Health conscious individuals all over the country have been reacting recently to the news that the chemical Biphenyl-A (BPA), found in Nalgene water bottles and other plastics, can be potentially dangerous to humans. Davis has been no exception, and worried citizens are busy replacing their old Nalgenes with BPA-free alternatives.
The safety of reusable plastic water bottles is an enormous issue in local stores. Leia Matern, manager of Outdoor Davis, said “the safety of these products is probably our number one question we get asked.”
“Many UCD students who come into the store are simply being on the safe side, but parents are adamant that they don’t want plastic bottles or anything with BPA,” Matern added.
People need to do their own research, Matern said.
“Many people seem misinformed; they heard something on “Good Morning America” and think all plastic bottles are bad, which isn’t the truth at all.”
One of the biggest controversies has been the use of BPA in baby products.
“Parents have read about this issue and have a lot of concerns,” said Lori Rumsey, owner of Mother and Baby Source in downtown Davis.
Davis citizens are definitely more informed and have been investigating it extensively, Rumsey said.
“There’s just a lot of concern in the Davis community – some parents are upset, and some feel guilty that they’ve been using BPA bottles,” she added.
Like almost all other Davis stores, Mother and Baby Source has been completely sold out of many BPA free bottles and products for the past few months.
“The store hasn’t even been able to keep up with the huge demand the last few months,” Rumsey said. “Glass and stainless steel bottle sales have increased immensely, and the [bottle] companies and distributors are actually all sold out.”
The bottle companies have already reacted to this change in consumer behavior.
“Popular baby bottle companies are revamping their entire product line, and even companies that have never had BPA in their products are releasing press releases to reaffirm that they are BPA-free,” Rumsey said.
Jimmy Spearow, toxicologist and former UC Davis research geneticist and professor, has done research with BPA and was able to offer a scientific perspective on the controversy.
“Some of the biggest concerns relate to developmental exposure to BPA,” Spearow said. “BPA results in meiotic errors in the eggs of mice. If these effects on meioses also occur in humans, they would be expected to result in increased incidence of miscarriages and Down’s Syndrome.”
However, because of animal testing procedures, the studies are difficult to interpret and lead to inconclusive results.
“Data is confounded by many factors including strain differences in sensitivity to estrogenic chemicals,” Spearow said. “If you test on King Kong, you underestimate the effects on Bambi.”
He added that some strains in tests don’t respond to positive control (treatment that should give a strong response), making those tests worthless.
People still must be careful, said Spearow.
“Most people don’t realize what’s at issue – prostate cancer and breast cancer,” he said.
Spearow added that the public should be cautious, because there’s a lot of financial incentive behind this controversy.
“The plastic industry has been saying this isn’t a problem while reporting some evidence and not others,” Spearow said. “The bottom line is BPA doesn’t knock you out like mercury or arsenic, and that’s what makes it difficult.”
KELLY KRAG-ARNOLD can be reached at email@example.com.