Did the rats in the GM corn study drink their water from BPA bottles?

**Updated 90/30/12 at the end of the post.

In my previous post, I noted that the researchers in the now-infamous GM corn/rat study had used polycarbonate cages, rather a no-no when you're doing work with compounds you suspect of being endocrine disruptors. Why? Because polycarbonate plastic leaches bisphenol A (BPA). As it happens, the strain of rats used in this study takes up BPA via the skin quite easily, and BPA in male rats is linked to mammary tumors, which male rats in this study developed. 

As this slide show here indicates (screenshot below), these researchers certainly were aware that they were dealing with a study in the endocrine-disruption context [viewing requires QuickTime], yet they did not take steps to prevent this exposure. Another issue that  experts in this field argue requires special care in such studies (update: despite the broad nature of what's written at that link, according to at least on of the authors, the real concern is only with studies of BPA) that authors appear to have overlooked is using animal feed that could serve as a source of estrogenic compounds. And finally, the biggest no-no of all? Using polycarbonate water bottles, which are known to leach BPA.


When writing the earlier post, I had only information about the cages and the cage supplier the group used. Today, thanks to a Tweet, I got to watch a video that shows the water bottles this research group used, up close and personal. As I'd noted yesterday on this post by Orac at Respectful Insolence, my observations about the polycarbonate cages and the potential influence of bisphenol A leaching were speculative, but certainly less so than the authors' self-debunked hypothesis for the GM corn they used. In that comment, I added, 
if the water bottles were not glass … then what I wrote moves beyond the speculative.
Here are some screenshots from videos that this group has posted to YouTube to promote--surprise!--the anti-GMO movie, Tous Cobayes [All Guinea Pigs]. It starts out with hilariously silly scenes of slow-walking people in scrubs, footies, and face masks that I think were intended to build suspense but that really reflect what any animal tech or researcher has to do every day when entering an animal care facility. It also happens to feature several close-up views of the water bottles this group used to give their 200 study rats access to water for two years. Here are the screenshots.




As you can see, it's a rather unusual-looking bottle, not one I've encountered before in my own work with rodents, using glass bottles. But it's difficult--for me, at least--to tell if it's plastic or glass based on these views. So, I looked for the supplier.

I found the supplier here. It happens to be Genestil, the same France-based supplier of the polycarbonate cages the GM/rat researchers housed those rats in for two years. 
And according to this product description for "biberons" [bottles] that this group's cage supplier offers, the bottle in question, based on a visual match of its unusual three-tiered style, is a 750-ml version that is made of macrolon, also known as ... polycarbonate [PDF]. I don't find glass bottles in their catalog.
If that is true, then this study that the authors knew before the fact likely would involve endocrine disruption subjected 200 rats to two years of living in polycarbonate cages leaching the known endocrine disruptor bisphenol A and sucking down water from bottles leaching the same. For two years. If it is true, it's no wonder their control values overlapped with other values and their data made no sense, even with the Roundup treatments in water.

These are "ifs," I know. And even without these factors, the study falls to the ground for many, many other reasons. But frankly, I'm upset with these researchers. In their zeal, they have treated scientists and their other readers with an off-handed sort of arrogance in the way they obscured their data, tried to manipulate the news media (succeeding, by the way), and concealed conflicts of interest (book! movie! official anti-GMO activism!), apparently based on the assumption that all of us--critics and fans alike--are a bunch of fools who won't see through their oh-so-clever sleights of hand. Fooling people once or twice or three times? That's one thing. But if they wasted 200 helpless rats bursting with tumors (where are those control tumors?) in their crusade and their very basic animal husbandry was an experimental confounder that makes their crazy results totally useless? The rats don't get to choose here. 

I have emailed the contact email on the GM/rat study asking two things. The first is, Was their supplier for the water bottles the same as that for the cages? The second is, Were the bottles they used glass ... or plastic?
---------------------------------------------------
****In an email exchange with a well-known EDC researcher, I've been told that the BPA exposure routes via polycarbonate cages and/or bottles is of specific concern to BPA-related studies only. I don't understand why that is, given the confounding potential of BPA or any other EDC compound in a study involving EDCs, but that's what this investigator said. All that time we spent looking for glassware instead of polycarbonate products, wasted!  Not really. I still argue that in such studies, we need to be as careful as possible to exclude potentially confounding exposures.