The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has taken a particular interest in Bisphenol A (BPA), and the disputed US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) safety assurance statement on BPA.
The newspaper published an extensive investigative article "Plastics industry behind FDA research on bisphenol A, study finds," by reporters Susanne Rust and Meg Kissinger in the 23 October 2008 print edition.
The article was posted on-line in a temporary archive, so the quote here is likely to be the only persistent public access.
A government report claiming that bisphenol A is safe was written largely by the plastics industry and others with a financial stake in the controversial chemical, the Journal Sentinel found.
Although the Food and Drug Administration will not reveal who prepared its draft, the agency's own documents show that the work was done primarily by those with the most to gain by downplaying concerns about the safety of the chemical.
That includes Stephen Hentges, executive director of the American Chemistry Council's group on bisphenol A, who commissioned a review of all studies of the neurotoxicity of bisphenol A and submitted it to the FDA. The FDA then used that report as the foundation for its evaluation of the chemical on neural and behavioral development. The American Chemistry Council is a trade group representing chemical manufacturers.
The FDA's draft, released in August, found no cause for worry about bisphenol A, which is found in thousands of household products, including baby bottles, infant formula containers and the lining of aluminum cans.
Buried deep in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article is a very interesting factoid: "Bisphenol A was developed in 1891 as a synthetic estrogen. It came into widespread use in the 1950s when scientists realized it could be used to make polycarbonate plastic and some epoxy resins to line food and beverage cans."
Actually, BPA was first synthesized in 1891, and recognized as an artificial estrogen in the late 1930s. It was investigated for use in hormone therapy, but dropped in favour of a chemical candidate with more powerful estrogenic properties, Diethylstilbestrol (DES).
DES was routinely prescribed for women who experienced miscarriages or premature deliveries, but in 1971, the FDA advised physicians to stop prescribing it to pregnant women because it was linked to vaginal cancer in female offspring.
About 5-10 million people were exposed to the synthetic estrogen DES between 1938-1971, and the health of so-called "DES Daughters" is still being followed due to their increased risk for vaginal and cervical cancer, reproductive tract structural differences, pregnancy complications, and infertility.