(David McNew/Getty Images)

A new investigation by Mother Jones magazine finds that plastics free of the controversial additive bisphenol-A (BPA) may actually be more harmful to humans than those containing it. Meanwhile, scientists continue to debate what doses of the chemical are harmful. We’ll discuss the latest news on the controversy over plastics, and why the plastics industry has fought hard protect these chemical additives from regulation.

Guests:
Mariah Blake, reporter for Mother Jones
Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and National Toxicology Program
Meg Schwarzman, research scientist at the Center for Occupational and Environmental Health at UC Berkeley; and associate Director of the Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry
Justin Teeguarden, senior research scientist in exposure science & toxicology at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    Another reason why I follow Beth Terry of My Plastic Free Life and Bea Johnson from the Zero Waste Home. NO plastic in our home when it comes to food related items. Thus no BPA concerns…period.

    • Guest

      This is a very difficult task. I used to go to Trader Joes all the time and
      I found they use so much plastic packaging, their store motto might as well be “we sell plastic, also with food in it”.

      There are several good videos on Youtube where journalists try to live without plastic, or investigate the sources of plastic.

      Plastic Planet by Werner Boote

      In the above, a European journalist flies to China and buys an inflatable plastic world globe, then has it chemically tested. The green ink on it contained mercury.

      • Beth Grant DeRoos

        Thank you Frank!! Am trying to see where I can find the documentary to watch. Sailing from California to Hawaii its amazing the amount of floating plastic ‘stuff’ one encounters. And people eat the fish that have to swim around or in this garbage…..

        • Guest

          Yep, this is true. Lots of libraries have Plastic Planet and I think I saw it on Comcast Xfinity or Netflix.

          Here’s a report about plastic recycling:

    • Chemist150

      So you don’t eat canned food either? The lining is plastic and is a source of BPA.

      • Mrdioji

        I don’t.

      • Menelvagor

        why would anyone eat from canned food. Even it wasnt harmful it taste like crap, taste like can, and has no nutrients. One word. Cook. So dont understand that point.

  • cooper29

    Please ask your panel if there is a test my doctor can order that will measure these synthetic estrogenic compunds in our bodies and are there any methods of removing them from my body?

  • geraldfnord

    (I’ve started listening late, so my apologies if this has already been covered.)

    The category ‘B.P.A.-free’ covers a wide swath; in particular, where B.P.A. has been replaced, are there differential rates of effects depending on what replaced it?

  • Guest

    What about biodegradable utensils? They are bendable like plastic but are made out of something else. Are these safe? I refer to products like Stalk Market:
    http://www.stalkmarketproducts.com/products/compostable-cutlery/

    An unrelated topic: RT anchor quits on-air because of pro-Putin propaganda.

  • wi6IOHcYXzAo8g7mDTPM

    I’ve switched my household to glass and unlined stainless steel containers. Furthermore, I avoid canned goods entirely, and use an activated carbon water filter to remove endocrine-disrupting pharmaceutical byproducts from the municipal water supply (e.g. estrogen from birth control pills in urine). I also use natural laundry detergents, as I’ve heard laundry detergent is high in estrogen mimicking compounds.

    Am I doing enough? Are there other big sources of BPA and endocrine disrupters that I’m overlooking? Is there an affordable way to get my family tested for BPA levels? Is there an easy way to get tested for all estrogen-mimicking compounds in a single test, or must I proceed chemical-by-chemical?

    Thanks for the excellent program.

    • SomeSubjectiveSomeObjective

      Knowing nothing more about you than what you just wrote, I’d still have to guess that although you take these measures, there are other more meaningful health measures you could take in life. Are all people in your family lean? Active? Do you consume a lot of refined foods? Artificial sweeteners? Do you get enough sleep? Are you stressed? Do you drink alcohol? All of these (arguably not artificial sweeteners) have proven effects on health.

      • Robert Thomas

        I’d also be interested to know whether wi6IOHcYXzAo8g7mDTPM has also rid his or her garden of any ranunculuses? Especially, delphiniums.

