The modern healthcare crisis is a modern crisis in health, first and foremost, before we even get to access to the question of “care.”
Chemical in plastic bottles linked to impotence
(AP) NEW YORK – Male factory workers in China who got very high doses of a chemical that’s been widely used in hard plastic bottles had high rates of sexual problems, researchers reported Wednesday.
Heavy exposure to BPA, or bisphenol A, on the job was linked to impotence and lower sexual desire and satisfaction, according to the study, which adds to concerns about BPA’s effects on most consumers.
The men in the study experienced BPA levels about 50 times higher than those faced by typical American men, said researcher Dr. De-Kun Li. “We don’t know” whether more typical doses have similar effects, he said.
People shouldn’t be alarmed by the finding, said Li, a reproductive and perinatal epidemiologist at Kaiser Permanente’s research division in Oakland, Calif. But he said it would be prudent to limit exposure to BPA while scientists look for any effects from lower doses.
The U.S. government recently announced new funding for research into BPA’s effects.
Li is lead author of the latest study, published online Wednesday by the journal Human Reproduction. The work was financed by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.
BPA is used in a wide variety of consumer products, including some hard plastic bottles and metal food or beverage cans. Several makers of baby bottles recently said they had stopped using the chemical. Some 90 percent of the U.S. population carries detectable levels in the urine.
Scientists are concerned that BPA exposure might harm the reproductive and nervous systems, and possibly promote prostate and breast cancers. Last year, a preliminary study linked BPA to possible risks for heart disease and diabetes.
The Food and Drug Administration concluded last year that trace amounts of BPA that leach out of bottles and food containers are not dangerous. But the FDA is now reviewing that stance after criticism from its scientific advisers.
Consumer Reports’ recent article on the presence of Bisphenol A in canned food drew widespread interest after it was published this past week. It also quickly drew critical comments from industry groups representing companies that manufacture or use BPA, a chemical whose safety is currently being reassessed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The groups took exception to some parts of the report that found nearly all of the 19 name-brand canned foods we tested contained this chemical, which is used in the linings of most food and beverage cans. They did not dispute the test findings of the BPA levels we measured in canned food. Rather, the discussion focused on our risk assessment of the effects of BPA, which was based on the scientific literature that has become available over the past 20 years.
Here’s a sampling of those reactions, along with a more detailed discussion of some of the research involved in the debate:
1. The American Chemistry Council issued a press release contending that our experts’ recommendations, which include calling for a ban on the use of BPA in all materials that come in contact with food, is “inconsistent with the conclusions of expert regulatory bodies worldwide, all of which have confirmed that BPA exposure levels are low and well within safety standards.”
That is exactly the issue. As our story makes clear, food safety experts at Consumers Union believe federal regulatory guidelines—which are the same as those set by the European Food Safety Authority—are outdated and fail to adequately protect consumers. The FDA’s own scientific advisory board also concluded that the agency’s assessment of BPA’s safety is inadequate. Hundreds of scientific studies have shown harm in animal studies from extremely low levels of BPA—levels that are ten to twenty thousand times lower than what the FDA considered as the basis of its safety assessment in 1988. And even some human studies show a link between elevated BPA levels and harmful effects such as diabetes and cardiovascular risk. Our test results show that consumers may be exposed to potentially harmful levels of BPA that could be reached through a few or multiple servings of the canned foods we tested.
2. The North American Metal Packaging Alliance released a similar public statement. It cited a recently published study funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which the can industry trade group says provides “strong new scientific evidence” that exposure to BPA at levels found in our test results is safe.
It is not surprising that the authors did not find effects from BPA because this study used a specific type of rat (Long-Evans) that has been previously shown to be insensitive or unresponsive to low-dose exposures to BPA and even typical birth-control dosages of synthetic estrogen, which was used as a control in the experiment. The insensitivity to both was confirmed again in this study. In other, more estrogenic-sensitive lab animals, BPA has been shown to cause adverse effects at BPA dose levels used in this study.
