Well-meaning environmentalist Mindy Pennybacker, author of Do One Green Thing: Saving the Earth Through Simple, Everyday Choices, offers some sagely foolish advice today on Huffington Post. She says, “This Thanksgiving, I’d rather have a can of worms than canned food with Bisphenol-A! At least worms make fertile soil. BPA, it appears, just makes us fat and infertile.” Accordingly, don’t eat canned food because containers are lined with BPA-based resins.
No thanks. I’ll stick with the BPA. I hope Pennybacker enjoys those worms with her holiday meal.
BPA — which is short for bisphenol A — is a chemical manufactures have used for 60 or so years to make hard plastics and resins used in food packaging without ever being traced back to any actual health problems. Ms. Pennybacker attempts to support her claims by citing a study that reports an association between BPA and human diabetes, as well as a study on pregnant mice. Associations don’t show cause and effect and are often accidental; and humans and mice metabolize BPA very differently. She doesn’t note that many scientific panels that reviewed the full body of research — such as the recent European Union review update — report no problems with BPA. Yet that doesn’t stop such silly claims about its effects, nor does it stop the many calls for regulation.
The author does temper her folly with a note that we need not “fret” too much about BPA because human exposures from food packaging are well below what EPA considers safe. So then, why does she need to hype the risk at all? She goes on to note that exposures come from other things, like store receipts. Such exposures are not a concern according to the World Health Organization and the overwhelming exposure is from ingestion of food products. And even if you ate your store receipts, it is doubtful BPA would be a problem because humans (unlike mice) metabolize and pass BPA before it could cause problems.
Let’s not forget why we use BPA: It has many benefits! This Thanksgiving, I am going to be happy that the cans my cranberry sauce came in were lined with a resin made with bisphenol-A because it greatly reduces the chance that those cranberries will have been contaminated with botulism or some other dangerous organisms. It also keeps my food free from rust, which would otherwise detract from the fruit flavors.
The benefits of BPA are just one thing for which I am thankful this year. In addition to good health and family, I am thankful for the freedom that makes America great. That includes the freedom to innovate and enjoy the results of that effort, be it BPA or some other helpful product that makes life better, safer, and more enjoyable. I fear those who would take those freedoms away.
Image credit: LarimdaME’s photostream on Flickr.