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In this issue:

=> Feature Story: Conflicting New Studies on BPA Hazards
=>  PSI Ranked a "Best Place to Work"
=>  Highlights From the PSI Newsblog



Conflicting New Studies on BPA Hazards


by Dale McGeehon
Exclusive to Polymer Solutions News
Mice

Caption: Mice involved in the University of Missouri test of the effects of BPA on obesity. In one side effect of the original study, offspring sometimes changed color. Photo courtesy of Tim Wall, MU News Bureau.

The new year has brought a rash of stories about the adverse health effects caused by bisphenol A (BPA), a molecular building-block of polymers. But chemical advocates are challenging these findings, while other researchers find it hard to reproduce some BPA study results. Here's a rundown on what the latest studies indicate.

Link Between BPA and Kidney Damage?

On January 9th, researchers at the New York University School of Medicine published a study showing that even low levels of BPA in children increase their oxidative stress and inflammation, which promotes protein leakage into their urine. These proteins are biomarkers for early renal impairment and could indicate that children have a risk of developing coronary heart disease in the future, says Dr. Leonardo Trasande, associate professor of pediatrics, environmental medicine, and population health at the NYU School of Medicine. He was a co-lead author of the study published in Kidney International.

"Together with our previous study of BPA and obesity, this new data adds to already existing concerns about BPA as a contributor to cardiovascular risk in children and adolescents," says Dr. Trasande. "It further supports the call to limit exposure of BPA in this country, especially in children," he says. "Removing it from aluminum cans is probably one of the best ways we can limit exposure. There are alternatives that manufacturers can use to line aluminum cans."

While some uses for BPA have been banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, BPA is still a residual monomer of certain plastics used to make water bottles and to line the inside of metal cans. However, its use has come under increasing scientific scrutiny as researchers claim that it could disrupt endocrine function and interfere with some cell function. Surveys have shown that nearly 92% of children by the age of 6 have some trace of BPA in their urine. An earlier study by Trasande found an association between obesity in children and adolescents with higher traces of BPA in their urine.

An Opposing Point of View

A representative of the American Chemistry Council (ACC) disputed the NYU School of Medicine's findings. The analysis used by the researchers is "incapable of establishing any connection between BPA and any chronic disease because it cannot establish any cause-and-effect relationship," says Dr. Steven Hentges of the ACC.

"The authors themselves state that: 'our cross-sectional study cannot definitely confirm that BPA contributes to heart disease or kidney dysfunction in children,' and they note the need for further research," Hentges says. "Importantly, the study did not actually measure any effects on the heart or kidneys but only speculates about such effects. As stated by the authors: '[The] pediatric patients in our study had no demonstrable evidence of CKD [chronic kidney disease].'"

Dr. Hentges says studies conducted by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory show that the way that the body processes BPA, it is very unlikely that BPA can cause health effects at any realistic exposure level. Regulators from Europe to Japan have reviewed hundreds of studies on BPA and have repeatedly supported the continued safe use of the chemical.

The latest findings of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, released Friday, February 8, involve a study funded by the Environmental Protection Agency to review and compare the results of 150 studies on BPA. According to The Wall Street Journal science reporter Robert Lee Hotz, the study "found the exposure levels generally much too low to affect the human body."

Flawed Study Linking BPA and Childhood Obesity

Making the question of health effects of BPA even more muddled, in late January, researchers at the University of Missouri failed to replicate results of other mice studies claiming that exposure to BPA and genistein -- a chemical structurally similar to estrogen, that occurs naturally in soybeans and is commonly sold as a dietary supplement -- resulted in offspring that were more susceptible to obesity, reports Futurity. The university study does not prove that BPA is safe, but just that the previous series of studies are not reproducible, which reduces the earlier studies' meaningful scientific validity.

"Our findings don't say anything about the positive or negative effects of BPA or genistein," says Cheryl Rosenfeld, associate professor of biomedical sciences in University of Missouri's Bond Life Science Center. "Rather, our series of experiments did not detect the same findings as reported by another group on the potential developmental effects of BPA and genistein when exposure of young occurs in the womb."

