Baby Bottles and BPA Briefly Absolved: Wall Street Journal's Plea for Real Science
Posted Feb 01 2010 10:57am
As much as it pains me to say it, the Wall Street Journal kicked some serious anti-science a** this weekend.
Not often my husband's conservative rag makes me wanna cheer. But Baby Bottle Red Alert, an editorial this weekend, is one of the more candid and refreshing retellings of the BPA brouhaha. The WSJ editors leave no interested party out nor for the most part, unscathed, including government agencies, the media, politicians, retailers. Even parents (and their kiddies) toting "Don't Pollute Me" placards - though they pretty much come off as a victims of fearmongering. And okay, politics as usual and just plain bad science.
First off, the WSJ scolds the FDA. The agency that just announced BPA was safe while advising parents to avoid BPA. In other words, pandering to political pressures to label BPA toxic despite little good evidence it's toxic. No wonder it reminds the WSJ of Joe Biden and his wishy-washy remarks during the Swine Flu Scare - flying was completely safe though he wouldn't recommend it for his family. FYI, the editorial reports the FDA asked for "public comment and external input on the science surrounding BPA".
Something I missed in their recent announcement.
So maybe they'd consider the opinions of non-scientists. Like states and U.S. senators (e.g., New Yorkers Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand) eager to legally ban BPA? Or those who've already banned it. Or maybe they'd like to throw into the mix the "self-experiments" peformed by brave enviro-activists authors of "Slow Death By Rubber Duck", who according to the WSJ, tell about how they conducted a media smear campaign to freighten parents into pestering public officials. What about the companies selling those pricey glass baby bottles and water bottles? Do you think they have any comments about BPA?
Then there's the boss at Health Canada, the only country to ban BPA. Who admitted at an Arizona conference of medical folk that "exposures [to BPA] are so low as to be totally inconsequential, in my view,".... despite officially declaring it toxic. While the European Food Safety Authority, Japan, Australia, the FDA, and the EPA have declared it safe - a fact many media reports somehow omit.
Who started the present day mess? The National Toxicology Program whose 2007 report called for a BPA ban due to concern over the brains and prostrate glands of fetuses, babies, and young children based on low-dose animal studies. Ah, yes, something we don't often read or remember except in the WSJ...
...the report's other 320 pages, which mostly exonerate BPA, including the caveat that "'low' dose findings in laboratory animals have proven to be controversial for a variety of reasons, including concern for insufficient replication by independent investigators, questions on the suitability of various experimental approaches, relevance of the specific animal model used for evaluating potential human risks and incomplete understanding or agreement on the potential adverse nature of reported effects."
The National Institute of Health pouring $30 million into BPA research? "A giant fishing expedition" that'll turn up some "false positives" due to the vast amount of studies underway. Okay, so I don't completely agree there with the WSJ. Wouldn't go so far as to call it a fishing expedition. I do think we need more research, if only to rule out some of the more loosey-goosey studies linking BPA levels to human disease and behavior. And to use some newer methods to look at the perhaps more nuanced effects. It's true, though, there's another cost of funding hundreds of studies - false positives and the hoopla, anxiety and confusion they bring to an already anxious public. That's the nature of hypothesis-testing.
So although I don't see eye to eye on everything in the editorial, a big thumbs up today for their sensible read on the situation: "If the FDA wants to further investigate BPA for health effects, then the agency should make sure that it evaluates real science." Amen.
My more liberal- and green-minded friends and readers, remember I threw away the suspect baby bottles. I'm pretty much a vegetarian, know my "dirty dozen" produce, and am trying to reduce my carbon footprint. You know that. And chemical companies, this is not an endorsement of your products. Don't want to hear from you or your clever pr people.
Think of this as plea for a more rational approach to BPA and other environmental baddies (e.g., phthalates). There are consequences when we forget to really look at the evidence or get scared by the bad science. Ahem, cough, cough, vaccines-cause-autism...
And to my beloved New York Times. I've been trying to forgive you ever since you slipped up with that "Breast Feed Or Else" article. Then you said BPA should be banned from baby bottles. Now you let columnists tell only one side of the story (Nicholas Kristof, Is That a Plastic Bottle You’re Drinking From). So now it's come to this. You know I still love you, but I've been reading someone else.