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More Unregulated Toxins In Everyday Products

The latest news on industry obfuscation of scientific research and government complicity is that the Food and Drug Administration relied on studies funded by trade groups in decisions on an unsafe compound in common plastic products. The Washington Post reports that despite more than 100 independent studies indicating that bisphenol A, or BPA, poses health risks to consumers, the FDA relied on research supported by the American Plastics Council when it declared the chemical fit for human consumption. We’ve seen this pattern before, the Post indicates:

“Tobacco figured this out, and essentially it’s the same model,” said David Michaels, who was a federal regulator in the Clinton administration. “If you fight the science, you’re able to postpone regulation and victim compensation, as well. As in this case, eventually the science becomes overwhelming. But if you can get five or 10 years of avoiding pollution control or production of chemicals, you’ve greatly increased your product.”

Mitchell Cheeseman, deputy director of the FDA’s office of food additive safety, said the agency is not biased toward industry.

“The fact is, it’s industry’s responsibility to demonstrate the safety of their products,” he said. “The fact that industry generated data to support the safety I don’t think is an unusual thing.”

The FDA may be correct in assuming that it’s perfectly usual for industry groups to generate data that supports their claims. The positive correlation between funding source and desirable study outcomes is strong in other fields like nutritional research. But the simultaneous assumption that demonstrating safety is an industry responsibility and that industry groups will generate data that supports their assertions of product safety is a virtual abdication of regulatory responsibility.

Both the FDA and the Environmental Protection Agency regulate BPA. The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will hold a hearing tomorrow on the EPA’s oversight of toxic chemicals. Let’s hope they hold at least one agency charged with protecting public health accountable.

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