Dispatch: The Story Behind the BPA Scare

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Trevor Butterworth wrote a detailed history for the non-profit Statistical Assessment Service (STATS) of the falling-out between toxicology and endocrinology experts and the anti-BPA activist faction led by Dr. Frederick vom Saal. The outcome, Butterworth writes, is that, “[t]he panic over the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) is not only unjustified, it has reached a point where the failure to accept basic, rational principles in scientific research is damaging toxicology itself, wasting taxpayers’ money, and undermining scientific progress.”

“Butterworth cites as the beginning of the controversy a study published in the journal Toxicological Sciences, which showed that rats were not susceptible to the alleged estrogenic effects of BPA, known amongst the activists as ‘endocrine disruption,’” explains Dr. Ross. “Dr. vom Saal immediately attacked the study, of course, claiming that the species of rats used was inappropriate. Britain’s top reproductive endocrinology expert Dr. Richard Sharpe defended the study, and Dr. Earl Gray, the EPA’s Senior Reproductive Toxicologist, refuted all of Dr. vom Saal’s arguments point by point, so it was pretty well established that the study was valid and that the anti-BPA crowd simply refused to accept the results.”

“The level of civility that is normally expected in such esteemed journals completely disappeared,” says Dr. Whelan. “And the media paid no attention to the arguments of scientific experts who defended the original study. There is such an ingrained sense among the public that BPA is dangerous, and it seems like all the scientific evidence to the contrary just gets ignored.”