Why we don’t know if plastics are safe | Politico



How can we determine conclusively whether a chemical is safe?

That’s the question Jerry Heindel, a top health scientist in the United States government, wanted to answer. And what better chemical to ask this question about than Bisphenol A — one of the most researched chemicals in the world, and one of the most controversial.

BPA, as the chemical is known, is an industrial additive essential in the production of many plastic consumer goods: water bottles, plastic food containers, dental products. And yet, despite hundreds of studies dating back nearly a century, there's no scientific consensus on whether BPA is harmful to human health.

That's in part because any effects the chemical has would be long-term, complicated and hard to detect. But it’s also because academic scientists and government regulators disagree on how best to evaluate the safety of chemicals.

The solution Heindel — at the time a health science administrator at the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences — came up with was to design a study that would pull the two warring factions together in a single effort to assess the safety of BPA.

                   

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