In the March/April edition of the magazine Mother Jones, journalist Mariah Blake reports on the increasing concerns raised by bisphenol A (BPA) free plastics and argues that the chemical industry employs big tobacco style tactics to defend products that have come under attack. Blake argues that litigation won in 2013 by Eastman Chemical producer of the “BPA-free” resin Tritan® against George Bittner, CEO of PlastiPure and CertiChem, forms part of this campaign (previously reported on by the FPF). In her article, she details the background on the debate over estrogenic activity (EA) of Tritan and the eventual litigation filed by Eastman. Blake depicts that in response to the mounting evidence of BPA’s adverse health effects, many companies sought BPA free alternatives, of which many remain untested for toxic effects based on the assumption that chemicals are considered safe until proven otherwise. While tests on Tritan® carried out by Eastman showed estrogenic activity (EA), the company decided to only report the negative results of the lowest dose group rather than the entire test. Further, Blake states, Eastman aimed to convince corporate customers not to carry out independent tests for EA. CertiChem, a laboratory testing plastics for EA owned by Bittner, reported EA for Tritan. However, these findings were often ignored by clients, arguably because they were perceived as creating a problem rather than solving one. In 2011, scientists from CertiChem published findings in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives showing that 72% of plastic food contact products leached estrogen active compounds, including polypropylene, polystyrene and Tritan® based plastics (Yang et al. 2011). According to Blake’s report, the American Chemistry Council (AAC) offered $15 000 USD to the scientist Chris Bogert for writing a letter to the editor discrediting Yang et al.’s findings. Simultaneously, another scientist, Thomas Osimitz, was contracted by Eastman to carry out a study testing only some of Tritan®’s ingredients on the hormone-insensitive Charles River Sprague Dawley rat, a study later published in Food Chemistry & Toxicology (Osimitz et al. 2012). Further, a PR blitz aimed to persuade consumers of the product’s safety started preemptively. Rather than challenging Bittner’s results directly, Eastman filed litigation against CertiChem and PlastiPure for false advertising and conflict of interest. Results of a former employee confirming Bittner’s findings of EA were not presented in court because the former employee would have otherwise also testified against Bittner for misrepresenting earlier results in a PlastiPure brochure. The case was won by Eastman in July 2013. Since, CertiChem and PlastiPure have appealed the ruling.
Mariah Blake. “The Scary New Evidence on BPA-Free Plastics.” Mother Jones, March / April ed..