Rethinking Healthcare

How plastic bottles are defusing the population bomb

How plastic bottles are defusing the population bomb

Posting in Food

If we can be so wrong about something as common as BPA, what about all those exciting, new compounds the FDA is being pressed to approve every day?

China is easing its one child policy but it may be too late.

(Picture from CBS News.)

That's because we may all be getting done in by the simple plastic bottle.

As I've been reporting at ZDNet Healthcare for some time, and noted here a year ago, Bisphenol-A is becoming highly controversial.

The chemical  helps harden plastic for use in things like bottles and medical equipment. It has long been used to line metal food containers, but is now considered questionable by the EPA, although the industry disagrees. (The FDA has also gotten into the act.)

BPA, whose effects mimic the female hormone estrogen (it was originally developed with that in mind) is now found everywhere. (It's even on paper receipts.)

The latest news is a study of Chinese workers confirming what I wrote about last year. BPA makes reproduction harder.

Those with detectable urine BPA had more than three times the risk of lowered sperm concentration and lower sperm vitality, more than four times the risk of lower sperm count, and more than twice the risk of lower sperm motility.

But wait, it gets worse:

Similar dose-response associations were observed among men with environmental BPA exposure at levels comparable with those in the U.S population.

Your little fellas may not be very happy, either.

China began adjusting its policy on children in part because it was successful, because growing affluence meant many Chinese women were choosing not to have big families, bringing population growth below a replacement level. Now that level may prove hard to, uh, raise.

BPA still has its friends. Fox News likes it fine. But a scientific consensus is growing and Canada has become the first country to officially declare BPA toxic.

Trouble is, are we too late? If BPA is everywhere, even in our oceans, and if BPA does make reproduction harder, as the China study indicates, the population bomb may not only be defused, we could be running in the other direction.

All of which brings up a question that should concern all medical researchers.

The chemical industry is right about something here. BPA was heavily studied before it became ubiquitous. Some of the current studies are also subject to questioning.

If we can be so wrong about something as common as BPA, what about all those exciting, new compounds the FDA is being pressed to approve every day? And at what point does our valid skepticism about scientific study yield to cynicism?

That's a pretty scary Halloween story if you ask me. Just send your kids out in a white lab coat.

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Dana Blankenhorn

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Dana Blankenhorn has written for the Chicago Tribune, Advertising Age's "NetMarketing" supplement and founded the Interactive Age Daily for CMP Media. He holds degrees from Rice and Northwestern universities. He is based in Atlanta. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure