BPA Free Does Not Equal Nontoxic & Safe
As public awareness of the dangers of BPA grows some less than reputable manufacturers have decided to capitalize with technically true, but in our view, deceptive labeling.
Case in point is this 5 gallon water jug from Walmart. While prominently labeled as BPA free, which is commonly held as dangerous, they neglect to mention that a compound (DEHP) commonly found the #3 PVC from which the jug is made is a suspected human carcinogen according to the National Institutes of Health.
So the moral of the story is that just because something is labeled BPA free doesn’t mean it’s toxin free!
Whether any plastics are safe for food or water storage is debatable, but some plastics have been clearly identified as a health risk. No matter what the labeling may state, we recommend avoiding #3, #6 and #7 plastics when used as food or liquid containers.
The President’s Cancer Panel released a report last week that really goes beyond what many in the medical establishment have been willing to come right out and say heretofore. Strongly advocating for better regulation of environmental chemicals in the water, air and food supply the panel states that Americans face “grievous harm” and that the role of chemicals and pollutants as a cause of cancer has been “grossly underestimated.”
Except plenty of blowback on this one. The scientific and political establishment has been challenged.
But that’s not all. The report takes aim at the dangers of chemical exposure during pregnancy by noting the 300 contaminants that have been found in umbilical cord blood and bluntly state: “to a disturbing extent, babies are born ‘pre-polluted.’ ” Needless to say, the soon-to-be-born are at particular risk due to their physical size and developmental rate.
This is a big deal and we certainly hope you will be hearing a lot more about it in the coming weeks and months. We’ve talked about the lack of regulation of the chemical industry in this blog on several occasions (here, here and here), so we’re glad to see the issue receiving the light-of-day treatment it so richly deserves.
Suggestions from the 240-page report include:
- choose organic foods when possible
- microwave in glass and ceramic containers rather than glass
- check your home for radon
- filter your drinking water
- avoid well-done meats
- overhaul existing chemical legistation
Did you know asbestos has not been banned in the US? I thought it had. Not so. That’s in the report too.
This is alarming…
…Of the 84,000 chemicals in commercial use in the United States — from flame retardants in furniture to household cleaners — nearly 20 percent are secret…
Under the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, manufacturers must report to the federal government new chemicals they intend to market. But the law exempts from public disclosure any information that could harm their bottom line.
So in other words if a chemical is harmful to human health a manufacturer need only claim profits will be compromised to keep that chemical secret and on the market. This is a loophole you could drive a fleet of Hummers through!
From the same article:
…Of the secret chemicals, 151 are made in quantities of more than 1 million tons a year and 10 are used specifically in children’s products, according to the EPA.
This is one reason we deal only with forthcoming companies/manufacturers. We applaud the efforts of the Obama Administration and Congress to tighten this egregious loophole.
Minnesota has become the first state to legislate a ban on Bisphenol-A (BPA) in baby bottles and sippy cups.
Interestingly, but not surprisingly, the FDA continues to maintain the chemical is safe.
Other states (California, Connecticut) are set to follow suit and this precedent by Minnesota will only serve to make further bans more likely. Canada has already banned BPA from numerous baby and toddler products.
Unfortunately, even in Minnesota, you’ll still have to wait until 2010 before the ban goes into effect.
While we applaud these efforts we must point out that most (all?) proposed bans target only a very small range of products used by infants and the youngest of children. Important product categories such as feeding and food storage containers, amongst others, are still not being addressed, not to mention the continuing risk of BPA in older children.
There is no firmly established definition of nanotechnology but this extremely diverse field could simply be described as the science of the extraordinarily small. A human hair is 80,000 nanometers wide and nanomaterials are commonly accepted to reside in the 100 nanometer or smaller range. In short, nanotechnology operates at the atomic and molecular levels.
Nanotechnology is a very promising field and it seems almost certain that humankind will benefit, perhaps greatly, from further study. Equally certain is that some applications of nanotechnology will prove to be dangerous to human and environmental health. Unfortunately, as with commercially produced chemicals, we are once again putting the cart before the horse in a big way. The following lists just a few consumer products already utilizing nanomaterials:
- Food (nanofood) & food packaging products
- Many agricultural products
- Household appliances
In order to keep a huge topic manageable, the rest of this post will concentrate on the food, food packaging and agricultural applications of nanotechnology.
Nanotech In Our Food Supply, Really?
As frequently occurs with any new and exciting technology a debate is brewing between the keep-government-regulation-out–of–my-hair-so-as-not-to-stifle-innovation crowd and the let’s-make-sure-this-stuff-is-safe-before-releasing-it-on-unsuspecting-consumers crowd. As of this writing, the “innovators” and big business are winning.
If you don’t believe that consider the current state of affairs in the US:
- No nanotech-specific regulation or safety testing is required before nanomaterials can be used in food, food packaging or agricultural consumer products.
- There are no labeling laws relating to nano ingredients that are in our food supply or its packaging.
In essence, the public’s right to make up their own minds regarding the consumption of nanofoods and materials is being usurped in much the same fashion as with genetically modified foods. This is, in the classic sense of the word, an outrage.
