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Good news on phthalates--from an EPA guy!

EPA researcher Dr. Robert Benson somehow found the hours to publish—on his own time, and independent of the Agency—a breakthrough human risk assessment on phthalates. Benson examined human exposure in the US and Germany to all the phthalates that have been implicated in bad rodent effects, to see how this stacks up with current EPA guidelines—replete with their enormous built-in safety factors.

Specifically, Benson looked at dibutyl phthalate, diisobutyl phthalate, butylbenzyl phthalate, diethylhexyl phthalate, dipentyl phthalate, and diisononyl phthalate. Those that recognize the names of these chemicals know that Benson's list is comprehensive.

His conclusion: It is unlikely that humans are suffering adverse developmental effects from current environmental exposure to these phthalate esters. In other words, average daily human exposure to all the measured phthalates combined, does not even reach the most stringent safety level set by the EPA.

This mirrors the Canadian government's recent pronouncement on BPA.

My latest HND piece covers this, along with a portion of the saga on endocrine disruptors (ED), including the tale of notorious scientific fraudster Steven Arnold. Arnold was such a true believer in the nonsensical theory of ED synergism, that he completely fabricated data in support of this hypothesis in a paper published in Science (1996). Not only was the paper retracted in August, 1997, but Arnold was banned from government sponsored research for five years. Many thought he should have been banned for life.

Don't feel bad if you never heard of Arnold's misdeeds. Given the non-PC nature of the story, the mainstream media largely took a pass.

Of course, Arnold's results not being replicated is hardly unique in ED work. It's just that his findings were so important, and so vital to the ED cause, that numerous researchers were compelled to jump into the fray. And, yes, he got caught. But, what about dozens of other efforts that purport to link ED exposure to all kinds of health effects, based largely on questionnaires and data cherry-picking? Such studies may not be Arnold type fraud, in that data exists, yet they are still unworthy of being published in once-reputable journals.

Considering that the EPA alone has spent more than $80 million on endocrine research since 1999, not to mention untold amounts on testing and regulation inspired largely by Arnold's fraudulent paper, isn't it time for Congress to investigate this entire matter?

Or are you OK with major scientific research and regulatory budgets being controlled by feckless chemophobes?


Dallas Willis

I’m so glad about this. I’m aware that exposure to Phthalates through plastic additives poses little risk to human health and development. But of course, with a lot of articles in the internet stating otherwise, it would be hard to compete. Animals are more vulnerable to this, sadly. It’s just overwhelming to find someone in the same side I’m in. :)

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