The aspartame controversy has been going on since its inclusion in our food supply since 1981. Originally, Jere E. Goyan, then head of the FDA, refused to approve the manmade chemical because of increased brain leisons, tumors and lymphoma in rats. On his first day in office, President Ronald Reagan removed Goyan. More than that, investigations have suggested that the early studies funded by G.D. Searle & Company (of which Donald Rumsfeld was CEO at the time) doctored the results by replacing dead rats with new ones.
A 2007 study by the Ramazzini Foundation had toxicology and epidemiology experts and the nonprofit Center for Sci-ence in the Public Interest begging the FDA to take another look at aspartame, which can be found in more than just Coke and Pepsi and sugar-free gum. That study, along with others not funded by the companies that make aspartame, found increases in lymphoma, leukemia and breast cancers in rats or correlations between cancer rates and individuals' con-sumption. It also begged the question of how the chemical affects people exposed to it at a much younger age.
The FDA said thanks but no thanks. Much like how they responded to studies finding that artificial food coloring and additives can cause ADHD characteristics in children.
The latest headliner has involved plastic bottles with bisphenol A. The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in mid-September and involved adults. Scientists linked higher levels of bisphenol A in people to higher rates of heart disease, diabetes and liver abnormalities. The FDA said it would look into it, but that it felt a "safe" dose was 50 micrograms per kilogram of body weight per day, and that we should be just dandy. The Grocery Manufacturers Association and American Plastics Council nodded approvingly at the FDA, of course.
But there's more to the BPA story. There's breast cancer.
BPA acts like a hormone, specifically, estrogen. And it only takes a minute, trace amount, or parts per billion 0.0000000705 ounces (I triple-checked those 0s). Retha Newbold, Ph.D., head of developmental endocrinology at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, said that BPA acts like an evil twin of estrogen and interacts with proteins and DNA as well as switch on and off genes under that hormone's control.
If a fetus receives too much estrogen during fetal development, it creates abnormally developed breast tissue and causes oversensitivity to the hormone. Animal studies, according to Self magazine's October issue, show that the offspring of pregnant mice exposed to "extremely" low doses of BPA develop preancerous cells and tumors in their mammary glands at the human equivalent age of early 20s. In other words, they are primed for cancer that could become untreatable.
The California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute in San Francisco discovered that noncancerous breast cells in women that were exposed to a "safe" dose of BPA suddenly had healthy cells that behaved abnormally - like aggressive cancer cells. The senior scientist behind the study, Shanaz H. Dairkee, Ph.D., said he cannot say it is BPA alone, but there was cause and effect.
If you want to avoid BPA and the risk, you have to quit more than plastic bottles. Between 6 to 7 million pounds of the chemical is produced each year in food packaging. That 0.0000000705 ounce amount leaches from cans into your food. The Environmental Working Group tested 97 canned items from three states in 2007 and discovered that 57 percent of food items were contaminated. The EWG study of canned goods found that a "mere one to three servings could expose a woman or child to the doses of BPA that caused serious adverse effects in animals."
That's a lot of money for those companies - not to mention pharmaceutical companies producing cancer drugs. It's FDA inaction (or implementation) like this that makes one believe that the FDA, as the chief scientist of Environmental Health Sciences told Self, "The system doesn't protect public health. It protects products."