The California EPA made a surprising announcement earlier this month: the Developmental and Reproductive Toxicant Identification Committee had declined to place Bisphenol A on a list of chemicals known to cause birth defects.
And yet, laws banning BPA are being considered in 20 states.
What accounts for the California decision? What do professional toxicologists know that lawmakers and their constituents do not? And why?
In a recent survey of about 1,000 members of the Society of Toxicology, only 9% considered BPA a high risk to health, nearly the same number (11%) who considered high-fructose corn syrup a high risk. They were evenly divided between medium and low risk - 39% and 37%, respectively.
However, when they were asked to assess the reliability of major news organizations as sources of information regarding toxicology, there was widespread agreement - over 90% -- that television news and local newspapers overstate risks. Over 80% said national newspapers overstate risk.
fair? No, but neither is life, as your parents probably told you. Facts will
convince scientists, but they will not convince the public. As risk
communications expert Peter Sandman has shown, risk, in the public arena, is
not only the likelihood of harm, but also the outrage it provokes.
sound quaint, but people need to be heard. The chemical industry must not only
talk, it must also listen closely, acknowledge concerns and admitting to
genuine error if it wants the facts to have a chance.
It may sound quaint, but people need to be heard. The chemical industry must not only talk, it must also listen closely, acknowledge concerns and admitting to genuine error if it wants the facts to have a chance.