What kind of dictator allows scientists to conduct potentially maiming and deadly experiments on its citizens?
In this day in age, it’s the democratically elected kind.
In Canada, the United State, Europe, and elsewhere, scientists on the payrolls of big business are routinely being flashed the regulatory green light to ‘go ahead’ and use chemical ingredients inconclusively harmless to humans so they can make products that are more sellable.
Free-agent scientists and lobbyists must work for years to gather enough evidence to prove to their governments that these products are indeed causing health problems.
Meanwhile, while all this fact-checking is going on, we, the people, are the lab rats.
While reading about bisphenol A, a chemical in plastics that mimics the female hormone estrogen and is facing increasing scientific evidence linking it to breast and prostate cancers, low sperm count, premature puberty and other hormone-related abnormalities, the “H” dictator and some of his atrocities which he carried out in the name of science came to mind …
But I won’t mention him here and end up getting accused of trying to kill a fly with a cannon; I realize that particular mustachioed leader had an ‘evil’ agenda to take over the world, completely unlike big business and any First World government of today.
But I digress.
Bisphenol A is getting lots of attention these days largely because the convenient emotion-conjuring poster product that available for exploitation by its detractors — a baby bottle made from a bisphenol-A-containing plastic.
I used these bottles on my own children and was stunned contemplating what harm might have been done them while fragile newborns, not despite using them for only a few months, but because I only used them for a few months.
The paradoxical kicker with bisphenol A, is that the logic of ‘more is worse,’ as in the more you smoke, the more likely you are to develop lung cancer, does not apply.
In this case, new studies show that the smaller doses are causing the most harm.
Whereas a dose of 30 micrograms of bisphenol A per kilogram of body weight per day is being linked to hyperactivity in lab rats, for example, a dose of 0.025 micrograms per day (1,200 times smaller) is being linked with permanent changes to the genital track. In others words, it can turn boys into girls.
Here’s how it works: At low doses, hormones latch onto cells and stimulate vital biological processes. However, if the does is too high, the cell’s receptors become overwhelmed and shut down, having no effect at all.
Bisphenol A is an estrogenic chemical used as the building block of polycarbonate plastic, a hard clear plastic that is used in countless everyday products such as water bottles and baby bottles, as protective casing to metal in over 100 billion canned products, and as a dental sealant.
It is one of the 50 top produced chemicals in the world. It is a multibillion-dollar industry.
It would be a harmless plastic if some if it didn’t leach out into our food. But the chemical bonds that hold bisphenol A together in products are unstable, allowing some of it to dissolve into whatever food or beverage the plastic is containing.
So many of our food containers these days are made of this type of plastic because manufacturers discovered that the most beautiful element of this hormonal building block is its lack of taste.
So, even though it leaches into our foods, our foods are never contaminated with the taste of plastic.
Los Angeles-based Environment California Research and Policy Centre has called on governments worldwide to remove bisphenol A from baby bottles.
Many independent scientists, in fact, are calling bisphenol A the scariest manufactured substance out there.
A geneticist at Washington State University, Dr. Patricia Hunt, was quoted in Saturday’s Globe and Mail as saying, “I’d like to see it banished off the face of the Earth.”
In her laboratory, she said, she discovered female mice exposed to low levels of bisphenol A had unfertilized eggs in their uteruses so scrambled that, had they been humans, the result would have been birth defects such as Down syndrome and miscarriages.
Of course, the manufacturers say that’s all hogwash. But, thankfully, in Canada, that’s about to be determined.
Most countries have regulatory limits on the amount of bisphenol A residues allowed in food. Canada does not, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency doesn’t monitor bisphenol A residues in food either.
However, under a policy the Stephen Harper government announced late last year to consider thousands of compounds in widespread use that were never given thorough safety assessments, bisphenol A will go under the microscope.
The Canadian safety review, a joint effort between the federal health and environment departments, is expected to get underway within the next couple of months.
Say what you will about Harper and his heavy hand, this is a bold move that rewards the efforts of citizen lobbyists, and Canadians of all political spectrums are commending it.
Many of them will be watching closely to see how this process unfolds and, more importantly, what Harper does with the final results.
Unfortunately, the trend in most countries has been to give the manufacturers the benefit of the doubt. And I fear, at the end of Canada’s review, there will remain some doubt.
Juliann Fraser is a writer living in Whitehorse.