3. A blog posted by Trevor Butterworth, online editor of Statistical Assessment Service (STATS), questioned the scientific evidence used in our risk assessments. STATS says it is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that acts as “a resource for journalists and policy makers on major scientific issues and controversies.” In his blog, Butterworth claimed that studies we cited as evidence of harm from BPA at low doses are irrelevant because they involved exposing lab animals to BPA via injection rather than orally.
By Naomi Starkman via www.civileats.com
Consumer Reports’ latest tests of canned foods, including soups, juice, tuna, and green beans, have found that almost all of the 19 name-brand foods tested contain measurable levels of Bisphenol A (BPA). The results are reported in the December 2009 issue and also available online. BPA, which has been used for years in clear plastic bottles and food-can liners, has been restricted in Canada and some U.S. states and municipalities because it has been linked to a wide array of health effects including reproductive abnormalities, heightened risk of breast and prostate cancers, diabetes, and heart disease. I’ve reported on BPA here, here, and here.
Federal guidelines currently put the daily upper limit of safe exposure at 50 micrograms of BPA per kilogram of body weight. But that level is based on a handful of experiments done in the 1980s rather than hundreds of more recent animal and laboratory studies indicating that serious health risks could result from much lower doses of BPA. Several animal studies show adverse effects, such as abnormal reproductive development, at exposures of 2.4 micrograms of BPA per kilogram of body weight per day, a dose that could be reached by a child eating one or a few servings daily or an adult daily diet that includes multiple servings of canned foods containing BPA levels comparable to some of the foods Consumer Reports tested.
In keeping with established practices that ensure an adequate margin of safety for human exposure, Consumer Reports’ food-safety scientists recommend limiting daily exposure to BPA to one-thousandth of that level (standard safety limit setting practice), or 0.0024 micrograms per kilogram of body weight, significantly lower than FDA’s current safety limit.
Consumer Reports tested three different samples of each canned item for BPA and found that the highest levels of BPA tests were found in some samples of canned green beans and canned soups. Canned Del Monte Fresh Cut Green Beans Blue Lake had the highest amount of BPA for a single sample, with levels ranging from 35.9 parts per billon (ppb) to 191 ppb. Progresso Vegetable Soup BPA levels ranged from 67 to 134 ppb. Campbell’s Condensed Chicken Noodle Soup had BPA levels ranging from 54.5 to 102 ppb.
Average amounts in tested products varied widely. In most items tested, such as canned corn, chili, tomato sauce, and corned beef, BPA levels ranged from trace amounts to about 32 ppb. (A microgram BPA /kg food is equivalent to a ppb level found in food, the only difference being that it’s a microgram of BPA/kg of food tested versus the exposure or dose limits of microgram of BPA/kg of a person’s body weight per day. So, in the example of the green beans, based on one serving of the average level from three cans tested, the average concentration is 123.5ppb of BPA in the can, the next conversion is to ug BPA per serving, 14.9 ug BPA / serving of green beans, so for a small child (22lbs or 10kg) that would calculate to 1.49 ug BPA/kg-bw and for an adult (example used in the magazine, 165lb, 75kg) .20 ug BPA/kg bw for a 75kg adult.)
The study also revealed that bypassing metal cans in favor of other packaging such as plastic containers or bags might lower but not eliminate exposure to BPA, but this wasn’t true for all products tested. In addition, BPA was found in some products labeled as “organic” and some cans that claimed to be “BPA-free.”
“The findings are noteworthy because they indicate the extent of potential exposure,” said Dr. Urvashi Rangan, Director of Technical Policy, at Consumers Union, nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports. “Children eating multiple servings per day of canned foods with BPA levels comparable to the ones we found in some tested products could get a dose of BPA near levels that have caused adverse effects in several animal studies. The lack of any safety margin between the levels that cause harm in animals and those that people could potentially ingest from canned foods has been inadequately addressed by the FDA to date.”