Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Another "This Could Be Big...Or Not" Post

Sciencenews.org is carrying a story about hormone-like effects from a common chemical, bisphenol-A.  It is a chemical used in polycarbonate plastics, which occur in various household items, such as food containers.  The EPA considers it to be safe in the quantities one ordinarily would be exposed to.  Yet, it turns out that it may have a toxicity that previously was not recognized.
Diabetes from a Plastic?
Estrogen mimic provokes insulin resistance
Science News Online
Week of Jan. 21, 2006; Vol. 169, No. 3 , p. 36

Exposure to small amounts of an ingredient in polycarbonate plastic may increase a person's risk of diabetes, according to a new study in mice. [...]

The newfound contribution of the chemical to insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes, might partially explain the global epidemic of that disease, says Angel Nadal of Miguel Hernández University of Elche in Spain, who led the new study.

The finding is a "wake-up call" for public health researchers who are concerned by the prevalence of diabetes, comments developmental biologist Frederick vom Saal of the University of Missouri–Columbia.
Often, findings such as this turn out to lead nowhere.  For that reason, I would not ordinarily post about a finding that has the potential to be greatly alarming, but which has not been replicated or otherwise validated.  The thing is, type II diabetes mellitus is so dangerous, and is getting to be so prevalent, that anything that might offer a clue as to the reason for the increasing incidence could turn out to be important.

We've all heard stories like this, and we all of seen some of them fade into oblivion, forever relegated to the historical dustbin of false alarms.  I certainly would not recommend that anyone actually do anything differently at this point, to respond to the concern.  It is worth keeping an eye on the subject, though.