Research digest #2 (Sept 2013). Recent peer-reviewed research into chemical toxicity, risk assessment and risk management

September 12, 2013 at 2:07 pm | Posted in News and Science Bulletins | Leave a comment
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BPA, Respiratory illness. BPA and Altered Airway Cells: Association Seen in Rhesus Macaques after Third-Trimester Exposure. This study shows that BPA exposure late in gestation alters airway cell development in rhesus macaques. Previously epidemiological studies have found evidence of an association between prenatal BPA exposure and wheeze in young children, and between postnatal exposure and childhood asthma. (Synopsis here.)

Nanotechnology, Science and policy. Communication about scientific uncertainty: how scientists and science journalists deal with uncertainties in nanoparticle research. This study identifies an imbalance in how reviewers, researchers and the media describe the results of studies into new technologies, in this case nanotechnology. Researchers tend to be invested in the technology and emphasise applications rather than risks; public relations representatives and journalists emphasise benefits; only reviewers tend to be more balanced and sceptical in reporting uncertainties and risks. This leads to a major imbalance in public discussion and perception of risk/benefit trade-offs in new technologies.

Endocrine disruption, Science and policy. Science and policy on endocrine disrupters must not be mixed: a reply to a “common sense” intervention by toxicology journal editors. “Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.” Quoting Einstein, a group of researchers investigating endocrine disruption give a cheerful savaging to a recent letter by editors of 14 toxicology journals, accusing EU regulations of “ignor[ing] scientific evidence and well-established principles of chemical risk assessment”.

Food additives, Science and policy. Conflicts of Interest in Approvals of Additives to Food Determined to Be Generally Recognized as Safe: Out of BalanceIn JAMA Internal Medicine. This study finds that for 451 of FDA food additive safety notifications, 22.4% of the safety assessments were made by an employee of an additive manufacturer, 13.3% by an employee of a consulting firm selected by the manufacturer, and 64.3% by an expert panel selected by either a consulting firm or the manufacturer. A standing expert panel selected by a third party made none of these safety assessments.

Cancer, Science and policy. Protecting the Cancer Susceptibility Curve. A commentary with bite: “Why might the U.S. EPA and its stakeholders be spending so much effort refining allometric scaling procedures, dialing back the estimation of exposure to the maximally exposed individual, and positing sophisticated nonlinear modes of action, while continuing to make the unscientific assertion that we are all equally susceptible to carcinogenesis? I observe that the first three improvements tend to result in lower estimated risk and less environmental protection, whereas shining a light on human variation in cancer susceptibility would tend to have the opposite effect on risk estimates.”

BPA, Exposure. High Bioavailability of Bisphenol A from Sublingual Exposure. Findings suggest that (unconjugated) BPA can be efficiently and rapidly absorbed through the oral mucosa after sublingual exposure. This route of BPA bypasses liver metabolism and may lead to higher BPA internal exposures than known for BPA absorption from the gastrointestinal tract. (See this commentary for a synopsis.)

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