Have you ever had the feeling that you’re not really getting the full story? Well, a recent study published in the Lancet states just that–we’ve never gotten the full story on how much bisphenol-A (BPA) we are exposed to. In fact, the Feds have been doing it wrong this entire time! This shortcoming also extends to other chemicals that are just as dangerous and hormonally destructive.
So what is happening and what can you do about it? You’ve trusted Mamavation to bring you topics like best & worst children’s supplements, best & worst collagen, & best & worst organic mattresses, now join us as we explore BPA, how most people are getting far more in their bodies than originally thought, and what you can do about it.
What’s Happening to Science on the Federal Level? It’s Basically a War.
Just last year we reported on how the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) announced BPA, a plasticizer chemical found in thermal receipt paper, plastic bottles and canned food, was safe before viewing all the evidence. No one was convinced, especially not the scientists because 1) they used non-peer reviewed science to come to that conclusion & 2) they didn’t consider any studies linking BPA to harm…and there’s a lot.
After that, many scientists challenged the FDA saying they had become completely hijacked by corporate interests and we tend to agree with that idea based on the evidence at hand. But the rabbit hole goes even further because even the American Academy of Pediatrics got involved in the cautionary tale of chemicals. Last year the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) came out saying that the way the Feds evaluate food additives puts pregnant women and children in harm’s way. They are referring to things like artificial colors and “indirect additives” coming from packaging materials and processing contamination.
But according to the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) these ingredients are all-too-often “Generally Recognized as Safe” or GRAS for short. So the AAP is now pressuring Congress to change how chemicals are evaluated and how that GRAS determination is given because the AAP concludes, based on the science, the FDA isn’t doing an adequate job of protecting pregnant women and children.
Ground-Breaking Study Challenges Ways Feds Evaluate Chemicals–Exposure is 44x Higher!
This week, the amount of evidence demonstrating how incompetent the FDA is in evaluating the safety of our children became even clearer. In a study recently published in the Lancet, researchers provide the first evidence challenging the widely held assumption that regulatory agencies have been accurately measuring chemicals like BPA in humans. So how much BPA are humans really being exposed to? Researchers are proposing that consumers are being exposed to 44x more BPA than what was originally thought.
This is very problematic because federal agencies have used those assumptions to create policies about how much is too much. “This study raises serious concerns about whether we’ve been careful enough about the safety of this chemical,” says Patricia Hunt, Washington State University professor. “What it comes down to is that the conclusions federal agencies have come to about how to regulate BPA may have been based on inaccurate measurements.”
Scientists have been using “indirect testing” of chemical compounds like BPA for decades and this is the problem. They never directly measured BPA at all, they were measuring the metabolites coming out of urine and putting that together to measure. But it seems our bodies are holding on to more of the chemical than what was originally thought, and that indirect testing didn’t allow them to see the accurate amount a human had digested.
Today, assuming the Feds listen to reason, they have a direct way of analyzing the metabolites inside BPA and other compounds like bisphenols, phthalates, parabens, benzophenone, triclosan, & perfluorinated chemicals. There’s no reason to be using these old “indirect testing” methods anymore.
Corporate Version of Safety vs. Independent Scientist Version of Safety
It’s safe to say that corporate scientists and independent scientists frequently disagree when it comes to chemical safety for public health. And your local pediatrician, through the American Academy of Pediatrics, is likely to agree with the independent scientists who are cautionary. (Unless of course, they aren’t aware of these issues, which is very possible.)
Typically, the FDA & EPA side with corporations who have large lobbying budgets at the detriment of pregnant women and children. Their perspective of “safe” differs drastically. Well, we interviewed two independent scientists to get a handle on what the main issues of contention are.
Your mind is about to be blown. Here’s what you’ll hear from independent scientists about why the Feds are completely wrong about chemical safety.
1. They Don’t Actually Do the Testing to Determine Safety–They Assume
First, they assume that high dose testing will tell them everything they need to know about low dose testing without doing it. So they do the high dose testing and then extrapolate what they think will happen at low doses. But they don’t actually do the test at low doses. While that works with some poisons, it emphatically doesn’t for endocrine-disrupting compounds. And that’s because different genes get turned on and off at different parts of the dose-response curve. What happens at low doses can be just the opposite of what happens at high doses. And because of the way they structure their tests, they never dose at the low levels that are relevant to most people’s experience. SHOCKER!
Pete Myers, our main scientific advisor to Mamavation, has written multiple scientific (and peer-reviewed) papers on this. You can find two of them here and here. And when he published the second one the country’s top toxicologist, Dr. Linda Birnbaum, former director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences wrote an editorial concluding that this should be the general expectation for endocrine-disrupting compounds.
Should low dose testing be considered? I guess it depends on what your interpretation of “safe” is. If you don’t want to know, don’t test. If you don’t test low doses, you definitely won’t understand their impacts.
2. They Only Consider the Active Ingredient When Evaluating Pesticides & Skip The Rest–What About the Chemicals Added to Make it More Toxic?
Second, when they test pesticides, they only test the active ingredient. They aren’t looking at our real-world exposure of a complete formulation, just certain ingredients inside. And that is also completely absurd. It’s like testing the tomatoes in a spaghetti sauce but missing the oils, herbs, and other ingredients.
Refusing to test the entire formulation means they don’t know how it’s reacting with your body as it’s sold or applied. The actual product contains a complex mixture of other chemicals that are included specifically to make the active ingredient more toxic. And it’s not just pesticides that have this problem. We live in a soup of nasties that can interact in ways that dramatically make the mixture more dangerous than just one chemical.
Is this toxic soup safe? I guess it depends on what your interpretation of “safe” is. If you don’t want to know, don’t test the products the way families experience them in their homes.
