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Consumers who use 5-gallon water coolers at home or at work could easily have become concerned by a factual error in the August 2000 Consumer Reports magazine. In an article comparing taste and cost for a range of bottled waters, Consumer Reports claimed that bisphenol-A, a chemical used to make polycarbonate plastic for 5-gallon water cooler bottles and many other food containers, causes cancer.

When the American Plastics Council contacted Consumer Reports in August to object to the original allegation as incorrect, the magazine attempted a clarification that only adds to reader confusion: "While there is a substantial body of scientific evidence that strongly suggests bisphenol-A is a carcinogen, it has not been officially classified as one."

This statement is misleading, and is still wrong.

"What Consumer Reports' readers need to know is that the best available scientific evidence does not support the claim that bisphenol-A is either a known or even a suspected carcinogen," said Dr. James Lamb, a past president of the American Board of Toxicology formerly with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP). "In 1982, NTP conducted studies on bisphenol-A following the standard protocols used internationally for testing carcinogenic potential. In its final report, NTP concluded there was 'no convincing evidence that bisphenol A was carcinogenic.'"

Since then, numerous studies on various aspects of bisphenol-A have been conducted by industry, academic and government researchers, and the weight of the scientific evidence continues to support NTP's conclusion.

Dr. John Heinze, an independent scientist with John Adams & Associates whose expertise is in interpretation of scientific evidence to predict carcinogenicity, stated, "Bisphenol-A is not considered a 'suspected carcinogen' by any regulatory agency or government. Products made from bisphenol-A are accepted for food contact use by all major international regulatory agencies responsible for protecting human health, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Scientific Committee on Foods of the European Union and the Japan Ministry for Health and Welfare. Each agency takes into account the carcinogenicity of a product before, during and after approval is given."

According to Dr. Heinze, "(The NTP assessment) is a quite strong conclusion considering that laboratory mice and rats in this study were fed high levels of bisphenol-A for their entire adult lives and then examined for every possible type of cancer. Furthermore, NTP's scientists are recognized experts in conducting such tests."

"For more than 40 years the polycarbonate industry has been making products that are safe, convenient and enhance the quality of life for consumers," said Dr. Steven G. Hentges, executive director of the Polycarbonate Business Unit at the American Plastics Council. "The polycarbonate industry is committed to safety, and we are continuing to test our products under the highest scientific standards and share that data with regulatory agencies so they have the latest and most up-to-date information available.

"We're concerned that this misinformation about bisphenol-A could prevent consumers from drinking the 6-8 glasses of water they need every day for good health. Many home and office water coolers use plastic bottles because they are cost-effective, lighter and shatter-resistant. Consumers who drink water from 5-gallon water coolers can feel confident in using polycarbonate containers."

For more information, call 703-253-0700.
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Publication:Industrial Environment
Date:Nov 1, 2000

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