Conflicts of Interest in Bisphenol A Decision Making

I have written about bisphenol A recently. It’s a chemical found in polycarbonate plastics that has been linked with some crazy effects in mice at ambient levels including disruption of oogenesis (egg production) and effects two generations removed (grandmother effects).

Public health agency linked to chemical industry – Los Angeles Times

For nearly a decade, a federal agency has been responsible for assessing the dangers that chemicals pose to reproductive health. But much of the agency’s work has been conducted by a private consulting company that has close ties to the chemical industry, including manufacturers of a compound in plastics that has been linked to reproductive damage.

In 1998, the Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction was established within the National Institutes of Health to assess the dangers of chemicals and help determine which ones should be regulated. Sciences International, an Alexandria, Va., consulting firm that has been funded by more than 50 industrial companies, has played a key role in the center’s activities, reviewing the risks of chemicals, preparing reports, and helping select members of its scientific review panel and setting their agendas, according to government and company documents.

This kind of work is too important to be left to contractors like Sciences International (however good they may be), which also has contracts with companies that manufacture and market products containing Bisphenol A. It’s very simple, most companies, for profit entities and even non-profits dependent on funding sources tend to maximize short term gain over long term good. While the political arm of the government does that as well, the institutions stable enough to do reliable work on policy issues that affect our long term well being are few in number. Government run research with stable funding, good employees and good management will do this work well, it’s a good match between the nature of the work and the nature of the organizations.

The ever excellent Pump Handle has more, I read their post as I was writing this one and so, nothing more to say, really, except, remember Children of Men! Fertility is not to be toyed with, any chemical that has the ability to affect egg production two generations down needs to be handled with care. 

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