Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Bisphenol: Don't Throw the Baby Out with the Baby Bottles

So now we've come to the start of the school year with uncertainties swirling over the safety of bisphenol-a. Canada says it's toxic. Europe says it's not. Back in the US we can't agree or decide. The FDA says it's safe - well, safe pending a September 16th meeting with outside experts. The National Toxicology Program says it's probably not safe and urges parents to "reduce exposure." It's enough to make a sleep-deprived parent even more cranky, confused, and in my case, incredulous. Yeah, I ditched the old bottles but there's still a seed of doubt. Even if all our government officials give BPA the thumbs down, I won't believe it's as bad as they say. I'll chalk it up to another case of crying wolf, an adult version of the playground no-no.

Maybe it's because I've encountered one too many exaggerated threats from our health officials. Researchers call these false positives. You know them as false alarms. Just yesterday the New York Times editors debunked yet again the link between autism and thimerosal - that infamous false alarm that's plagued parents for nearly a decade now. We're told of so many perils, it's a near constant stream of threats, more than a few overblown - like the dangers of kiddie cough and cold meds, infant formula, and television.

I'm a skeptic by training and experience. I never quite believe the scares. As a psychologist I'm familiar with the downside of false alarms - we stop differentiating between the serious and the not so serious threats. High fructose corn syrup starts looking like DDT. Or worse, the reverse. In other words, we can't tell the sheep from the wolves.

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