Chemical conglomerate targets small business testing for endocrine-disruptors.

Estrogen-Activity, BPA, BPA-Substitutes and Legal Shenanigans.

I usually try very hard to stay out of strategic maneuvering.  It has always seemed dishonest and sneaky and I’d rather not be anywhere near it.  But . . . there are some strange things going on in the world of plastics.  Eastman Chemical company has filed a lawsuit against a tiny company (Certichem, see earlier post) that tests chemicals for estrogen activity.  Eastman was one of the first companies to market Bisphenol A-free (BPA-free) water bottles.  The problem is that BPA-free is not the same thing as Estrogen-Activity Free.  As bad luck would have it, Eastman’s product tested positive for Estrogen activity.  That is a bad news because Eastman is advertising its product as Estrogen-Activity Free.   One would hope that Eastman would go back to the lab and change their formula.  They still have a huge market advantage and people would appreciate their continued efforts to produce safe, high quality materials.  People respect those who can recognize their own weaknesses and admire those who persist in their efforts until they achieve their goals.  I tell my students this all the time. 

The US Naval Academy now uses BPA-free water bottles.  This picture, however, was taken at West Point. 

Maybe Eastman is working on this privately, but are embarrassed, or fearful that people might lose faith in them.  What they have done is sue Certichem for publishing the results of their tests.  Certichem is headed by Dr. George Bittner a neuroscientist at the University of Texas.  Academics publish stuff.  That’s how we rack up points, status and look hot.   Articles published in scientific journals undergo (usually) rigorous peer review.  See video on the right for an historical look at peer-review.  Competition to publish in top-ranked journals like Environmental Health Perspectives is intense and only top quality work will make it to publication.  Certichem published in Environmental health Perspectives.

The consensus in the hallways is that Eastman is trying to shut Certichem down.  As a multi-billion dollar company Eastman can probably do that.  It would be a shame to lose Certichem’s voice and to lose the contributions a small company can offer to our future.  Perhaps Eastman could work with, instead of against, small businesses.  A lot of innovation, ingenuity and drive come from such places.  It would be to Eastman’s, and everyone’s, advantage to support them.

Below are links to the Certichem paper and to the American Chemical Council’s response.   Yang et al.’s (Certichem’s) response to criticism can be found here.

Yang CZ, Yaniger SI, Jordan VC, Klein DJ, & Bittner GD (2011). Most plastic products release estrogenic chemicals: a potential health problem that can be solved. Environmental health perspectives, 119 (7), 989-96 PMID: 21367689 

Kelce WR, & Borgert CJ (2011). In vitro detection of estrogen activity in plastic products using a sensitive bioassay: failure to acknowledge limitations. Environmental health perspectives, 119 (9) PMID: 21885376

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