Sunday, August 24, 2008

Bisphenol-a: Brouhaha Overblown?

Might we have overreacted by throwing out the baby bottles?

Okay, this spring we all heard about the evils lurking in baby bottles, sippy cups, and other clear hard plastic items with Bisphenol-A (BPA). We read about mice with tissue changes "associated with cancer." We read about bottles leaching unsafe levels of BPA, estrogenic effects and carcinogens. Wal-mart made a to-do about pulling all baby products with BPA. Manufacturers began slapping BPA-free stickers on assorted baby items. Along with other concerned parents, I banished the suspect bottles to the basement - my son is two, well past the age when most mothers take away the ba-ba. It wasn't a hard call for me. I'm not sure what I would have done had I been pregnant - or worse yet, with a newborn and a cabinet full of new potentially toxic bottles. I even bought a few of the ultra-pricey Swiss water bottles after I tracked them down a month or two after their website stopped processing orders. The scare so saturated the media that my bachelor brother with no kids even knew about BPA. So now, a few months later in August, The New York Times reported the FDA proclaimed BPA safe - safe pending a September discussion with outside experts. Safe? Read their "Message to Consumers" posted below...

"At this time, FDA is not recommending that anyone discontinue using products that contain BPA while we continue our risk assessment process. However, concerned consumers should know that several alternatives to polycarbonate baby bottles exist, including glass baby bottles."

That's a beauty of a disclaimer. A sure cover-your-you-know-what statement.

Of course, I did question the hoopla back in April. It's not like we haven't had a few other officially suspect substances in the news lately - ones that were either ultimately cleared by the experts (say thimerosal, the preservative in vaccinations once implicated in autism) or ones banned by health authorites that parents still believe safe (say, cold and cough meds). No wonder I'm starting to fear the overblown fear. The Europeans said BPA was safe. They said it again in July but hardly any news organizations reported it. Guess we were to busy buying new food storage containers.

Safe. Not safe. Panic. Don't panic. I worry this baby bottle brouhaha will turn out to be another case of crying wolf. As a psychologist, I know all about the downsides of false alarms. In other words, we stop paying attention and fail to distinguish the sheep from the wolves. High fructose corn syrup starts looking like DDT.

3 comments:

Tony D said...

If we're paranoid, we're healthier for it. Can you imagine if everyone just trusted everything they heard about chemicals?

Dr. Polly said...

Thanks for the feedback, Tony. Yes, I do think we all need to be aware, critical, and vocal - when there are very real dangers and when there are overblown dangers. As the experts remind us, life is hazardous, inherently risky so we need to be mindful of the relative risks of everything we do.

Alicia @ The Soft Landing said...

I used to believe that the frenzy surrounding BPA was uncalled for too. That was until I started researching the whole subject for myself, instead of waiting for the FDA to tell me what I should think. I found an interesting summary of the FDA's recent endorsement of BPA written by Mike Adams of Natural News. Jump over to my blog and give it a read when you have a chance.