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Pesticides, ingredients from sunscreen, an artificial sweetener and the plasticizer bisphenol-A,were among the chemicals found.
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Valspar cans. (Credit Lynne Peeples)<p>One newly developed bisphenol might prove a welcome change from its chemical cousins. Valspar, recently acquired by Sherwin-Williams, has created a <a href="https://www.ehn.org/bpa-substitutions-solutions-2641150667.html" target="_blank">replacement for food and beverage can linings historically made with BPA</a>.</p><p>Rather than just slightly tweaking the chemical structure of BPA, they assessed safety alongside functionality throughout the process. They enlisted academic scientists to test the compound, tetramethyl bisphenol F (TMBPF), for a range of endocrine disruptive activities. "The evidence is very encouraging," said Collins. </p><p>"Endocrine disruptors are having a dreadful impact on civilization," he added. "We need to give Valspar its due. But we also need to know more."</p>
The chemical BPA, an endocrine disruptor, is widely used in food packaging. Environmental Health News published a reported series showing that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has stacked the deck against findings from independent scientists that link BPA to harmful human health effects, ranging from birth defects to cancer. Science journalist Lynne Peeples joins Host Steve Curwood to discuss this investigation and why even BPA alternatives may also not be safe.
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Congresswoman Grace Meng (D-NY) was pregnant with her second child when she became concerned about the toxic chemicals that she and her kids — and nearly all of us — encounter every day.
BPA research in the lab of University of Missouri researcher and professor Cheryl Rosenfeld, who was a participating Clarity project scientist. (Credit: Cheryl Rosenfeld)<p> "It's disconcerting that the FDA is defending a position that doesn't reflect the newest science," David Michaels, a professor of environmental and occupational health at The George Washington University, told EHN. "At a minimum, they should be acknowledging the tremendous difference among scientists. Instead they are digging in and rejecting thousands of studies that aren't consistent with their position." </p><p> So, why the discrepancies, doubt and denial? For one thing, if the FDA were to acknowledge the low-dose health effects of BPA it could open a Pandora's box. Tens of thousands of manufactured chemicals are on the market, with hundreds such as BPA suspected to be endocrine disruptors, capable of scrambling hormone signals and, therefore, raising risks of health problems such as cancer, diabetes, obesity, infertility and behavioral problems. "It would force the agency to reevaluate its past work and would raise tremendous challenges to its work in the future," added Michaels. </p><p> The agency's behavior, he said, mirrors what he witnessed while serving as the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Administration between 2009 and 2017. "In general, the FDA often takes positions which are consistent with those demanded by industry," said Michaels. </p><h3><a href="https://www.ehn.org/bpa-chemical-comic-2640636344.html" target="_blank"><em>Related: Clouded in Clarity—A comic on chemicals & controversy</em></a></h3><p> The regulation of mercury levels in fish is one example highlighted by Michaels. While earlier consumption recommendations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had reflected the newest scientific literature at the time, acknowledging that very low levels of organic mercury can affect the neurodevelopment of fetuses and young children exposed to contaminated fish, the FDA's position for many years was "much more consistent with the fossil fuel and fuel-burning industries responsible for much of the mercury that gets in the food chain," he said. </p><p> Further, while addressing issues related to cosmetics and beauty care products during his tenure with OSHA, Michaels recalled how hesitant the FDA was to "make any effort to control exposures to formaldehyde, which arises from exposure to Brazilian blowout," a hair-smoothing chemical treatment. </p><p> "We generally found FDA to be less responsive to public health concerns than we would have expected," he added. </p><p> The FDA declined to comment for this story. The agency was also reluctant to comment during "Exposed" reporting, frequently delaying responses and answering only select questions. </p>
BPA is used in food can linings.<p>Wendy Wagner, a professor of law at the University of Texas at Austin who studies the use of science by policymakers, cheered the Clarity concept, but lamented its execution. The project may just be "round one of an experiment that needs more tweaking," she told EHN.</p> <p>Wagner emphasized the need to "break open the black box" and take a "hard look" at the process by which the FDA does science. On multiple occasions over the last few decades, she said, the government has manipulated the synthesis of the science. </p> <p>"I've seen dozens of reported incidences of that kind of political meddling," said Wagner. "It's usually not at the bench research stage, but in the literature stage — in the synthesizing for a report." EHN's reporting, too, found hints of how the FDA may spin results across studies. Of 36 studies identified as related to neurological endpoints in a 2014 risk assessment of BPA, for example, the agency chose to only include one. That study was funded by industry.</p> <p>Genna Reed, lead science and policy analyst in the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, echoed the same hope and concern. "It's important not just to fund these efforts but be thoughtful about the process by which these efforts are implemented and guided," she told EHN. </p> <p>Reed's team conducted a <a href="http://ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/images/2018/08/science-under-trump-report.pdf" target="_blank">survey</a> in 2018 that found FDA employees generally felt the agency adhered to its scientific integrity policies. However, they expressed feelings that it could "better insulate scientists from undue influence from political and business interests." </p> <p>The survey highlighted several issues regarding the agency's science-based decision-making processes, including evidence of the improper influence of political leadership and constraints resulting from workforce reductions.</p> <p>The Union of Concerned Scientists has also looked at the agency's Good Laboratory Practice regulations. While the guidelines were designed in an effort to reduce industry misconduct, Reed argued that studies following these practices "should not be given preferential weight over studies validated by other scientific review processes." Again, in the case of BPA, the FDA has excluded from its risk assessments a large body of studies from academics, who validate their studies through different means such as peer review. </p> <p>"We see so much BPA-free packaging all the time," said Reed. "The more questions that are raised by the public about these chemicals that are in our bodies and in the environment, and why they aren't being regulated by our government, the more likely it is for members of Congress in some key committees to take up this issue and figure out what the next steps are."</p>
Sen. Tom Udall, (D-N.M.) "The FDA should be using the best available tools, including expert career staff and scientific findings, to protect public health," he told EHN. (Credit: Senate Democrats)<p>Some political movement is underway.</p><p>Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) stated in an email to EHN that "Congress needs to provide strong oversight to ensure that the executive branch is serving the public good – and we must assert ourselves as a co-equal branch to ensure the public interest is the first priority in every decision that is made."</p><p>"The FDA should be using the best available tools, including expert career staff and scientific findings, to protect public health. However, under this administration we've seen agencies including the FDA and EPA do the bidding of special interests – at the expense of the public interest," he said. "As a member of the appropriations committee and as the ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, I will continue to provide oversight to ensure that our federal agencies are serving the American people."</p><p>Udall's spokesperson added that his team "will look into this issue more to see if there are actions Congress can take to better protect public health."</p>
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