Do We Really Need to Worry About BPA?
A new study on BPA and miscarriage is getting lots of buzz, but some say it may be more hype than fact.
If you are concerned about miscarriage, should you stop touching cash register receipts and eating canned soup? That seemed to be the takeaway message from a recent headline-grabbing study that found a possible link between miscarriage and exposure to Bisphenol-A (BPA), a chemical agent found in many consumer plastics items, including some large plastic water jugs, canned food linings, and the coating on thermal heat printed cash register receipts.
BabyZone blogger Alice Gomstyn covered the specifics of the BPA study in detail, but here’s the scoop: a group of researchers tracked just over 100 pregnant women with a history of miscarriage or infertility. Sixty-eight women in the study ultimately had miscarriages while 47 had live births. When researchers took blood samples, they found that those with the highest levels of BPA in their blood were also the most likely to miscarry.
The findings were presented before an annual meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, with media in attendance buzzing almost immediately over the statistics.
But now that the scientific community has had a chance to mull over the research?
They’re not impressed.
Angela Logomasini, Ph.D, a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum and Competitive Enterprise Institute, who conducts research and analysis on environmental regulatory issues, is one of the most vocal critics of the alarm-raising study.
In an article for Forbes.com, Logomasini points out that researchers didn’t find any kind of cause-and-effect relationship between BPA and miscarriage, only an association in a very small group of women.
“Researchers express the strength of such associations numerically as a ‘risk ratio.’ In this study, the risk ratio for the highest risk group was 1.83, which is low and suggests that the result may have arisen by accident or researcher bias,” she wrote.
The research team also failed to investigate any possible cause of the women’s miscarriages. It was known that all women in the study had a history of miscarriage and infertility, but unknown if women shared any other health similarities or common characteristics.
One more problem with the study? How women’s BPA levels were measured. “BPA was measured only once,” Logomasini explained. “Since BPA levels in the body can fluctuate considerably over time, one-time measures can’t reveal which women really have higher exposures. Accordingly, the data going into the study is not good enough to draw conclusions.”
As someone who reads a lot of health news stories, I am relieved that Logomasini and others are speaking out about this study. I’m no fan of BPA, but what I loathe even more is anything that makes women who are already in a difficult place feel worse—which is where the hype surrounding this study seemed to be headed. Miscarriage is devastating, and maybe there is some kind of link with BPA… or perhaps there isn’t. Or not for every woman, or even most women. Until we have some stronger evidence in hand, it just seems amazingly cruel to let any woman think she lost her baby because she likes shopping, staying hydrated, and having tomato soup for lunch.
Do you go out of your way to avoid BPA?
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