August news digest: Recent news & commentary about chemical safety and regulation

August 14, 2013 at 2:37 pm | Posted in News and Science Bulletins | Leave a comment
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A lawsuit filed against two labs founded by UT-Austin professor raises questions of conflict of interest and academic freedom. On its face, Eastman Chemical’s lawsuit against two small Texas labs that have said its plastics may be unsafe for consumption looks like a David and Goliath kind of fight. But the case is also more nuanced, with both sides potentially having a financial stake in the outcome. And it is another example of judiciary and regulators being pushed to decide which research should be allowed to be used in making statements about a chemical’s safety.

What’s all the fuss about the precautionary principle? Summation of the PP debate on the Guardian: the long history of the principle; its quick dismissal in absolutist terms by Sense About Science; its dismissal in favour of a free-for-all technocratic dystopia. Mostly, it is presented by its critics in terms unrecognisable – helpfully, Prof Andrew Maynard, from the University of Michigan’s Risk Science Center, deconstructs the debate into three versions of the precautionary principle.

FDA Bans Bisphenol A in Infant Formula Cans. The Food & Drug Administration has banned the use of bisphenol A (BPA) in epoxy resins that coat infant formula cans. Bizarrely, the FDA says it was not acting because of health worries, noting the action is based only “on a determination of abandonment and is not related to the safety of BPA.” The pronouncement is strange because it has been phased out largely because of public concern about health effects – besides which, how does it make sense to ban a safe material simply because it is not in use?

NGO says REACH dossiers lack relevant EDC data. REACH registrants are failing to fulfil their obligation to identify and present all available and relevant information on substances with endocrine disrupting properties, according to a report published by ClientEarth.

Air pollution linked to higher risk of lung cancer and heart failure. Two studies show effects on health of long- and short-term exposure to pollutants from traffic and industry.

The Decline in Male Fertility. Are today’s young men less fertile than their fathers were? It’s a controversy in the fertility field, with some experts raising the alarm over what some are calling a “sperm crisis” because they believe men’s sperm counts have been decreasing for a decade or more.

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