NY Times' Kristof, MSNBC's Snyderman Hype the Bisphenol A Boogeyman

November 10th, 2009 4:37 PM

There’s a long history of the media and left-leaning organizations working in accord to promote a cause, perhaps meaning well – but playing fast and loose with the science. Remember the great Alar scare of the 1980s? How about the 1970s and threat of global cooling and the next ice age, all the while 30 years later, we’re supposed to be sweating the threat of global warming?


Those scares never panned out, just as global warming probably won’t. But in the meantime, some self-proclaimed media do-gooders have found another cause, despite evidence contradicting their claims – this time with a chemical called Bisphenol A or BPA. BPA is used in manufacturing plastic water bottles and in the liners of food cans.


In his Nov. 8 New York Times column, Nicholas Kristof referred to a new Consumer Reports finding and cited mostly anecdotal evidence to conjure up the idea people should be concerned over this substance. He claimed that, based on a handful of studies, the bulk of which used only laboratory animals to support his conclusion, this warrants action that of which he has taken personally.


“While the evidence isn’t conclusive, it justifies precautions,” Kristof wrote. “In my family, we’re cutting down on the use of those plastic containers that contain BPA to store or microwave food, and I’m drinking water out of a metal bottle now. In my reporting around the world, I’ve come to terms with the threats from warlords, bandits and tarantulas. But endocrine disrupting chemicals – they give me the willies.”


Kristof, along with Urvashi Rangan of Consumer Reports, appeared on MSNBC’s Nov. 9 “Dr. Nancy.” The host, Nancy Snyderman, also raised the call for concern.


“Well, chemicals in our food, chemicals in our body – today we’re talking about a new warning of Bisphenol A, or otherwise known as BPA,” Snyderman said. “It’s a synthetic estrogen that some scientists believe can be linked to everything from breast cancer to obesity. We associate it with plastic water bottles, but now Consumer Reports says that BPA is even in canned foods.”


Snyderman admitted this is still inconclusive and based on “soft science,” but that didn’t stop her from conveyiong her worries to her audience.


But, an independent study funded by the Environmental Protection Agency, and often ignored by the likes of Snyderman and Kristof, shows the substance, in the very small doses imparted by plastic and other applications, does little to harm an individual, as George Mason University’s Stats.org explained (emphasis added):


Now, a second independent study by the Environmental Protection Agency, published in the leading toxicological journal, Toxicological Sciences, has failed to find evidence of the low-dose hypothesis claimed by environmental activists and widely reported in the media.

In the study, “In Utero and Lactational Exposure to Bisphenol A, in contrast to Ethinyl Estradiol, Does not Alter Sexually Dimorphic Behavior, Puberty, Fertility and Anatomy of Female LE Rats” (Ryan et al) researchers fed one group of pregnant rats a range of doses of BPA and another group a range of doses of the synthetic estrogen used in birth control pills ethinyl estradiol.


To Kristof, however, citing research like this is similar to naysaying the threat of tobacco 40 years ago. The answer, of course, is for government to extend it’s heavy hand.


“Look, the evidence is still not conclusive, but there have been more than 200 studies that have linked BPA to an array of really adverse health consequences ranging from cancer to diabetes, obesity to various genital defects in both males and females,” Kristof explained. “To me, it feels a little bit like tobacco in the 1970s when, you know, there is growing evidence and scientists understand the causal pathways and we don't entirely understand at what dosage and at what stage of life those adverse consequences really build up. But it sure seems to me we need to be a lot more careful and that our federal regulators, you know, we haven't been able to count on them to protect us.


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