Newspaper says US plastics downplays BPA health risks

25 August 2009 00:30  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS news)--The Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) said on Monday it was committed to “an open and transparent dialogue” on product safety in response to a news report that said the broader industry was waging a public relations battle to downplay potential health risks associated with bisphenol-A (BPA).

An article published on Saturday by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel said the plastics industry has used a “highly calibrated campaign…to fight federal regulation of BPA, downplay its risks and discredit anyone who characterises the chemical as a health threat”.

"SPI is committed to developing and maintaining an open and transparent dialogue about the safety of products and their relationship to the economy, the environment and a sustainable future," SPI president Bill Carteaux said in a statement in response to the article.

The SPI has yet to start its own campaign regarding BPA, he added.

BPA is largely used to make polycarbonate (PC), a plastic found in everything from baby bottles to car parts. However, BPA has been linked in studies to heart disease, cancer and developmental problems, particularly in infants and foetuses.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently considers the chemical safe, based largely on two studies funded by the chemical industry.

But the FDA is reconsidering that determination based on other studies, with a decision expected by 30 November.

“FDA’s assessments to date are consistent with BPA’s 50-year track record of safety, and with 11 global regulatory bodies - including the European Food Safety Authority and Health Canada - both of which recently completed scientific evaluations and found BPA safe in food-contact products,” the American Chemistry Council (ACC) said in a statement.

“Articles which ignore these facts, such as the one that appeared in the Milwaukee-Journal-Sentinel, should be seen for what they are - part of a campaign based more in opinion and ideology than in science and fact.”

However, the article quoted a Health Canada official who said the Canada study was not related to the use of BPA in PC bottles.

The plastics industry has launched a campaign using social media outlets against BPA regulations, according to the newspaper article.

For example, the industry and those with connections to the industry put pro-industry news clips on social media outlets such as YouTube, Twitter and blogs, according to the newspaper.

However, those clips are often portrayed as neutral information when most are written by industry-based public relations writers, the newspaper article said.

The SPI announced in June its own $3m/year (€2.1m/year) internet-based programme to spread the industry’s viewpoint to those aged 18-28, but Carteaux said on Monday that the SPI had yet to start the programme and had little to report.

"Simply put, the goal of SPI's proposed consumer outreach campaign is to join the existing conversation about plastics with key stakeholder audiences - including millennials, industry employees, policymakers and the media," Carteaux said in the statement.

Carteaux said in June the campaign was necessary and essential to combat a broad assault on plastics in consumer and health care products, warning that the future of the industry was at stake.

The newspaper article also referred to notes from a recent meeting between food packaging executives and industry lobbyists.

According to the article, executives and lobbyists proposed using “scare tactics that they might use to discourage government bans of BPA, such as spreading word of infant formula shortages if the chemical were outlawed in food packaging”.

In addition, the report accused the plastics industry lobby of exaggerating BPA safety assessments and using outdated studies to support their position.

($1 = €0.70)

For more on BPA and PC visit ICIS chemical intelligence
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By: Ben DuBose
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