An article on the website of the Sierra Club has given new life to the Internet rumor that plastic water bottles are a health hazard, possibly the cause of birth defects such as Down Syndrome. Years of studies on the purported culprit chemical, bisphenol-A (BPA), have not shown any health effects on humans, but one study showing minor effects on mouse egg cells, led by Dr. Patricia Hunt at Case Western Reserve University, has provided the grain of truth leading to the latest excessive fear.

In this experiment conducted by Hunt and co-workers, BPA was fed to female mice and the oocytes that they produced were examined. The results suggested BPA caused an increase in chromosomal abnormalities in these oocytes. However:

  • The study has not been replicated by other...

ACSH offers an honorary seat at the table to the California lawmakers who succeeded in voting down a ban against BPA on Monday.

Despite pressure from environmental activists to ban BPA from use in children’s products, the Legislature adhered to sound science instead, earning themselves a pat on the back from ACSH staffers.

For the same reason that he doesn t write about Ming Dynasty pottery, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof should not write about toxicology, says ACSH's Dr. Josh Bloom in a post on Medical Progress Today. We all have our own areas of expertise, and for Kristof, these include politics, foreign affairs, and economics. But readers have come to trust Kristof s opinions, and when he writes about a topic in which he has no expertise such as chemicals and pharmacology readers tend to continue to trust his conclusions.

This unfaltering faith can seriously mislead readers, though, and Dr. Bloom uses a recent column by Kristof on the supposed dangers of BPA lining in food packaging as a prime example:

Kristof "takes a cue from [his] experts," but I have to wonder...

California's legislature is now debating whether to ban a chemical found in plastic consumer products of many types, Bisphenol A, based on the so-called precautionary principle. This principle asserts that if a substance is suspected of being harmful, it must be banned or restricted until it's proven "safe."

But how does anyone go about proving a substance completely safe, and to whose satisfaction must it be proven?

In the case of bisphenol A (BPA), the accuser of record is Assemblywoman Wilma Chan (D-Oakland), who was also instrumental in the attempt to ban certain cosmetics and kids' toys because of a different chemical constituent. The scare campaign is orchestrated by the same PR operation that brought us the scare over Alar on apples in 1989: Fenton communications...

The New York State Legislature successfully upheld its reputation as a scientifically misinformed governmental body when Gov. David Patterson officially signed into law a ban against BPA in children’s products over the weekend.

“We can no longer call them the ‘do-nothing Legislature’ because they finally did do something, even though it was counterproductive,” points out Dr. Ross.

If we had enough space, we’d offer all of the members of the Legislature a seat in the ACSH soundproof chamber.

In the interests of dental health, everyone knows it's important to brush, brush, brush — preferably with a fluoride-containing toothpaste — twice a day. And children should be taught to do so as well, even before their permanent teeth erupt. Flossing too (as an example of interdental cleaning), while its efficacy has been questioned of late, is still advised by the American Dental Association (ADA). Of course such interventions are aimed at reducing the risk of dental caries and gingival (gum) disease, as is advice to minimize consumption of sugary, sticky foods. A...

To the surprise of none of the ACSH staffers, an article recently published in the Journal of Urology found no evidence of so-called endocrine disruption as a result of exposure to BPA and certain phthalates. We don t expect this result to be mentioned by many mainstream media sources, though, since we seem to remember making a similar assessment of the improbability of these dangers ten years ago. At the root of the issue is the whole concept of an endocrine disruptor.

I have said from day one that this is a bogus term. It means nothing physiologically or medically. It s just a term to make people sound erudite and give them license to cause panic about low doses of naturally-encountered chemicals, says ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross.

Dr. Whelan sees the motivation...

The sure-fire way for anti-science groups to frighten the public about the 'new' scary chemical of the month (and raise some money in the process) is to use one of a short list of general-purpose indictments, such as "endocrine disruptor."

If you aren't sure what the term endocrine disruptor even means, you are not alone. And if you do think you understand it, you are almost certainly wrong.

Like "Smurf" and "transgression" it is an entirely subjective term for most people who use it. The U.S. Environmental Protection...

This piece first appeared in the Washington Times.

In recent years, Americans have been scared to death by strident claims of "toxins" and "carcinogens" lurking in our environment. But 2008 seems to have produced its own unique bumper crop of silly scares. These fears usually stem from high dose studies on laboratory rodents and ignore the basic toxicological principle that "only the dose makes the poison." Here are the top 10 baseless scares of the year:

1. Phthalates are chemicals used to soften plastic and have been used for decades to make rubber ducks and...

ACSH is pulling the honorary seat out from under the California Assembly. We honored them prematurely, since the Assembly reversed itself and voted July 1 for a ban on bisphenol A in baby products. The measure now goes to the Senate, where it has already passed, for a reconciliation vote in August; Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger hasn't taken a position on the bill. We hope he will exercise sound judgment and follow the science on BPA by vetoing this ban.