Here's a twist on a frequently cited industry argument on chemical safety: are alternative materials safer than products that legislators want to ban? Elizabeth Grossman brings up the point on The Atlantic's website today, in "Beyond BPA: Could 'BPA-Free' Products Be Just as Unsafe?" Grossman clearly explains which plastics, and what sorts of products, may contain BPA. She also gives some detail on the current status of BPA regulation and legislation. This story goes beyond the typical news report on BPA safety. She cites Eastman's Tritan copolyester as a material being marketed as a BPA-free alternative to polycarbonate, but without the long history of testing. "The point is not to single out the Eastman Chemical Co. or Tritan copolyester, which may be entirely environmentally benign, but to highlight the dilemma we're in when it comes to assessing the safety of new materials," she writes. "Under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the U.S. law that regulates chemicals in commerce, it's entirely permissible to launch a new material into high-volume production without disclosing its precise chemical identity or any information about its toxicity. "This makes it impossible for the public to assess product safety independently of manufacturer claims. And currently, despite EPA and FDA policies that support 'safe' alternatives to a chemical of concern like BPA, neither federal agency conducts safety testing of new materials destined for consumer products before they come on the market." Grossman concludes that the U.S. needs a better system for testing new materials before they become commercially available. As an observer (but not a participant) of the process for winning food-contact approval, I think she implies too strongly that FDA approval is simple. But it's still a thought-provoking story that will likely get some attention, since BPA remains a material in the headlines.
How safe are BPA-free plastics?
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