Always happy to be your source for the lowest lowdown around town. Today's lowdown: Don't use plastic bottles, and avoid canned food.
All the latest plastics hullabaloo is over bisphenol A, a component of many plastic products. Serious Gristoholic Readers have known for years now that BPA, in its role as an endocrine disruptor, probably poses threats to public health. These readers have been easy to spot at recent cocktail parties: they lounge about looking self-satisfied and say, "Oh, I knew that already," when the topic of toxic plastic bottles comes up. Hence our motto: "Read Grist today,woo untold strangers with your wisdom tomorrow."
The properties of BPA lend a hardness and durability to plastic products, and it is (or was) in many now infamous consumer items, including baby bottles and clear Nalgene bottles. (Nalgene has now forsworn BPA, as have Camelbak, Toys R Us, Playtex, and others.) It also lines food cans, such as might hold soup or beans. It leaches from all of these places into our food and then into our bodies; tests have found it lurking in our bodily fluids. In laboratory animals, low-dose exposure to BPA has been linked to cancer, diabetes, fertility problems, and behavior disorders.
Over the past decade, scientists have brought increasing pressure on the U.S. government to revisit its BPA-exposure standards, because said scientists keep finding probable harm at lower doses than the EPA safety level. The topic has been a continuing drama, especially over the past year. Some highlights: the U.S. government hired a firm to assess BPA toxicity, the firm ignored all the anti-BPA scientists and was later found to have links to the plastic industry, the FDA was forced to show its hand and found wanting in scientific rigor (shock!), and the National Toxicology Program came out with a tentatively anti-BPA draft. Then Health Canada opened a comment period on banning BPA, and major retailers and producers starting abandoning the BPA ship -- all within the last few months.