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On Thursday, April 1, Time published a list of the "ten most common
household toxins," focused on plastics. It claimed, "Chemicals in
plastics and other products seem harmless, but mounting evidence links
them to health problems — and Washington lacks the power to protect
us." Top of the list was Bisphenol A, or BPA for short.
BPA is an important
ingredient in many of the plastic products that have made modern life
inexpensive and convenient. BPA is used to make shatterproof water
bottles, CDs, food and beverage cans, sporting equipment, eyeglass
lenses, and countless medical supplies. Environmentalists argue that it
is a toxic substance that should be banned. But there is little
scientific evidence that suggests BPA is harmful, and much that
suggests it is not.
California provides a
good example of how the environmentalists have waged their war. On July
15, 2009, the state's Developmental and Reproductive Toxicant
Identification Committee voted not to list BPA as a reproductive
toxicant under the terms of California's Safe Drinking Water and Toxic
Enforcement Act of 1986 (Proposition 65). The very same day, the
Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) submitted a 327-page petition
to the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of
Environmental Health Hazard Assessment to begin a different process by
which BPA could be listed as a reproductive toxicant.
The NRDC petition is
pathetically weak. It includes as evidence a 2008 National Toxicology
Program (NTP) report that showed no harm to humans from BPA, but called
for further study. That study is now under way at the federal level,
with the National Institutes of Health spending $30 million on research
over the next two years. Neither the petition or the NTP report
provides any reason for California to ban the substance before the
results of the study come in.
Other evidence favors
keeping BPA on the market. A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
report published in the scholarly journal Toxicological Sciences in
October 2009 also showed no harm to humans from BPA.
The state — which is
mired in budget crisis — is wasting public funds to indulge the whims
of a single special-interest group. Yet it is not just taxpayer money
that is at stake. NRDC is sending a message to businesses nationwide:
If you use BPA — whether to make toys, eyeglasses, or medical equipment
— don't invest here. For no company will invest in a state — and thus
create jobs and expand facilities in that state — if the state is
threatening to stop manufacturing in the near future. NRDC's whim is
helping to prolong California’s recession.
Ironically, the same
EPA study that found no effect from BPA found significant effects from
the oral contraceptive Ethinyl Estradiol. Yet when environmental groups
are asked whether they should campaign against contraceptive use, they
prevaricate. Curt Cunningham, water-quality-issues chairman for the
Rocky Mountain Chapter of Sierra Club International, dismissed such
demands in 2007, saying, "I suspect people would not take kindly to
that... For many people, it's an economic necessity." Only ideology can
explain such a double standard.
The war against BPA is
an unrelenting, well-funded propaganda campaign to disregard science in
favor of ideology. Every time science scores a victory, the
environmental establishment opens another front. When that fails, the
groups try to undermine investment in technologies they oppose. In all
of this, they are aided by willing allies in the media, who are only
too happy to scare people about some new imagined horror, even if it
means keeping those same people out of work. We should condemn Time for
joining in the environmentalist assault on science.