Nevertheless, more governments are taking action against BPA. For example, the Board of Environmental Protection in Maine approved a ban on BPA in packaging for baby food and infant formula, reports the Portland Press Herald. California's Environmental Protection Agency could soon list BPA as a reproductive hazard, reports SF Gate. Under the action, manufacturers would be required to include warning labels on products with hazardous amounts of BPA. What is considered hazardous? Exposure levels of more than 290 micrograms of BPA a day. To put this in context: the recommended safe amount of caffeine per day is 300 milligrams, or 1,000 times greater than the amount of BPA defined as "safe."

Source: "BPA linked to potential adverse effects on heart and kidneys," New York University School of Medicine, 1/9/13
Source: "Study Lacks Sufficient Evidence to Claim That BPA Causes Adverse Effects on Heart or Kidneys," American Chemistry Council, 1/9/13
Source: "Mouse Study Contradicts BPA Link to Obesity," Food Product Design, 1/29/13
Source: "Repeat BPA study can't replicate results," Futurity, 1/8/13
Source: "BPA ban approved for Maine food packages," Portland Press Herald, 1/24/13
Source: "State EPA plans to list BPA as harmful," SF Gate, 1/25/13


PSI Ranked a "Best Place to Work"


by Katie McCaskey
Exclusive to Polymer Solutions News

psi_pirates.jpg

Polymer Solutions (PSI) was named one of the Best Places to Work in Virginia. A total of 39 Virginia businesses in the "small company" category earned that distinction in 2013. Polymer Solutions Incorporated ranked 18th and was the only business from the New River Valley or Roanoke Valley that made the list in this category.

Could the nod be thanks to PSI's stated "No Jerks" employment policy?

Certainly, but the ranking could also be a result of the additional employee benefits, including: Starbucks coffee brewed fresh daily, 11 paid holidays per year, breakfast courtesy of PSI every Friday, an annual celebration of "Talk Like a Pirate Day," and bi-monthly company events known as "Fishy Fridays." PSI employees also enjoy paid memberships to a local health and fitness center and flexible hours for parents.

PSI is always looking for new talent. Contact us at employment@polymersolutions.com to discuss how your skills and experience could contribute.

Photo: Polymer Solutions Incorporated


Highlights From the Polymer Solutions Newsblog

The PSI Newsblog features original reporting on breaking news in the fields of plastics analysis, plastics testing, and plastics failure. Here are this month's most popular articles:

  1. Top 25 Innovations Made With Polymers, Part 1
    To commemorate Polymer Solutions Incorporated's 25 years in business, we've collected the top 25 innovations using polymers and plastics that are making the world a better -- and cooler -- place. Here are the first 13. Are there other innovations that you'd suggest?
  2. Top 25 Innovations Made With Polymers, Part 2
    If flexible robots, polymer skin, or artificial corneas didn't impress you in part 1 ("Greetings, robot overlords!"), check out these other top inventions made possible thanks to polymers.
  3. Polymer Hydrogel Zaps Microbes
    Research scientists and computer experts have developed a polymer anti-microbial hydrogel that not only can clean surfaces and protect against infection in medical devices, but also be injected into the body to treat tough infections.
  4. Common Plastics in Environment Absorb Contaminants
    A California study shows that the most commonly produced plastics that are littered in the environment are also the ones that absorb the most chemicals, a finding that poses a greater risk for marine animals and those that eat them.
  5. Plastic Cup Reduces Paper Waste at Landfills
    Starbucks, the large coffee chain, now has reusable plastic cups that customers can purchase along with their grande half-caf, double pump soy latte. Made out of 100% virgin polypropylene (PP), the plastic cups -- in 12- and 16-oz sizes (tall and grande, respectively, if you speak Starbucks) -- are expected to help reduce 4 billion disposable (and used) cups annually taken to landfills.

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