Dispatch: NYT vs. BPA, Australia vs. Homeopathy, First Lady vs. Fat, Risks vs. Benefits

The New York Times features an editorial highlighting the “murky” language of the FDA's recent opinion on bisphenol-A (BPA), with tips on how to avoid the chemical and emphasis on the uncertainty of “how dangerous the chemical might be in the small amounts that leach out and are imbibed by infants and older people -- or how rigorously it should be regulated.”

“There comes a point when the momentum against something is so great that it's impossible to turn around,” says ACSH's Dr. Elizabeth Whelan. “The New York Times editorial board has no scientific reason to be so alarmist about BPA.”

“The editors' basis for concern was the FDA's re-assessment of BPA,” says ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross. “But the FDA's previous position was that BPA was safe in consumer products, and their most recent opinion merely reinforces that there is 'no proof that the chemical has harmed either children or adults.' That's a direct quote from the editorial, too. Yet the editorial is saying that you should reduce exposure anyway. It's just another instance of politically correct, anti-chemical hype from the Times.”

If Water Has a Memory...
Australia's Complaints Resolution Panel ruled that two websites promoting homeopathy must remove information suggesting that “homeopathic immunization” is as effective as medically sound vaccination.

“That fact that a government elsewhere is taking this seriously is important,” says ACSH's Jeff Stier. “While we don't have that kind of regulation here, that doesn't mean we should ignore the irresponsible and dangerous claims made by homeopathy hawkers.”

“Homeopathy does not work and cannot work,” says Dr. Ross. “By its own definition, it is impossible for it to have any medical effects on anything because of every scientific principle known to man. Their basic tenet -- 'molecular memory' -- makes no sense from any perspective, and these ads should certainly be condemned.”

One-Year Anniversary Speech
First Lady Michelle Obama gave a speech yesterday about combating childhood obesity. She emphasized the importance of physical activity and increased availability of healthy foods.

“Overall, she talked about balance and making good choices,” says Stier. “She deserves credit for that. There weren't many details -- the specifics will come later -- but what she did say was very reasonable. So far, so good.”

News Flash: Some Medicines Aren't Perfect
According to the Associated Press, “Tests of the first two oral drugs developed for treating multiple sclerosis show that both cut the frequency of relapses and may slow progression of the disease, but with side effects that could pose a tough decision for patients.”

The headline atop MSNBC's print of the story reads, “New MS pills have promise -- but risks, too.”

“That headline is obvious,” says Stier. “All medications have risks. Aspirin has risks. The question is: how do you weigh those risks against the benefits to the patient?”

“MS is often a devastating disease,” adds Dr. Ross. “These oral drugs represent an important breakthrough, but the benefit-risk equation always has to be taken into account, and it's unique to each patient. This is not the kind of thing that can be regulated from on high by government agencies. It has to be left up to the individual doctors and patients.”

For more information, see ACSH's publication on the benefits and risks of medication.

Curtis Porter is a research intern at the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH.org).