A retired medical supply manufacturer who considers bisphenol A to be perfectly safe gave $5 million to the research center headed by the chairman of a Food and Drug Administration panel about to rule on the chemical’s safety. The donation from Charles Gelman is nearly 50 times the annual budget of the University of Michigan Risk Science Center, where Martin Philbert is founder and co-director. Philbert did not disclose the donation to the FDA, and agency officials learned of it when reporters asked about it. Gelman said he considers the chemical, which is used to make baby bottles and aluminum can liners, to be safe. The decision of Philbert’s committee is expected to have huge implications on the regulation and sale of the chemical in items such as baby bottles, reusable food containers and plastic wraps. Since the late 1990s, studies have linked bisphenol A to cancer, heart disease, obesity, reproductive failures and hyperactivity in laboratory animals.
Archive for December, 2008
A five-year grizzly bear study by the US Geological Survey shows that an isolated population of grizzly bears in northwest Montana is doing much better than previously believed; after completing a DNA analysis of grizzly bear hair samples and then running a statistical analysis, the USGS came up with a figure of 765 bears, compared to previous estimates of 200-300. The study will surely be cited as evidence that all is well by those who are arguing that it’s time to remove the bear from the threatened species list, a program that has long been criticized by many Republicans as overly burdensome.
An effort to bring endangered Mallorcan toads back from the brink of extinction has blighted them with an infectious fungus that is wiping them out. A recent paper in Current Biology details how the captive breeding and subsequent reintroduction of the Mallorcan Midwife Toad – on the red-list of endangered species – has infected populations in the wild with Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, a fungus that has been threatening amphibians worldwide for the past ten years. The fungus hasn’t been as devastating to the midwife toad as to other amphibian species. A valuable lesson is that breeding programs must be monitored to make sure they don’t become hot beds of infections for the very species they are intended to save.