Big Chem, Big Harm?
From the New York Times:
Big Chem, Big Harm?
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
August 25, 2012
NEW research is demonstrating that some common chemicals all around us may be even more harmful than previously thought. It seems that they may damage us in ways that are transmitted generation after generation, imperiling not only us but also our descendants. Yet following the script of Big Tobacco a generation ago, Big Chem has, so far, blocked any serious regulation of these endocrine disruptors, so called because they play havoc with hormones in the body”™s endocrine system.
One of the most common and alarming is bisphenol-A, better known as BPA. The failure to regulate it means that it is unavoidable. BPA is found in everything from plastics to canned food to A.T.M. receipts. More than 90 percent of Americans have it in their urine. Even before the latest research showing multigeneration effects, studies had linked BPA to breast cancer and diabetes, as well as to hyperactivity, aggression and depression in children. Maybe it seems surprising to read a newspaper column about chemical safety because this isn”™t an issue in the presidential campaign or even firmly on the national agenda. It”™s not the kind of thing that we in the news media cover much. Yet the evidence is growing that these are significant threats of a kind that Washington continually fails to protect Americans from. The challenge is that they involve complex science and considerable uncertainty, and the chemical companies “” like the tobacco companies before them “” create financial incentives to encourage politicians to sit on the fence. So nothing happens. Yet although industry has, so far, been able to block broad national curbs on BPA, new findings on transgenerational effects may finally put a dent in Big Chem”™s lobbying efforts.
One good sign: In late July, a Senate committee, for the first, time passed the Safe Chemicals Act, landmark legislation sponsored by Senator Frank Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat, that would begin to regulate the safety of chemicals. Evidence of transgenerational effects of endocrine disruptors has been growing for a half-dozen years, but it mostly involved higher doses than humans would typically encounter. Now Endocrinology, a peer-reviewed journal, has published a study measuring the impact of low doses of BPA. The study is devastating for the chemical industry.
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