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On Friday, May 19, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal published a damning story based on the leaked minutes of a private strategy meeting of food-packaging executives and chemical industry lobbyists that took place in Washington DC the previous day. The story's authors spoke with the chairman of the North American Metal Packaging Alliance (NAMPA), John Rost, who verified the talking points, but indicated that the summary wasn't complete. "'It was a five-hour meeting,' he said." On Saturday, NAMPA responded by distributing a press release claiming that the leaked minutes were "blatantly inaccurate and fabricated." On Sunday, the Washington Post released its own story on the leaked minutes. They spoke with Kathleen M. Roberts, a lobbyist for NAMPA with Bergeson and Campbell. She happens to have been the meeting's organizer, and she also verified that the information in the summary was accurate. This looks pretty bad for NAMPA. So here's what happened. Last Friday, representatives of companies including Coca-Cola, Alcoa, Crown Holdings, NAMPA, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, Del Monte, and the American Chemistry Council (a lobbying organization for chemical manufacturers) met to forge a strategy to combat the growing fear of bisphenol-A (BPA) in the public and the increasing legislative efforts to ban the substance. BPA, mostly used for polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins, is everywhere — from polymer tooth fillings to electronics to Nalgene-type drink bottles, even toilet paper... and, according to the CDC, in detectable amounts in the blood of 90% of the population. It's perhaps most ubiquitously and immediately present in the interior epoxy lining of food and beverage cans. The Washington Post story sums up the concern:
Over the past decade, a growing body of scientific studies has linked the chemical to breast cancer, testicular cancer, diabetes, hyperactivity, obesity, low sperm count, miscarriage and other reproductive problems in laboratory animals. More recent studies using human data have linked BPA to heart disease and diabetes. And it has been found to interfere with the effects of chemotherapy in breast cancer patients. Researchers have found that BPA leaches from containers into food and beverages, even at cold temperatures. A study by the Harvard School of Public Health published earlier this month found that subjects who drank liquids from plastic bottles containing BPA had a 69 percent increase in the BPA in their urine. Despite more than 100 published studies by government scientists and university laboratories that have raised health concerns about the chemical, the Food and Drug Administration has deemed it safe largely because of two studies, both funded by a chemical industry trade group.
It's evidently this sort of reporting that frustrates the embattled pro-BPA faction so much that one suggested response during the meeting was to find a "'holy grail' spokesperson" — a "pregnant young mother who would be willing to speak around the country about the benefits of BPA." The minutes go on to state that "the committee doubts obtaining a scientific spokesperson is attainable." ScienceBlogs has posted what is apparently the full text of the leaked minutes. For the pro-BPA industry's take, see bisphenol-a.org, presented by the American Chemistry Council (which "represents the companies that make the products that make modern life possible"), PlasticsEurope ("an association of plastics manufacturers that deals with complex legislative processes"), and the Japan Chemical Industry Association ("promoting the stable development of the chemical industry").

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Comments

1 The Committee on Energy and C posted by Mark Piepkorn on 06/02/2009 at 05:21 pm

The Committee on Energy and Commerce and its Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations has requested NAMPA's chair to supply "1. All documents and communications, including talking points, minutes, summaries, memoranda, media statements, e-mails, and drafts of any such documents, relating to meetings of the BPA Joint Trade Association in April and May 2009, including documents and communications created by the date of this request; 2. A list of all attendees at these meetings, including their affiliations and contact information; and 3. A list of all members of the BPA Joint Trade Association, including their contact information." See http://media.journalinteractive.com/documents/waxman-stupak_060209.pdf

2 Jan, you're absolutely right. posted by Mark Piepkorn on 06/04/2009 at 09:58 am

Jan, you're absolutely right. As noted in the post, most BPA is used for polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins - both of which are in heavy use in the building industry.

3 For those of us in the buildi posted by Jan Stensland on 06/03/2009 at 01:46 pm

For those of us in the building industry, don't think that BPA isn't a concern just because you only seem to hear about it in plastic bottles and dental night guards. When researching concrete sealants for slabs with moisture problems I discovered that the product most highly recommended was 40-60% BPA. My recommendation is to ask for MSDS from any sealant manufacturer before specifying a sealant product. Am sure BPA is also found in many other building products.


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