Coalition Fights Anti-Chemical Campaign

Those who have been raising concerns and sounding alarms about harmful chemicals in plastics and personal or household products are getting pushback these days from a research and educational nonprofit organization.

Hoping to counter what it calls a culture of alarmism, the Independent Women’s Forum is urging retailers to resist a “well-funded, anti-science fearcampaign of fear,” reports Plastics Today. The coalition sent a letter to 10 of the nation’s largest retailers urging them to resist efforts by environmental organizations to have items removed from store shelves that are based on “junk science to spread fear and misinformation about chemicals.”

Removing items from store shelves projects a false concern and will do nothing to improve public health. “Members of this coalition share a commitment to identifying false alarmism, flawed science, and manufactured hysteria and providing a reasonable voice to counteract efforts to limit consumer choices, stifle free-enterprise, and take away our freedoms,” the forum said in a new release about the letter.

The “greater good” often tips the balance in favor of chemicals. For example, formaldehyde is largely responsible for the sharp decline in household fires since 1970s. Other chemicals have benefits as well. The forum’s press release explains further:

Formaldehyde, which is used in personal care products, helps prevent bacterial growth. Phthalates are added to plastics to make toys less breakable. And bisphenol-A, a chemical used in food packaging, safeguards against deadly botulism in canned food.

The plastics trade industry has an obligation to raise alarms when there is a clear and present danger to the public, writes Plastics Today writer Clare Goldsberry. Also, the industry is obligated to use science when it evaluates plastics, chemical additives, and green materials.

Choices often require a cost-vs.-benefits analysis. Since plastics have been available, the benefits have far outweighed the risks in terms of better health, lower energy costs, less pollution in the transportation industry, food preservation, and more efficient home-building materials, she writes. Like the boy crying “wolf,” if people don’t know the truth about chemicals and plastics, they will quit believing what they hear.

The public commented on the article. One person wrote that there are studies that show that bisphenol-A (BPA) is safe. But many of those studies are either sponsored by the plastics industry or by the government, both of which can be biased. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has employees who come from chemical companies. Therefore, it seems prudent to perform more third-party testing before “dumping chemicals into our bodies.”

Another reader commented that Europe puts a great deal of money into regulatory bodies and those agencies have given BPA the green light. Also, recycling plastic may be better for our health than reusing canvas bags. For example, single-use items, such as plastic T-shirt bags, can be recycled, but canvas bags can hold raw meat and other goods that carry pathogens, which are then potentially passed to other items when the bag is reused.

Source: “Crying wolf on plastics is anti-science,” Plastics Today, 6/10/13
Image by Annemarie Busschers.