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Environmental connections to public health >>

If you ask a caveman a chemistry question...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

By Alex Formuzis, EWG Vice-President for Media Relations

Good news. Maine governor Paul LePage claims he has read the scientific research on the health dangers posed by bisphenol-A, the plastic component and synthetic estrogen.

His conclusion?

"Quite frankly, the science that I'm looking at says there is no [problem]. There hasn't been any science that identifies that there is a problem. The only thing that I've heard is if you take a plastic bottle and put it in the microwave and you heat it up, it gives off a chemical similar to estrogen. So the worst case is some women may have little beards."

Read it for yourself in the Bangor Daily News.

Actually, as many Daily News readers pointed out in comments on the story, it's testosterone, the male hormone, not estrogen, that bears the blame for unwanted hair growth in women. Oops.

Hundreds of actual scientists who have conducted thousands of studies have found very serious health affects associated with BPA. A few of them:

  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Early puberty
  • Heart disease
  • Infertility
  • Neurological disorders
  • Obesity

I'm not sure what qualifications or education Gov. LePage has that would make him an authority on chemicals that disrupt the endocrine system.

I was in Walt Hoesel's 11th grade chemistry class back in '89; I even passed it. But when reporters call and ask my opinion about the latest study connecting BPA to yet another serious health risk, I put them in touch with scientists from EWG's research department.

In 2008, lawmakers in Maine passed the Kid-Safe Product Act, which set up a system to set priorities for state regulations aimed at protecting children's health. BPA was to be the first "chemical of high concern" to be phased out of baby products.

The plan passed with near-unanimous support among legislators. But since coming into office earlier this year, LePage has been on the warpath to repeal a number of the state's environmental laws. In fact, Ann Robinson with the law firm Preti Flaherty, who represents the toy industry (which uses BPA-based plastics in many products), was a top aide to the LePage transition team and drafted a list of laws and regulations the governor should consider axing - including the ban on BPA.

You can read more about Robinson and her influence in the LePage administration from before he was even sworn in here.

Whatever you do, don't sit back, relax, and assume the government is keeping your products safe.

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