November 8 2012
National Review Online
I’ve written on this site several times before about bisphenol-A (BPA), a chemical used in everyday products like baby bottles, storage containers, and in the lining of canned food and the bad science surrounding efforts to ban it. Now science writer Jon Entine has a must-read article in Forbes that confirms long-held suspicions about the motivations of activists opposed to the use of BPA.
Entine explains that University of California-San Diego researcher Michael Baker hyped the results of his BPA research in a press release – a press release that Baker himself now renounces (how convenient for him to backtrack after his specious press release generated dozens of terrifying headlines).
Baker actually admitted his error to Entine, saying “I have no evidence, none at all, that BPA causes any problems in humans. This was a theoretical exercise, and it would be trumped by what actually happens in the real world. Based on what I know now, neither BPA nor its metabolites are harmful. I am upset that my structural study is misused by some.”
Just a tiny little mistake that causes moms like me to gnaw off their fingernails at the thought that we might be poisoning our children with chemicals. But that’s okay; regular moms and dads (already struggling with high food and fuel costs) can just run out and support the cottage industry that has sprouted up in the wake of these terrifying headlines — the BPA-free industry. Parents won’t mind that these products are much more expensive. After all, isn’t your baby’s health worth it? Surely parents aren’t already cash-strapped with the truck-load of diapers they purchase on a monthly basis along with the toys, books, and other baby items one simply must supply a child with these days.
Of course, what parents won’t hear about is Baker’s mea culpa because if there’s one thing parents can count on from today’s science writers it is an absolute dearth of Entine-esque journalism when it comes to BPA. Baker’s study might not have generated such dramatic headlines if these journalists had revealed, as Entine does, that Baker has zero prior expertise in studying BPA or that his study didn’t include humans or even animals but rather was a computer simulation. Even more stunning, Entine discovered that Baker was unaware of the quite impressive body of researchthat shows BPA is safe.
In fact, thousands of studies conducted have shown BPA to be perfectly safe, yet those with an evangelical interest in continuing the hand-wringing about BPA cling desperately to any shred of information, no matter how far-fetched, supporting their position. And now, the very researchers who study BPA can’t be counted on to stick by their own findings that BPA is safe.
Don’t expect anti-BPA activists to be bowed by this latest blow to their religious crusade. Their ideology might still be intact but the science is proving them wrong. That’s a good thing for parents who have grown weary of these alarmist claims and who just want to keep their kids safe without spending a fortune.