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Book on BPA by Sarah Vogel

Vogel, Sarah. “Is It Safe?: BPA and struggle to define the safety of chemicals”, University of California Press, release date, December 20, 2012.


We are all just a little bit plastic. Traces of bisphenol A or BPA, a chemical used in plastics production, are widely detected in our bodies and environment. Is this chemical, and its presence in the human body, safe? What is meant by safety? Who defines it, and according to what information? Is It Safe? narrates how the meaning of the safety of industrial chemicals has been historically produced by breakthroughs in environmental health research, which in turn trigger contests among trade associations, lawyers, politicians, and citizen activists to set new regulatory standards. Drawing on archival research and extensive interviews, author Sarah Vogel explores the roots of the contemporary debate over the safety of BPA, and the concerns presented by its estrogen-like effects even at low doses. Ultimately, she contends that science alone cannot resolve the political and economic conflicts at play in the definition of safety. To strike a sustainable balance between the interests of commerce and public health requires recognition that powerful interests will always try to shape the criteria for defining safety, and that the agenda for environmental health research should be protected from capture by any single interest group.  see Amazon


Poster Presentation and Talk by Dr. Sarah Vogel

  • "Low Dose Politics - the scientific, political and economic history of bisphenol A" (poster not available)
  • Vogel, S. A. (2009). The politics of plastics: the making and unmaking of bisphenol a "safety". Am J Public Health, 99 Suppl 3, November, S559-566.
    Abstract - Bisphenol A (BPA), a synthetic chemical used in the production of plastics since the 1950s and a known endocrine disruptor, is a ubiquitous component of the material environment and human body. New research on very-low-dose exposure to BPA suggests an association with adverse health effects, including breast and prostate cancer, obesity, neurobehavioral problems, and reproductive abnormalities. These findings challenge the long-standing scientific and legal presumption of BPA's safety. The history of how BPA's safety was defined and defended provides critical insight into the questions now facing lawmakers and regulators: is BPA safe, and if not, what steps must be taken to protect the public's health? Answers to both questions involve reforms in chemical policy, with implications beyond BPA.


Sarah Vogel joined Johnson Family Foundation in January of 2009. Prior to JFF she was the John C. Haas Fellow at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. She serves as co-chair of the Catalysts Working Group on chemical policy and green chemistry of Health & Environmental Funders Network. She received a Ph.D. from Columbia University and wrote her dissertation on the history of the political and scientific debates about bisphenol A. She also holds graduate degrees in public health and environmental management from Yale University and a bachelor's degree from the University of Virginia. Prior to attending graduate school, she worked for several years at the W. Alton Jones Foundation in Charlottesville, VA.  Dr. Vogel is now with EDF.

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