A Texas trial is pitting the giant Eastman Chemical against two small labs who said
Eastman's "BPA-free" plastic Tritan still had estrogen-like activity. The trial raises key issues about whether the objectivity of science is skewed by who pays for it -- and whether financial interests should be disclosed.
"By 2012, Eastman Chemical seemed to be perfectly positioned when it came to producing plastic for drinking bottles. Concerns about a widely used chemical called bisphenol A (BPA) had become so great that Walmart stopped selling plastic baby bottles and children's sippy cups made with it and consumer groups were clamoring for regulators to ban it. Medical societies were warning that BPA's similarity to estrogens could disrupt the human hormone system and pose health risks, especially to fetuses and newborns.
As more manufacturers and retailers abandoned BPA, some wanted to make absolutely sure that Eastman's safety claims for Tritan had been reviewed independently. The Austin, Texas, office of upscale grocer Whole Foods, for instance, asked Eastman if it funded "any of these labs" that determined Tritan had no estrogenic properties, according to an email from Eastman chemist Emmett O'Brien and disclosed in a lawsuit."