  • Jane Wonder

    Justin Teeguarden is clearly a mouth piece for the plastics industry. There’s no question that BPA – bisphenol A – is harmful to human health – in ways we are still discovering. France is banning BPA fully in 2015. There’s a full discussion of endocrine disrupters – of which BPA is just one – in the book, Our Stolen Future by Theo Colborn. Learn more on the website http://www.ourstolenfuture.org/

  • Chemist150

    I’m going with the male guest here. Allometric scaling from animal to human is not proof. If it were, a lot more drugs would be on the market. It’s suggestive and that’s why the FDA require human trials before taking a drug to market. What kills a rat may be tolerated by white people, may kill an isolated set of people in Africa and have no affect on Japanese.

    There are examples of drugs not working in rats but work in human and visa versa. Was it male rats? Female rats? Is a rat model appropriate? Should it be dog? Guinea pig? It matters. The guest arguing against these plastics need to bring better facts to the table.

    Effects in rats only means additional studies should be conducted for humans.

    • Robert Thomas

      Chemist150, with respect to toxic response to various dioxins, is the storied disparity between guinea pigs and hamsters apocryphal or real?

      • Chemist150

        Between guinea pig and hamsters? They were using rat, were they not? The sprague dawley rat is what she said.

        I can look them up in literature. However, I’m not an expert on the subject. I know enough that there are potentially big differences and if she wants to convince me, she needs to come to the table better armed with specific details. She may have a good point or not. I cannot tell with what I heard.

        Even if the binding pocket is preserved across species, there is still delivery to that target. Species and sex metabolisms and transports also differ.
        Without knowing more and in context of the interviews that I heard, it simply warrants further investigation. Changing manufacturing practices would be premature since it’s not necessarily deadly. We’re exposed to cancer risks simply by breathing. If it’s dioxins that you’re worried about, oxygen containing compounds tend to form radicals. I myself have two ozone destroyers in my home but that’s me. I feel safer with the plastic than the x-ray machine at the airport which I decline to go through.

        Many people here don’t trust big pharma because they want more money, why is that different than blindly trusting someone promoting a “green chemistry” company? They still could be promoting for their own financial benefit despite facts.

        I know enough to know that I need more information.

        • Robert Thomas

          A peek at the WP article reveals the citation

          “The oral LD50 for guinea pigs is as low as 0.5 to 2 micrograms/Kg body weight, whereas the oral LD50 for hamsters can be as high as 1 to 5 mg/Kg body weight. Even between different mouse or rat strains there may be tenfold to thousandfold differences in acute toxicity.”

          – R. Pohjanvirta, J. Tuomisto, Short-term toxicity of 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin in laboratory animals: effects, mechanisms, and animal models, Pharmacol. Rev. 46 (1994) 483–549.

          Perhaps this research is now superseded, but it’s in line with my recollection and illustrates part of your point about the complexity of assessing the risk of even notorious compounds.

          • Chemist150

            I think you’re proving my point that you cannot depend on allometic scaling between species. However, you can choose a species most closely approximating a human for a class of drugs.

          • Robert Thomas

            Chemist150, I was indeed agreeing with your observation and providing a (what was perhaps more opaque than I intended) example of a class of compounds the toxicity of which, though intensely studied, nevertheless has effects that rather mysteriously differ by several orders of magnitude on organisms even as closely related in size, shape, physiology etc. (near-isometry) as are Cavii and Cricetidae. This suggests that without careful examination and consideration of many more physiological aspects, similar inferences as simply drawn (for instance, allometrically) from rodentia to primates may not always be valid.

            I was agreeing, okay? That’s what I meant by “illustrates part of your point”.

  • GiorgioOrwell2nd

    What does Justin Teagarden think of the FDA’s tendency to use corporate/lobbyist supplied data? This is why no one believes these FDA “studies” and findings. Is that at all appropriate in any way? That sounds like a clear and absolute violation of even the basic definition of the scientific method.

  • Robert Thomas

    “Proof” has a meaning when talking about the viability of yeast, or in a court of law where a judge might explain to a jury the difference for example between “preponderance of evidence” and “reasonable doubt”.

    “Proof” is an object for ideologically-driven advocates, attorneys and axe-grinders but has utterly no place in discussions of scientific inquiry other than as something to be avoided as hindrance to understanding and as obfuscation.

