February 21 2013
Mark Bittman's Recipe For Alarmism
Scrolling through my Facebook feed yesterday, an article posted by well-known hand wringer, food nanny, big government proponent and sometimes food writer Mark Bittman caught my eye.
The article's headline was classic alarmism: “WHO panel calls hormone-disrupting chemicals a 'global threat.’” The story highlighted a new World Health Organization report that (natch) called for the ban of certain chemicals
It would have been nice to “comment” on Bittman’s post; to let him and his many Facebook friends know that he’s a little behind on the news. But Bittman’s Facebook page doesn’t allow for comments. How convenient (and cowardly), Mr. Bittman. But, I get it. It’s much easier to keep your flock of Facebook friends terrified if you don’t allow alternate views to pollute your Facebook page.
Hopefully, some of Bittman’s fans will stumble upon news that a recent and very exciting study (I wrote about it here) has resulted in some good news about BPA’s impact on the human body.
This new study, conducted by toxicologist (you know, Bittman, the people who sorta know a little more about toxins…at least more than a moderately talented home cook) at the federal Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, involved the re-examination of 150 separate studies focused on BPA levels in human blood in order to determine if BPA concentrations are sufficiently high enough to be a significant source of estrogen-like activity in the blood. The results concluded that exposure levels are generally much too low to affect the human body.
So, what about this WHO report which claims these chemicals pose “global threat that needs to be resolved.” Reviewing the near-300 page report, it quickly becomes clear that the report is nothing more than a rehash of debunked science. The first clue that the report was flawed was when I saw citation to the work of Shawna Swan; a well-known anti-chemical activist whose research has been dismissed by the National Toxicology Program. The WHO report also relies on studies conducted by Fredrick Vom Saal, who, like Swan, is a well-known activist and who also like Swan, has been called out within the scientific community for unscientific tactics in academic research. Trevor Butterworth, the best writer covering the bad science surrounding chemicals, has an excellent explanation of Vom Saal’s unscientific tactics here.