Plastics & Your Health

By Martin Leatherman & staff
New studies of chemicals used in plastics reveal potential health problems, including miscarriages and abnormal fetus development. But regulation remains a tricky prospect. Legislators in California are developing bills targeting chemicals used in consumer products, including plastics, which may cause human health problems.
Cosmetics and chemical manufacturers say that such new legislation is unnecessary because a variety of state and federal laws already regulate the industry, according to the Christian Science Monitor. One chemical of concern, bisphenol-A, or BPA, is used in baby bottles, teething rings, packaging materials and wall and floor coverings. In a study published in the May 2005 edition of Endocrinology, mouse fetuses exposed to one percent of the amount of BPA deemed safe for humans developed significantly more tissue in their mammary glands.

Genetically Engineered Food: Safety Research

Read the main article. Although the FDA does not conduct safety testing on genetically engineered foods, research is ongoing throughout the world, and not always free of controversy. The following is a brief overview:
–Food-safety researcher Dr. Arpad Pusztai reported in 1998 that rats fed genetically engineered potatoes at a British lab developed immune system deficiencies and stunted growth. After announcing his findings, Pusztai was suspended by the lab at which he worked. Other independent researchers supported his conclusions.

FDA Critics Cite Biotech Food Safety

[Sidebar: Biotech Food Safety Research]
By Robert Mullins,
Stymied by legal setbacks and a lack of public interest, critics of genetically engineered foods expressed impatience with the federal Food and Drug Administration for putting its regulatory foot down on pharmaceuticals such as Vioxx and Bextra, but keeping its hands off biotechnology. While the FDA must approve pharmaceuticals before they are sold, and regulates them once they hit the market, it requires only voluntary consultations with food and biotech corporations about the safety of any genetically engineered foods they want to sell. James Maryanski, biotechnology coordinator for the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Nutrition, said that this is consistent with the agency’s mandate. Medicines are newly created products combining different chemicals and other ingredients to treat diseases, and so must be pre-tested for possible side effects, he said, while genetically engineered food crops are still just plants, and therefore “generally recognized as safe.” “[T]he foods we eat today are all derived from crops we’ve had for centuries,” Mr. Maryanski said.

FOCUS: Regulating Chemicals

The link between human health and our environment may be obvious, but the devil is in the details. In January, new or forthcoming reports about common industrial chemicals provoked the usual disputes between public health activists and the business community over the need for regulation. -The solvent trichloroethylene has been linked with lymphoma and other diseases. It was dumped “indiscriminately” in the past, and a doctor with Boston University called the EPA “cowardly” for not controlling the substance. If a cancer link is established, the environmental cleanup costs — including groundwater — could run to the billions of dollars.