The global chemical industry annually produces about 6 billion pounds of bisphenol A (BPA), an integral component of a vast array of plastic products, generating at least $6 billion in annual sales. The value of BPA-based manufactured goods is probably incalculable. Environmental Working Group studies have found BPA in more than half the canned foods and beverages sampled from supermarkets across the U.S.
Soon after scientists Frederick Vom Saal and Wade Welshons found the first hard evidence that miniscule amounts of BPA caused irreversible changes in the prostates of fetal mice, a scientist from Dow Chemical Company showed up at the Missouri lab. He disputed the data and declared, as Vom Saal recalls, "We want you to know how distressed we are by your research."
"It was not a subtle threat," Vom Saal says. "It was really, really clear, and we ended up saying, threatening us is really not a good idea."