The first major epidemiological study to assess the risks of bisphenol A -- a chemical found in baby bottles, canned foods, and in 90 percent of Americans -- has been completed, and the results are not good.
Exposure to bisphenol A, or BPA, was linked to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and abnormal liver enzymes.
If that sounds disturbing, it should. Experts -- even BPA's critics -- quickly pointed out that more study needs to be done to prove that BPA actually causes these illnesses and abnormalities, something that will take years.
So what do we do in the meantime? Do we continue to expose ourselves to it, hoping that future studies show it's safe? Or do we try to stay away from it, in case future studies show it's dangerous?
If you're the FDA, you do nothing. Laura Tarantino, head of the FDA's food safety office, told the Associated Press, "Right now, our tentative conclusion is that it's safe, so we're not recommending any change in habits."
The FDA, as I have written earlier, bases that conclusion on two studies sponsored by the American Plastics Council.
Many studies in animals have shown that BPA has adverse effects. The best guess about humans is that BPA is going to be hazardous to us, too. It might not be; unproven means what it says -- unproven. But it doesn't mean safe.
The government wants to wait and see. That attitude toward the financial markets has led to near chaos on Wall Street. Let's hope the same approach applied to BPA doesn't lead to similar chaos in medicine.
Because this time it won't be a question of taxpayers' dollars--it will be a question of taxpayers' lives.