Streams

Has BPA Fight Obscured Wider Dangers of Plastics?

Monday, March 10, 2014

Nearly two decades after scientists discovered that the common plastic additive BPA is linked to health problems, new evidence suggests even plastics labeled "BPA-free" may expose us to similar effects. Mother Jones reporter Mariah Blake found that potentially dangerous plastics are still everywhere — from your baby's bottle to your toothbrush. In her article “The Scary New Evidence on BPA-Free Plastics,” in the March/April issue of Mother Jones, Blake looks at all the plastics in our homes and the potential worrisome health effects.

In 2008 multiple studies showed that BPA, a plasticizer frequently found in baby bottles, sippy cups, water bottles, the liners of aluminum cans, and other products, mimics the hormone estrogen. Exposure can lead to behavioral and health disorders — especially for infants and young children. The United States and other countries have banned BPA in infant products, and many consumers switched to BPA-free products.

However, a 2011 study showed that many plastics contain estrogenic chemicals, not just those with BPA. Scientists tested 455 commercially available plastic products and found that the majority of them had estrogenic compounds. But Blake said the plastics industry has systematically attacked and attempted to discredit that study and others showing similar results, in what she described as a “Big Tobacco-style campaign to bury findings.”

Blake said that unless plastic products are made specifically to avoid estrogenic chemicals, chances are they do contain them. That includes baby bottles, plastic sandwich bags, plastic wrap, and water bottles.

“I was shocked when I started working on this story how little we know about the chemicals we use every day,” said Blake. “[Companies] don’t have to test these chemicals for safety. And if they do test and find them harmful, they don’t have to disclose that to the public.”

Guests:

Mariah Blake

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Comments [38]

Aviva from Mt Vernon, NY

Thank you. Very important and very informative. Another example of why big corporations should not be running/ ruining our country.
Big fan of all of your wonderful work, Leonard!

Mar. 14 2014 01:37 AM
Marian Goldberg from Rutherford, NJ

We have a house that dates back to 1920. We are now in the process of completely renovating our kitchen and main floor powder room. This means replacing the copper pluming system. The pipes were very convoluted, circling around unnecessarily and also not in the locations where we now need them. They are also extending the pluming up from the main floor to the attic, which has 9 foot ceilings and in which we will eventually add a bathroom. Of course all of the new piping is plastic. Nothing was said in the show about drinking water that flows through plastic pipes. I even drink the water while taking a shower. What are the risks of this?

Mar. 13 2014 07:58 AM
Donald J. Sepanek from Bayonne, NJ

It's very refreshing to hear a guest say "I don't know", instead of trying to fudge an answer. It shows that she's relying on data/evidence over opinion, which immensely boosts her credibility in my mind.

Mar. 10 2014 04:51 PM
Donald J. Sepanek from Bayonne, NJ

Studies with rats that fail to show the harmful effects of anything should always be questioned, because rats are scavengers and have a much more powerful immune system than humans. It is when the study DOES show deleterious effects that the results should be taken seriously.

Mar. 10 2014 04:42 PM
Lisa Herman Cunningham from Manhattan

The shock is that society/government allows us to be deformed and die prematurely because it's costly or inconvenient for businesses (those revered job-creators) to re-tool factories etc..

The shock is that science, scientists, and scientific institutions are ridiculed by Fox News and others in order to pressure legislators and preserve profits for the profiteers.
Transparency, regulation and strong enforcement= peace, prosperity and progress. Pass it on.

Mar. 10 2014 01:13 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

Cupcake - "Mimicking" estrogen is not the same as "producing" estrogen. This isn't anything like hormone replacement.

Mar. 10 2014 12:57 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Leonard, thanks for mentioning TPP. I hope you can find a guest for a future show who can answer your question.

