Letter to Chairman-Elect Chaffetz Regarding Agency Duel Over BPA | Council For Citizens Against Government Waste

Letter to Chairman-Elect Chaffetz Regarding Agency Duel Over BPA

December 10, 2014  

Chairman-Elect Jason Chaffetz
House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
Rayburn House Office Building 2157
Washington, D.C.  20515  

 

Dear Chairman-Elect Chaffetz,  

Congratulations on being elected as Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.  We are all looking forward to working with you in the 114th Congress on issues of mutual interest.  

As you begin to review potential targets for oversight, we want to let you know of our concerns over the waste of taxpayer dollars at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is funding research on the indirect food additive bisphenol A, better known as BPA, even though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has found the product to be safe since the 1960s.      

The FDA states that “BPA is a chemical component present in polycarbonate plastic used in the manufacture of certain beverage containers and most food can liners.”  The agency “acknowledges the interest that many consumers have in BPA,” and “has performed extensive research and reviewed hundreds of studies about BPA’s safety,” which has led to the conclusion that “current approved uses of BPA in food containers and packaging are safe.”  

Despite the FDA’s nearly 50 years of findings that BPA is safe, the agency and companies that use BPA continue to come under fire from environmental groups and other critics.  Much of the ammunition for those complaints is coming from academic research studies on BPA that attempt to undermine the FDA through grants funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), which is part of the NIH, FDA’s sister agency at the Department of Health and Human Services.  

These studies help perpetuate what New York Times reporter Andrew Revkin has called the  “‘single-study syndrome,’ the habit of the more aggressive camps of advocates surrounding hot issues (e.g., climate, chemical exposure, fracking) to latch onto and push studies supporting an agenda, no matter how tenuous — or dubious — the research might be.”  

Jon Entine, a journalist who “writes skeptically about science, public policy, media, and nongovernmental organizations” and is a contributor to Forbes, believes the academic scientists who look for any effect from BPA, whether it is harmful or not, have a sympathizer in the current director of NIEHS, Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D.  

Between 2000 and 2014, $172.7 million in research grants were given to scientists to study BPA’s effect on humans, particularly as an endocrine disruptor.  More than 70 percent of the total funding, or $121,483,781, was provided between 2010 and 2014, much of it going to scientists already known to have a strong bias against BPA.  This time period coincides with the tenure of Dr. Birnbaum.  The NIEHS director has been criticized by members of Congress for her participation in
biased activities when, as a federal official at a science-based agency, she should be focused instead on supporting only impartial research.  

In addition to the FDA’s findings that BPA is safe as currently used, the European Food Safety Authority has found that “the level of BPA that consumers of all ages are exposed to is well below the estimated level of safe exposure.”    

We are all against wasteful spending and do not hesitate to identify, expose, and help to eliminate the foolish expenditure of tax dollars at federal agencies, including the FDA.  But we are particularly outraged when one agency hands out more than $120 million in research grants that can be used in an attempt to undermine and reverse the statutorily-authorized regulatory work and conclusive scientific findings of another taxpayer-funded agency.    

We would appreciate your assistance in having the Oversight and Government Reform Committee investigate NIEHS grants and how they are being utilized, as well as the “duel” between the NIH and FDA concerning BPA.  

Thank you for your consideration of our request, and again, congratulations on being elected Chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.  

Sincerely,  

Grover Norquist, President Americans for Tax Reform

Peter Pitts, President and Co-founder Center for Medicine in the Public Interest (former FDA Associate Commissioner)  

Angela Logomasini, Ph.D. Senior Fellow Competitive Enterprise Institute   

Thomas Schatz, President Council for Citizens Against Government Waste  

George Landrith, President Frontiers of Freedom  

Julie Gunlock, Senior Fellow Independent Women's Forum

Jeff Stier, Senior Fellow National Center for Public Policy Research Director, Risk Analysis Division  

Brandon Arnold, Executive Vice President National Taxpayers Union   

cc:  The Honorable Darrell Issa Chairman House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

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