Scientists Should Look at All the Data

Monday, April 18, 2022
Posted in SAFETY

When people first looked to the sky and saw the movement of the sun, moon and stars, they thought such movement was unpredictable. But when scientists and astronomers like Tycho Brahe and Galileo Galilei saw this, they thought about how to measure, predict and understand the heavens. To help prove their hypothesis, they followed the scientific process: assembling, weighing and evaluating pieces of evidence to come to a defensible conclusion and theory on what was happening.

While some of their initial questions could be easily measured and answered, coming to a comprehensive conclusion about the solar system required them to review and understand the total body of evidence. This same method, the scientific method, is supposed to be used by scientists and regulators today to make decisions on the health and safety of chemicals.

If Brahe or Galileo had only used some of their observation or tools to look at our night sky, we might not know now that the Earth revolves around the sun or that eclipses can be predicted down to the second. Researchers that are trying to understand the health effects of BPA in humans should also want to incorporate as much scientific information as possible into their analysis so they can have a complete picture to make an educated decision.

We have long had a commitment to an evidence-based approach to health, safety and the environment when it comes to our products. The American Chemistry Council (ACC), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as well as other governmental regulatory agencies have been testing, analyzing, and understanding the role BPA plays in human health and the environment for more than two decades. That’s over twenty years of exposure analyses, animal models, pharmacokinetic models, behavioral analyses, metabolic panels and comprehensive reports so that scientists, researchers and U.S. regulators have reviewed the science and have found BPA to be safe.

In school we were taught about science and the scientific method. That science and evidence builds upon itself. You can’t just ignore what has previously been done to validate your thinking. The greatest scientists like Galileo and Brahe talk about how they “stood on the shoulders of giants” in their breakthroughs. Just like these astronomers, regulators have identified, filtered and summarized the available evidence, weighed the evidence based on its strength, relevance and reliability, and then looked at everything together to identify a conclusion.

With this in mind, regulators — like good scientists — should rely on all of the scientific evidence, and not one piece of contradictory evidence. But the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is doing just that in their opinion on BPA, looking at just a small subset of evidence to draw conclusions that are out of step with the rest of the world’s regulators. In understanding the stars and in evaluating health effects, we should be consistently and equitably evaluating the different pieces to truly analyze the weight of the scientific evidence.

Regulators, like astronomers, should not make decisions based on suspicions but should follow scientific evidence.