Mar. 10 2014 12:54 PM
Isabel F. from Queens

This is precisely what the Environmental Working Group has been talking about for maybe a decade. They have been trying to assemble chemical databases on common products, cosmetics, cleaners, plastics, that have been exposed the general public to chemicals that haven't been screened in any meaningful way for their safety to the general public because of estrogenic mimicry--and that includes the EWG's annual survey of the pesticidal residues found on fresh produce.

http://www.ewg.org
http://www.ewg.org/bpa/
http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/
http://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners
http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/list.php

Mar. 10 2014 12:52 PM
Linda on the UWS from Upper West Side

I don't understand. This information about plastics has been around for several decades. My daughter is 42 years old and I knew back when she was a baby to use only glass bottles, and glass/stainless/iron cookware. This is not new information. It's as though American consumers have had their hands over their ears for all this time.

I'm amazed walking around Whole Foods and other bastions of green living at the number of people grabbing plastic bags to hold a few apples. There are SO many cheap and natural alternatives to plastic in most aspects of our daily lives, that one wonders whether it's just a matter of laziness and self interest that keeps people from doing the right thing.

Mar. 10 2014 12:51 PM
Potoro from NJ

I have purchased Ziploc products (plastic containers, freezer bags) because they are labeled "BPA free" or "Made Without BPA." Is this statement a lie, or do these products contain toxins as harmful -- or even worse -- than BPA?

Mar. 10 2014 12:50 PM
Linda on the UWS from Upper West Side

I don't understand. This information about plastics has been around for several decades. My daughter is 42 years old and I knew back when she was a baby to use only glass bottles, and glass/stainless/iron cookware. This is not new information. It's as though American consumers have had their hands over their ears for all this time.

I'm amazed walking around Whole Foods and other bastions of green living at the number of people grabbing plastic bags to hold a few apples. There are SO many cheap and natural alternatives to plastic in most aspects of our daily lives, that one wonders whether it's just a matter of laziness and self interest that keeps people from doing the right thing.

Mar. 10 2014 12:49 PM
Jocelyn from Nj

What about the inside of a dishwasher-GE -- we use high temp and added heat option to wash and dry--- the inside liner of the dishwasher is entirely plastic material--- should I be alarmed?

Mar. 10 2014 12:47 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Water passes through a filter pretty quickly, so there's less time for it to pick up chemicals from the plastics in it than from a plastic container that the water stays in longer. I don't know how much difference this makes, but transferring the water from the filter's plastic pitcher to a glass container might minimize (or at least lessen) exposure.

Mar. 10 2014 12:45 PM
Bonnie from nyc

Just checked the internet and found it - Pyrex baby bottles

Mar. 10 2014 12:43 PM
BK from BK

Thanks, Mariah and Leonard for covering this important topic! It's no fun to hear about the risks, but we should demand more transparency and safety from the industry.

Mar. 10 2014 12:43 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

What about plastic knives forks?

Mar. 10 2014 12:42 PM
Marna Garwood from Brooklyn

What about freezing food in ziplock bags or plastic film?

Mar. 10 2014 12:41 PM
Cupcake from Brooklyn

Just listening in so have missed much of the program. If plastics produce Estrogen, might they be a benefit to post menopausal women?

Mar. 10 2014 12:41 PM
Sumanth from Stamford,ct

Is Teflon dangerous?

Mar. 10 2014 12:40 PM

You have painted a picture of an entire system of scientists, industry and regulators who are "in on it," i.e. , conspiring successfully to prevent the public from being protected from a high, preventable risk.

Has this level of conspiracy made this reporter more cynical?

Mar. 10 2014 12:39 PM
Simeon Berman from West Orange, NJ

Could your guest also include an analysis of the very common 1 quart soup containers that are so common especially in transporting Chinese soup.

Mar. 10 2014 12:39 PM
Pat from NYC

I'm sorry. I take issue with her assertion that Sprague-Dawley rats are a poor model for estrogen studies. The are a commonly used model system that have been used in several studies on estrogen and estrogen receptors. Please check Pubmed for more studies.

