November 9, 2009

BPA in the NY Times

NY Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff writes about the ubiquity of BPA in our bodies, plus a gaggle of new studies linking BPA exposure to a variety of abnormalities in test animals. If you've been following the BPA Saga (including this impressive bit of corporate nastiness by Sigg), you'll see that the latest research keeps upping the ante on the potential ill effects of BPA exposure in our food and water.

It always seems to me that the American Way of doing business really fails when it comes to protecting people from unknowns like chemical toxicity in products. The presumption in our system is that something is innocent (ie safe) until proven otherwise, and "proof" of either the legal or scientific variety is stunningly difficult to come by when you factor in the nature of statistical Randomness—not to mention the far-too-cozy relationship between industry and regulators, or the fact that the only organizations with enough money to fund large studies on these chemicals are the very companies who sell them.

I've always thought the big issue with chemical exposure is not the impact of any one chemical, but rather the rich brew Americans are exposed to only a daily basis as we use our computers, fire-safe rugs, clothing, and furniture, and all the other products of the modern age. What interactions and multiplying effects arise directly as a consequence are anyone's guess—and virtually impossible to establish via any sort of replicable study.

My guess is future generations will be baffled by our cavalier attitude toward chemical exposures. And they'll probably have the data, at long last, to show just exactly what the impact of something like BPA actually is. Wouldn't it be nice, though, if we didn't have to wait a hundred years or more before our various industries switched to safer alternatives?

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When there is snow, SierraDescents is Andy Lewicky's California backcountry skiing and mountaineering website. Without snow, sierradescents becomes an ill-tempered hiking and climbing blog.

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