  • Ashley Holzhauer

    Hi,

    I have an eight month old daughter and am concerned about her current exposure to endocrine disrupters like those found in plastic. What about other things that are even harder to avoid than plastic baby bottles? I use glass bottles and containers, but the lids are plastic. So are many of the toys my daughter has been given. i try to buy silicone, wood, and rubber toys. How concerned should I be? What about polyester vs. cotton cloth toys?

    Thanks, Ashley in Dublin

  • shirley shirley

    If what you all are saying, that the BPA goes quickly throught the human body, why is so much time and money being put in to study the effects on humans?
    And why are we still testing on animals, cant we test on people like prisoners who have no chance of release.

    • SomeSubjectiveSomeObjective

      hehe, shirley. Studies on creatures need to be run past an ethics panel. Whether a person is in prison for life or not doesn’t preclude them protections by such a consideration. Although science could learn a great deal by forcibly submitting prisoners to various experiments, the civilized world doesn’t consider it acceptable.

      • shirley shirley

        I find it difficult to understand, how a civilized world, finds it ethical to forcibly submit animals to any kind of testing. The best way to see the effects on humans is to test on humans, maybe some criminals would agree to it, knowing they will never get out and it could help them repay their debt for whatever they have done.

        • SomeSubjectiveSomeObjective

          *shrug* Humans have always seen themselves as better than animals, and always will. I don’t really cry for them when I eat them, and I’m okay with using them as test subjects to resolve medical issues, though not for frivolous things like cosmetics.

          Without animal testing we would not have a modern pharmaceutical industry, it’s that simple.

          • Unclefishbits

            Without animal testing, most of us wouldn’t be here to have the luxury to talk about these philosophical complexities. We’d be dead.

  • Heidi S

    One of your guests mentioned tips for limiting plastic exposure. Specifically, she mentioned paper receipts, which I’ve heard limited information on. Where online can I find a list of these recommendations?

  • Brian

    I used to consider myself on the Left, but the ideological, anti-science Left has so turned me off, that I no longer know where to turn. The cherry-picked science used by the Left (and Right), coupled with the he-said-she-said nature of news programs that don’t differentiate between good/bad science, don’t get us closer to the truth. Where is the reasonable middle?

    • SomeSubjectiveSomeObjective

      Indeed, what power do you have with buffoons on all sides screaming. That’s why, when in doubt, you have to defer to groups of experts. Although we all have examples of experts being wrong (planet flat, for example), on the whole a group of experts in a given field will have a superior grasp of a topic within it than people who spend a lot of time on google. That’s why I take with a grain of salt “news stories” on youtube, or “bigbrotherislyingtoyou.com”, etc.

      At this time the FDA considers BPA to be pretty much safe. That doesn’t mean it is. All it means is that the best science available at the moment, studied by fairly (I didn’t say absolutely, but they are fairly) trustworthy scientists, has not found it not to be. Science can never prove anything is safe, just as you cannot prove to me that there isn’t a deranged baboon stalking outside my house ready to break in and maul me as I sleep.

      • Robert Thomas

        Yes, well said.

        That flat-earth thing, though, either is or isn’t a good example, depending on your intent. It turns out that reasonably educated people in the West (boys whose fathers could afford to send them to school) since classical times haven’t ever thought that the world was flat. The notion that anyone did is an invention largely of nineteenth century axe-grinders. So, it wasn’t the “experts” who were ever wrong about the spherical Earth, but rather the experts about the earlier experts who were wrong. Rather like the scientistical journalistosphere we find ourselves in today.

      • Menelvagor

        it si not the best science. The FDA is widely known to be a revolving door for industries. Give me a break. This forum is clearly full of industry trolls and Krasny has been given his marching orders. I bet his producers have stock in said companies.

        • SomeSubjectiveSomeObjective

          Who has the best science?

    • Robert Thomas

      Brian, you’ve identified a crucial question.

      Responsible people need to begin a discussion about the dwindling success that those working to understand the world through scientific inquiry – an activity which from time to time obtains clear and convincing evidence for conclusions about the nature of the world that nevertheless remain contingent – have had, accurately communicating the status of their inquiries to the general public.

