!

"A 2015 systematic review of children’s neurodevelopment and phthalate exposure concluded that prenatal exposure to phthalates was associated with “cognitive and behavioral outcomes in children, including lower IQ, and problems with attention, hyperactivity, and poorer social communication.”

Photo: Moving Forward Seminars

What does this little guy find so funny? It's what you find when you go to the 2015 "systematic" review.

"Of 2804 abstracts screened, 11 original articles met our criteria for inclusion."

You must be kidding. These guys picked 11 articles out of 2,804 and this is a legitimate review? Change the criteria for inclusion and you'll get the opposite answer, assuming there is an answer. But there probably isn't because these are all epidemiological studies, most of which are thoroughly worthless. What a joke.

And if the Vox doesn't already belong in the litter box, there's this:

"As a recent story in GQ, about the declining sperm count in men, points out, phthalates are even more ubiquitous..."

GQ? Seriously? Maybe TV Guide wasn't interested. 

GQ??????? Science from GQ???? Photo: DocAndPhoebe.com