3. The Diagnostic Testing They Rely on is Antiquated & Very Possibly From the 30s.
Third, the tests they use are way out of date. The Feds rely on antiquated testing compared to the tools that independent scientists use when examining toxicity. Here’s Pete’s analogy–
Imagine you’re an FDA employee and you’ve just seen photographs in National Geographic of distant galaxies taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. You’ve never seen anything like it. So what do you do? You grab your binoculars and go into your backyard at night, look up toward the stars, and see nothing like those photographs. You don’t see anything so you conclude the photographs are FAKE NEWS.
One of the crude tests the EPA and FDA use was actually developed in the 1930s. In case they didn’t know, medical science has advanced a lot since 1935. Their tests are totally insensitive to what we need to know about endocrine-disrupting chemicals. To determine what is “safe” you need to use modern medical tools. Not surprisingly, they aren’t finding anything, so they are able to say “no danger here!”
But does that mean they are right? I guess this depends on what your interpretation of “safe” is.
4. They Are Grossly Underestimating The Amount of Chemicals We are Exposed to & Making Dangerous Policy Decisions on Those Underestimations
Finally, the latest study underscores the problem of the Feds are vastly underestimating the amount of chemicals consumers are exposed to and make policy decisions on those false assumptions. This puts everyone in danger, especially pregnant women and children, who are most vulnerable to the effects of hormone disruption.
How much bisphenols, phthalates, perfluorinated chemicals, parabens, benzophenone, and triclosan are we are exposed to daily. Right now, we have no idea, but we know it’s much higher than previously thought.
But Doesn’t “Dose Make The Poison?” Well, Yes, But Also No.
When you hear “dose equals the poison” understand that’s a theory from 1500 created before the discovery of hormone-disrupting chemicals. The Feds are relying on the concepts of a man who died in the year 1541. Paracelsus was the father of toxicology and it’s not uncommon for his theory to reign supreme as a basis for toxicological inquiry at the Federal level.
Paracelsus stated, “All things are poison, and nothing is without poison, the dosage alone makes it so a thing is not a poison.” In other words, anything can be a poison but the dose determines just how poisonous it is. But this is simply not true in the world of hormones. Endocrinologists know that chemicals that behave like hormones don’t follow this rule of thumb created in the 1500s.
Therefore, only looking for disease in large amounts can hide things that happen at smaller amounts. And when these outcomes are not predictable, you have a problem when chemicals sneak in that are harmful at smaller levels.
Here’s one quick example. A high dose of several different estrogenic chemicals causes weight loss. Low doses cause morbid obesity. Put that in your “dose makes the poison” pipe and smoke it.
And We Should Start Voting With Our Dollar Immediately Because Of The Real Costs of Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals–An Annual $340 BILLION Tax on Your Lifestyle
It’s estimated that over $340 BILLION is spent by Americans on medical costs and loss of wages due to the impacts of hormone-disrupting chemicals. That amount was actually quite conservative because it only includes chemicals that we know a lot about. With over 86,000 chemicals in commerce, only a sliver of that has actually been studied. But the chemicals that have been studied are linked to some of the most common modern diseases like anxiety and depression, weight gain, hyperactivity in children, early puberty in girls, degraded sperm quality, infertility, Autism, increases in allergies, and end of life diseases like cancer.
But there is a reason why all this is happening and it has to do with a lack of communication.
One of the founders of green chemistry, a scientist by the name of John Warner, reminds us that “modern-day chemists don’t actually take classes in toxicology, endocrine disruption and environmental science. Because this is missing from their training, they essentially do not use these concepts when designing new materials.” And that’s what happens with emerging science—it takes time to get integrated into the mainstream curriculum
The field of toxicology itself is not without emerging change. Toxicologists don’t take classes that would demonstrate hormones can be impactful in natural settings at very small amounts. No wonder they are opposed to the idea. Change is happening too quickly around them. But the science of endocrine disruption is starting to gain broad acceptance, including by the National Institutes of Health that has spent close to ONE BILLION in federal tax dollars studying its effects on our planet and to us.
According to John Warner, if the future is in green chemistry, wouldn’t it be beneficial for this education to already become part of the curriculum when becoming a chemist? John Warner is an optimistic scientist who thinks that idea is a no-brainer. His research center, the Warner Babcock Laboratory, is an example of the possibility of making a living off of green chemistry. This is one of the impediments to entering–some people just don’t think there is money in it to support a family. But now is the most exciting time to be part of green chemistry.
As consumers are directing brands to think differently, John Warner is consulting for tons of major players. He also thinks he can change this generation of science through teaching children to recognize the importance of green chemistry. His wife started a nonprofit called Beyond Benign to improve access to green chemistry for children in school and at home. This resource has classroom curriculums for teachers and homeschoolers. Let’s hope this next generation finds a better way to work with Mother Nature. And as John Warner keeps working in his lab on hundreds of solutions, let’s hope his next one chips away at antiquated hormone-disrupting chemicals we are exposed to today.
Tips for Avoiding Bisphenols Every Day
Avoiding bisphenols can be complicated but very worth the effort when you are pregnant or have young children at home. Bisphenols can be found in three basic areas: thermal receipt paper, plastic food & beverage containers, & canned food lining. Here’s the trifecta of how to avoid the Bisphenols.
- Stop touching thermal receipt paper. Signing without touching them is complicated, but can be done if you place your covered arm on them then scribble. An example of a store with bisphenol coated thermal receipt paper is Target.
- Stop drinking water or eating food from plastic containers. Use stainless steel, glass & tetrapak instead. Click here for recommendations on products.
- Stop eating canned foods OR drinking sodas from cans. Look for alternatives stored in glass or tetrapak.