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Charlie Sykes: Sykes Writes

IS BPA SATAN'S SALIVA, OR NOT?

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Or perhaps this should be headlined: 'Conflicts and Closed Minds."

Mark me down as agnostic on the question of whether Bisphenol A is a toxic threat; I'm not a scientist, so I defer to the science and the evidence.  Which is precisely what  Patrick McIlheran seemed to be doing with this blog post:reporting on a meta-study by German toxicologists that found "no noteworthy risk" in BPA.

 Rather a setback, writes Jon Entine in The American, for the notion that bisphenol A is befouling your world.

The German Society of Toxicology recently reviewed thousands of studies of the chemical found in many plastics and concluded that “exposure represents no noteworthy risk to the health of the human population, including newborns and babies.

Bear in mind, however, that McIlheran's newspaper has leveled whole forests in their jihad against BPA, writing thousands of words pushing the dangers of the chemical, trumpeting critics and denigrating defenders. 

Even so it was somewhat surprising to see a senior editors take on the story in the comment section. George Stanley the managing editor of the JS, posted this on McIlheran's blog:

The acknowledgments section reveals that the scientists all have financial ties to the plastics industry -- just as we have found over and over again, regarding this $7 billion product: http://www.jsonline.com/watchdog/34405049.html

Note the word; "all."

Lefties bloggers quickly jumped on Stanley's apparent smackdown of one of the paper's own columnists. But the controversy was just beginning.

The author of the piece cited in the blog,  Jon Entine responded to Stanley... in strong language:

I'm the author of the article from which McIlheran quoted. George Stanley, who is the Vice President/managing editor of this newspaper, wrote: "The acknowledgments section reveals that the scientists all have financial ties to the plastics industry -- just as we have found over and over again, regarding this $7 billion product: http://www.jsonline.com/watchdog/34405049.html".

Facts and integrity matter. The acknowledgments section DOES NOT state that the 9 scientists who wrote this article all have financial ties to the plastics industry. In fact it states almost the exact opposite. The committee was independently chose by the highly non-partisan Society of Toxicology, which has a history of being extremely sympathetic to the precautionary notion. As required by the publishing journal, Critical Reviews in Toxicology, the authors must disclose any links to this issue in a Declaration of Interests section. Only one of the 9 authors have any links to industry, and that scientist has no links to BPA research. Two authors are former government officials who have been involved in risk assessment of BPA but are not linked to industry. The six others have no conflicts at all.

In other words, Mr. Stanley-- the Journal Sentinel editor who helped oversee the biased reporting by this newspaper on BPA--is flat out 100% wrong. He lied to his readers.

Mr. Stanley puts into question the intentions and commitment to accuracy of the Journal Sentinel's coverage of BPA. Science--and readers--depend on transparency and integrity. When a reporter becomes advocate, science loses.

 

McIlheran, then quotes extensively from the report's acknowledgments section. 

The declarations of interest section of the paper reads as follows:

Dr. H. Schweinfurth: I am an employee of Bayer Schering
Pharma, which is a division of Bayer AG. The Material
Sciences division of Bayer AG is one of the producers and
users of BPA. In my activities as a Nonclinical Advisor I am
involved in the development of drugs for my employer,
although I have no responsibilities for industrial chemicals
such as BPA nor a direct relationship to the latter
division.

Prof. U. Gundert-Remy: In my capacity as the former

head of the department responsible for human health
risk assessment of chemicals at the governmental Federal
Institute for Risk Assessment (BFR) in Germany, I have
been involved in the EU risk assessment of bisphenol A.
Dr. W. Völkel: I am an employee of the Bavarian
Health and Food Safety Authority and responsible for
the realization of biomonitoring studies and assessment
of toxicological research and biomonitoring studies of
chemicals such as bisphenol A. I have been involved
in the following studies on BPA: Human exposure to
bisphenol A by biomonitoring: Methods, results and
assessment of environmental exposures (W. Dekant,
W. Völkel. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol 2008;228:114–134).
This study was supported in part by the Polycarbonate/
BPA Global Group; this review represents the individual
professional views of the authors and not necessarily
the views of the Polycarbonate/BPA Global Group.
The studies at the University of Würzburg (Chem
Res Toxicol 2002;15:1281–1287; Drug Metab Dispos
2005;33:1748–1757) were supported by the German
Umweltbundesamt using equipment provided by the
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft and the State of
Bavaria. For the studies at the Bavarian Health and Food
Safety Authority (Toxicol Lett 2008;179:155–162; Environ
Res 2010; in press, doi:10.1016/j.envres.2010.10.001) and
for the present study no external funding was obtained

Authors Hengstler, Foth, Gebel, Kramer, Lilienblum,
and Wollin report no conflicts of interest.
The authors alone are responsible for the content and
writing of the paper.


Thus reads the declarations of interest section of the paper that I linked to. 

Bottomline here: rather than reporting the story, one of the paper's top editor chose to attack the scientists... and appears to have gotten it wrong. If we were so inclined, wouldn't this merit a Pants on Fire?

 

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