Mar. 10 2014 12:39 PM
Clif from Manhattan

Gebnj, I disagree. It's a cop out to say we should wait for congress to do something. Congress represents the people in a Democracy. We the people need to step up and put some real pressure on our local representatives and, furthermore, create national grass-roots campaigns to see this through.

Mar. 10 2014 12:33 PM
Rochelle from jersey shore

What about the lining of tin cans? I have also heard they are also linked to BPA?

Mar. 10 2014 12:33 PM
John Michael

Where can we buy the kinds of products that you used with your child?

Mar. 10 2014 12:31 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

How safe are the 1 gallon plastic water jugs like Poland Spring?

Mar. 10 2014 12:30 PM

Always rewarm food in glass containers. Heat drives the platicizer out of the container, and into your dinner. If your food is frozen in a plastic dish, release by running hot water over the container, then place in glass.

Again, until the testing is done, we cannot say which plasticizers are most concerning. The "estrogen" mimic hypothesis is now quite strong, but in nature, one shifted atom can turn a benign chemical into a poison, and vice-versa. What we need is Congress to stop burying the issue, and fund much larger oversight and R&D budgets.

Mar. 10 2014 12:28 PM
susan from brooklyn

question? what about the large Brita pitchers and the Brita water dispensers? They are hard plastic- are they more or less likely to leach harmful chemicals?

Mar. 10 2014 12:28 PM
Roberta Felice from Bushwick, Brooklyn

What about coffee machines (the body is plastic)? And the trend for water pipes in homes to be PVC piping?
Thanks!

Mar. 10 2014 12:26 PM
Clif from Manhattan

Sorry, but am I supposed to care what happens to these plastic companies dispensing toxins to us? We need to ban this crap once & for all. It's so disturbing to hear this very padded language about banning this stuff outright. People seem to be afraid to say "Ban it! Now!".

Furthermore, have we lost our minds even considering dispensing these toxic products? IT'S TOXIC! That means it's bad for you in any quantity! Smaller quantities simply do more damage over a longer period of time. This is not rocket science! People, look up from your "smart phone" for 1 minute and participate in getting these toxic chemicals banned!

Mar. 10 2014 12:24 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

Kate - The chemicals never stop leaching out, as long as that plastic is intact in any way; there's no "wearout."

Mar. 10 2014 12:22 PM
carol weinstein karlin

So realistically, now that I am pulling my hair out because it seems that I have poisoned my teenagers, what am I supposed to do? Ask the doctor to screen them for every possible disease? Keep them in the house, and only use glass. This whole thing has reached a ridiculous point. Are there any decisions that we can make that will not imperial us?

Mar. 10 2014 12:17 PM
Ken from UWS

So does my BPA-free water bottle still contain estrogenic products?

Mar. 10 2014 12:16 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

Aren't all plastics, as by-products of the petroleum industry, considered a threat to human and animal health, estrogenic or otherwise?

And how are we to study these non-BPA plastics when the industry has billion$ to spend on opposition research?

Mar. 10 2014 12:16 PM
Kate from Hamilton Heights

So, it has always made sense to me to put my plastics in the dishwasher and to re-use them as much as possible, because the more the chemicals HAVE leached out, the less of them there are to leach out. Could she comment?

Mar. 10 2014 12:15 PM

Plasticizers are the largest issue- they are used to keep plastics flexible, responsible for the new car smell, flexible vinyl, etc. As they rub off or end up in your food, the plastic becomes stiffer and brittle.

Dangerous? maybe. The sad fact is only a few percent of plastic and chemicals are tested

Mar. 10 2014 12:10 PM
david from NYC

is the problem with BPA worse when the content of the container is heated including use in microwave ovens?

Mar. 10 2014 12:10 PM
foodaggro from Brooklyn

Shocker!

Mar. 10 2014 12:07 PM

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