Sunday, June 28, 2009

Chemical ban will not help kids

Activists and some politicians are exploiting parents' legitimate concerns for their children's health by trying to convince state governments to pass a ban on the safe and eminently useful chemical bisphenol-A (BPA).

BPA has been used in many familiar guises for decades, with absolutely no reliable evidence of harm to humans of any age. Considering its many uses, one might say it's almost ubiquitous. Among the most common uses: plastic bottles of many types--it's required in the manufacture of shatter-proof polycarbonate plastic, which is also invaluable in baby bottles, bike helmets and protective car-seats, eyeglass lenses, and medical devices of many kinds. The resin coatings that protect the integrity of canned food and beverages--as well as nearly all electronic circuit boards--also depend on BPA.

So what's all the fuss about? It has been claimed that low doses of hormonally-active substances in the environment may cause health problems, but this allegation is highly controversial. Multiple studies by both government and private researchers have not shown any evidence of adverse effects in humans. My organization, the American Council on Science and Health, published a peer-reviewed scientific assessment of the available data, including both animal and human studies, that found no compelling evidence that people are being put at risk by the trace levels of exposure to BPA.

Since BPA is found in our bodies--although at extremely minute amounts--some groups have seized upon this as an excuse to frighten parents and seek government and media attention. However, with our increasingly sophisticated analytical techniques, near-infinitesimal quantities of almost anything can be detected in our blood and tissues. Even the Centers for Disease Control have stated that the mere presence of a substance in our bodies does not mean that it's harmful.

Periodically, activists with an anti-chemical agenda pick up on these issues and start pressuring politicians at various levels of government to ban or restrict consumer products, based on nothing more than hypothetical dangers like this one.

Despite what's been painted as received truth in the activist blogosphere, the FDA's conclusions are based on the full weight of scientific evidence after their review of hundreds of studies from all sources, not just a few industry-funded studies. Official scientific analyses worldwide have comprehensively reviewed the actual data, and have reached similar conclusions: BPA in consumer products is safe as currently used.

If states take a stricter view of BPA than the U.S. FDA, and even the ultra-precautionary EU, what will be activists' next target? With a safety track record spanning more than fifty years, BPA is one of the best-tested substances in commerce. What would replace BPA in the many applications it is essential for? Will glass replace shatter-proof baby bottles? Will some other chemical replace it in bike helmets--only to come under activist attack in a year or two, since the safety record of any replacement will be more suspect than this well-known substance?

Let's not throw the baby bottles out with the bath water. There isn't a shred of scientific or medical sense in the proposed ban of bisphenol-A. If there were, wouldn't the regulators and their expert scientific advisors around the world have taken notice, after decades of its safe consumer use? Regulators should resist the political pressure to target BPA and follow the scientific and medical database supporting BPA's continuing safe use--for all ages of consumers.


Australia: Using taxpayers' money to save obese people from themselves is futile nanny statism

By Dr Jeremy Sammut

The Rudd government’s National Preventive Health Taskforce will next week call for obese people to be given tax breaks or cash subsidies to offset the cost of gym memberships and fitness equipment.

Public health lobbyists have hailed this step as a new dawn in the fight against obesity. But really, it highlights the mixed success of the last 40 years of public health promotion campaigns – on which Australian governments currently spend about $2 billion per year.

Despite what the misleading Body Mass Index statistics allegedly tell us about the nation’s expanding waistline, the healthy lifestyle message has seeped into the culture. First it was jogging and cutting red meat and dairy out your diet. Now it’s cutting out sugars altogether and going to the gym three times a week.

Many Australians order salad instead of chips. Snack on low-fat yoghurt instead of ice-creams. And pass when the cheese platter comes around. They even pay for gym memberships out of their own pockets so they can work out before or after work or during their lunch hours.

And for their trouble, the government is about to force them to subsidise the unhealthier habits of people who haven’t the will and self-discipline to follow their good example. And to pay for what? Ab-crunchers that will sit dusty and dormant in the garages of the slothful and indolent?

The high priests of the nanny state are at it again. As usual, bad behaviour is being rewarded and good behaviour is punished. And the importance of individual responsibility is being ignored entirely.

The above is a recent press release from the Centre for Independent Studies

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