      This task has always been difficult. Scientists’ credibility waxes and wanes with cultural shifts and with world events and so on. Scientists’ ability to successfully communicate with the general audience without the intercession of popularizing journalism is often poor. The apparent reluctance of scientific inquiry to provide absolute conclusions and settled answers to complex questions about the world, rather than probabilistic ones – which are the foundational means with which science apprehends the world – is often interpreted as being on a continuum between cowardice and dishonesty. Our failure not only to improve this communication but to stem its deterioration imperils our treasure and our safety.

    • Unclefishbits

      *THIS*. The anti-science tinfoil hat wearing nutters using ad hominem attacks got the whole “vaccine leads to autism” wrong, so they move to GMO’s… which they are getting wrong. When it comes to politics, until the “Scientific Method” party comes to light, I am afraid there isn’t anyone I could align with.

  • Unclefishbits

    The science is *not* a way of inaction. The science is telling us that action might not be necessary. Why run in a direction when we don’t know where we’re running to, or if it’s necessary? Action means spending money and moving markets. If that’s not necessary, then it’s a waste of time, resources, and money.

    “In any organization there ought to be the possibility of discussion… fence sitting is an art, and it’s difficult, and it’s important to do, rather than to go headlong in one direction or the other. It’s just better to have action, isn’t it, than to sit on the fence? Not if you’re not sure which way to go, it isn’t.”

    — Richard Feynman (p.100, “The Meaning of It All; Thoughts of a Citizen Scientist

  • Menelvagor

    This program is bais toward the plastic industry. I was very dissapointed with Krasny’s fierce defense of the corporation. I feel the guest has been intimidated and not given ample time to talk about her findings. Because this program has been discussed on other radio stations–independent radio stations with much more depth and fairness. Please check out KPFA–i cant remember the show. Krasney’s guest was not given the opportunity to get into the false science of the company. For example, it was tested on rats and they claim they found no risks. However, they used a breed of rat that is highly tolerant to estrogen and placticky chemicals and used such extremely low doses that they might as well of done nothing at all.

    I shouldn’t surprised how NPR behaves as a shill of the corporate community.

    DO NOT use plastic for anything. It is deadly. And bad for the environment. BUy glass. F-the plastic industry. they know it is deadly and horrible for the environment. They use it anyways becuase it is light–it saves them money in shipping.

    Corporations are anti-science. GIve me a break!

    Well, done Krasny–shutting down the lady and cheering on the corporations!! I take back my recent compliments. Krasny you are a joke. Shame on you.

    Why do you think there not saying there is enough evidence Krasny? Are really that obtuse?

  • Menelvagor

    of course they said it was safe!! What do you expect them to say Krasny. They tell you smoking is safe too. They tell you desinger drugs are safe and useful. They tell you mcdonalds is good for you too. Are you really sooooooo thick?

  • Menelvagor

    Ok. Mcdoanld’s food is bad for you. OS McDonalds releases a new factory-farmed beefy hamburger it claims is fat free and beneficial to your health. YOu believe them? Duh! Its called greenwashing. All natural. 100% natural. Not. Krasny–be ashamed. If you believe products labelled 100% natural are natural because they tell you that you dont deserve this show.

    • Menelvagor

      hell, you dont deserve a PHD

  • Menelvagor

    say it with me–Teagaarden is a mouthpiece!

  • Menelvagor

    The FDA is corrupt. Follow the money. And you will find the lies.

  • Eric

    One of your guest mentioned a website of hers (or her organization) that listed plastics & what levels of BPA & estrogen they found. Can you provide a link?

    • L A

      Yes it would be helpful if Forum would post website links for their guests, not just for this segment but for other Forum guests.

      • Amanda Stupi

        I’m 99% sure that the link you are referring to is “A Frightening Field Guide to Common Plastics” that Mariah Blake mentioned. There is a link up above (directly under the list of guests) but here it is again: http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/03/guide-estrogen-common-plastics-bpa.

        I hope that helps. And we do try to provide links to websites referenced during the show. It’s not always possible, but we try.

        Thanks for listening,
        Amanda

  • ER

    Oh for heaven’s f**king sake! I guess I’ll stick with my metal water bottle…oh wait, it’s probably harmful. Well, it is if it lands on my foot. I could use it as a defensive weapon, if need be. Living is dangerous to your health.

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