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Remember a few years ago, when we learned that our precious reusable water bottles could potentially give us cancer? Those were trying times, indeed. A number of high-profile studies found that bisphenol-A (known to you and me as BPA), a then-common component of the hard-plastic bottles we toted around in our gym bags, could leach out into our water and cause all sorts of endocrine issues, including obesity, diabetes, and the formation of precancerous tumors. So, if you were anything like us, you promptly switched to a steel, glass, or BPA-free-plastic option and called it a day.
Well, cut to a few weeks ago, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration conducted a widely publicized study claiming we'd been overreacting about BPA all along. FDA officials said its study showed no indication that BPA caused any adverse effects in the animals used in its tests. But, as Mother Jones reports, scientists familiar with this particular project have some pretty compelling claims that may discredit the FDA's finding: Apparently, the animals' housing wasn't properly constructed, resulting in leaks that exposed all of the animals to the chemical, including what was supposed to be a control group.
In pretty much every scientific experiment, from seventh-grade chemistry projects to pharmaceutical clinical trials, researchers use a control group — a set number of subjects that do not receive the treatment being tested. This is crucial for proving the legitimacy of any potential findings, as it preempts critics from claiming the results were due to coincidence or error. For its part, the FDA argues that its control group being compromised didn't have any bearing on the validity of the study's results. But, we have to wonder how the agency could possibly come to any sort of sound conclusion about the chemical if it didn't compare its effects to a group of subjects that were not exposed to it. We're talking about basic scientific method here.
Also consider that more than 1,000 studies have found that even low doses of BPA can cause a hormonal imbalance that can lead to any number of health issues. Maybe even more compelling: The FDA has a history of relying on industry lobbyists for its BPA studies. So, call us crazy, but we'll stick with our BPA-free bottles for the foreseeable future.
We've got to mention here that BPA is a chemical used everywhere, and it can be found in everything from tin cans to cash-register receipts. When you think about how many times we come into contact with the stuff every day, it's important to make sure we have all the facts. (Mother Jones)