Ethics in Medicine

Big Chem, Big Harm?

Kristen Sparrow • September 02, 2012

This topic seems to have, finally, come up from under the radar.   The discussion here is couched in surprise that chemical companies would not come clean on harmful effects of their products.  Kristof also makes the obligatory swipe at those of us who were concerned when the scientists first sounded the alarm, calling us ‘Luddites” or “conspiracy theorists..”  Because there is SO MUCH MONEY in being a Luddite or conspiracy theorist, and chemical companies are just trying to good with no monetary interests whatsoever.  I’ve discussed this topic in my blog here (in Feb 2009) and here.  And concerning breast cancer here.

Big Chem, Big Harm?
NEW research is demonstrating that some common chemicals all around us may be even more harmful than previously thought. It seems that they may damage us in ways that are transmitted generation after generation, imperiling not only us but also our descendants.
Yet following the script of Big Tobacco a generation ago, Big Chem has, so far, blocked any serious regulation of these endocrine disruptors, so called because they play havoc with hormones in the body’s endocrine system.
One of the most common and alarming is bisphenol-A, better known as BPA. The failure to regulate it means that it is unavoidable. BPA is found in everything from plastics to canned food to A.T.M. receipts. More than 90 percent of Americans have it in their urine…
Yet although industry has, so far, been able to block broad national curbs on BPA, new findings on transgenerational effects may finally put a dent in Big Chem’s lobbying efforts.
Like a lot of Americans, I used to be skeptical of risks from chemicals like endocrine disruptors that are all around us. What could be safer than canned food? I figured that opposition came from tree-hugging Luddites prone to conspiracy theories.
Yet, a few years ago, I began to read the peer-reviewed journal articles, and it became obvious that the opposition to endocrine disruptors is led by toxicologists, endocrinologists, urologists and pediatricians. These are serious scientists, yet they don’t often have the ear of politicians or journalists.
I’m hoping these new studies can help vault the issue onto the national stage. Threats to us need to be addressed, even if they come not from Iranian nuclear weapons, but from things as banal as canned soup and A.T.M. receipts.