I’m no Luditte. I’m all for innovation. I support clean energy, stem cell and, yes, nanotech research. But it is equally outrageous that we would not regulate a potentially dangerous new technology in any way, shape or form before unleashing it on the public. It is the height of recklessness and clearly a sop to the usual monied interests.
Furthermore it is a false choice between requiring safety research and encouraging innovation. Research does not stifle innovation, it creates it! It is research that will show us the way forward as well as the paths to avoid. This is a far superior approach to creating instant profits by using the public as a beta tester.
Make no mistake, the pressure from industry to use and develop nanotechnology will be enormous, and I’m actually fine with that. But if I’m any sort of observer of such things, they won’t want to be regulated – at all. And therein lies the problem.
Two last points:
- Enormous amounts of money are going to be made in the field of nanotechnology in the decades ahead.
- On the smaller half of the nanotech scale, 50 nanometers and smaller, the laws of the universe as we know them give way to the bizarre and largely mysterious laws of quantum physics.
Did I mention I favor regulation of nanotechnology?
Conspiracy theorists have been telling us for years that global elitists are plotting to merge Canada, the US and Mexico into a North American Union. I’ve now come across conclusive evidence to back up their claims.
I was shopping at the local market the other day and picked up a cube steak for lunch. The steak was wrapped in the usual packaging with the addition of a sticker that read:
Product of U.S.A.,Canada,Mexico
Now, how in the world can a cube steak be the product of three different countries?! But the answer — or dare I say the truth — was right before me. It dawns on me that those three countries are in reality one country — the heretofore conspiratorial North American Union – existing under the guise of the status quo because the global elitists have deemed the general population so gullible that they don’t even need to let us in on the existence of the NAU, thereby negating the inevitable opposition to their nefarious plans.
What better way to keep the secret than for everyone to continue believing there are still three separate countries when the reality is that the governments have merged and have been taken over by covert, behind-the-scenes operators (i.e. elitists). Brilliant!
Fortunately for us all the global elitists, in a Freudian slip of sorts, screwed up and I was able to unravel the crucial evidence, the proverbial smoking gun, in time for this blog post.
OK, so what if, other than the part about the Product of U.S.A.,Canada,Mexico label, I made the whole thing up. What really is going on? It’s still a pretty weird label, don’t you think?
Leveraging the full power of the internets, I turn to the Google which yields this gem from Pork magazine (really, Pork magazine. You can’t make this stuff up folks. See? Now, where were we?):
“COOL requirements encompass an animal’s country of birth as well as the country in which it was raised or fed out, the country in which it was slaughtered and the country in which it was processed. For example, a pork roast from a hog born in Canada but raised, slaughtered and processed in the United States would be required to have a label indicating that it was a product of both Canada and the United States.”
Now we’re getting somewhere. It turns out that COOL is a new federal law mandating what is now being termed country-of-origin labeling. Ostensibly, the purpose of the law is to provide additional information regarding the country of origin for fresh and frozen produce and many meat products – information that was previously unavailable to consumers.
Major exceptions to COOL include processed and cooked foods — you don’t want to know where they came from anyways — and mixed foods like fruit and vegetable trays. Butcher shops and fish markets are also exempt.
Getting back to my cube steak, this all seems like a good idea until I realize that beef has never been labeled like this before and I had always assumed that the beef I was buying was from the US. But now I find out that maybe it’s not necessarily from the US but could come from one of three countries. Is this progress?
I think so. I guess so. I really don’t know.
If the recent controversy over BPA has your head spinning, consider taking the time to read The Real Story Behind Bisphenol A by David Case. It’s the most comprehensive article on BPA and the monied interests surrounding it I’ve come across to date. Case makes the case (sorry) that the BPA debate is not entirely about the science, but rather a powerful lobby looking to sow the seeds of doubt regarding the risks of BPA.
The debate even continues past the end of the article into the comments section where at least two commentors, claiming no particular axe to grind, pan the article and one of them is directly responded to by none other than Dr. Frederick vom Saal, BPA researcher and a leading advocate for the health risks of BPA. You gotta love the internet.
A significant portion of Case’s article deals with the shadowy world of the product-defense industry. First of all, can you even believe such a thing exists? Then again when you consider the $6 billion a year BPA industry it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are people out there looking for a piece of that pie.
Using their credentials as scientists, product-defense firms look to, for a (large) fee, validate the claims of the corporations and trade associations that hire them by providing expert testimony in lawsuits along with other lobbiest-style activities. Various product-defense firms have lobbied on behalf of the manufacturers of MTBE, perchlorate, Fen-phen and Agent Orange, among others. Yikes! Why such testimony is even allowed in a court of law is somewhat of a mystery. Do we allow murder suspects to hire “eye witnesses” to provide testimony on their behalf? I’ll bet it’s happened, but it damn sure isn’t legal. Paid testimony just seems so, how should I put it…wrong.
Case also goes on to elaborate on the US track record for banning harmful substances. It took years, decades in some cases, to ban lead, DDT and PCB’s. Furthermore, the US approach to chemical management, with the burden of proof being placed on the consumer, is fundamentally flawed. Rather than corporations having to prove their products are safe, it is left to us to prove they are not. That just seems so, how should I put it…wrong.