October 10 2013

Women should worry about shoddy reporting, not chemicals

Julie Gunlock

 

 

Earlier this week, USA Today ran a story by reporter Liz Szabo who warned women “A growing number of health advocates are raising concerns about possible links between the estrogen-like chemical BPA and breast cancer.”

Notice Liz says “health advocates” are concerned, not health professionals, scientists, toxicologists, breast cancer researchers, or oncologists. That’s right; Liz doesn’t actually talk to the experts in the fields of toxicology and disease but relies on one of the country’s best-known purveyors of junk science.

Good work, Liz. Someone grab this gal a Pulitzer.

Liz is no different from many other journalists working the “science beat” today. Instead of talking to scientists, many rely on environmental and so called “public health” organizations for their information. And these organizations are more than happy to provide those wholly inaccurate yet terrifying exaggerations of danger that drive up readership.

But hey, I totally get why science-challenged Liz doesn’t want to talk to the experts. I mean, those scientists are so science-y…they use such big words and complicated terms. And they have an annoying habit of dealing in facts rather than emotion.

Liz’s sourcing is astoundingly bad. Her first reference is to The Breast Cancer Fund—a well-known radical environmental group that regularly posts laughably bad “studies” on BPA (which I wrote about here and here).

I must admit…it was tough to keep reading Liz’s work of fiction. For people who follow the BPA issue closely, it's annoying to read these stories--especially when the reporter starts off with a citation to the Breast Cancer Fund. That fact alone should make the reader close the paper and go refill the coffee.

Yet, most Americans don’t follow the BPA issue as closely as science nerds like me and were probably moving on to the middle part of the article where Lazy Liz cites a study by a Tufts University researcher named Ana Soto who produced a study so bad that the journal that published her research demanded a retraction.

Trevor Butterworth (whose coverage of Soto’s study led to the reversal) explained the retraction over at Forbes:

First, bisphenol A – a chemical widely used in food packaging for safety reasons – caused breast cancer in rats at “human relevant” levels, according to a study published in the taxpayer funded scientific journal, Environmental Health Perspectives. Now, according to the same study, it doesn’t.

After Forbes noted that the statistical data clearly showed BPA had no effects and did not cause cancer – a judgment supported by one of the country’s top statisticians – the journal forced the authors, all researchers at Tufts University, to walk back their claim for publication in print.

As women, we should all be outraged that these stories are out there--designed to scare us.  Women need facts about cancer, not wildly off-base assertions by unethical, ambitious headline-seeking researchers and organizations determined to promote junk science in the name of regulating the chemical industry.  

If Liz "I hate the science beat" Szabo can't start doing her job and research the subjects she covers, she might consider a career change.  Perhaps Liz could start writing novels or try out for her community playhouse. She has a flair for the dramatic and an obvious love of make-believe.

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