Has glass ever been proven safe?

Related articles

The first lines of Dominique Browning’s op-ed in yesterday’s The New York Times gave us a glimmer of hope that the newspaper was finally starting to publish sound science opinion pieces about the baseless controversy surrounding bisphenol A (BPA). Initially, Ms. Browning observes that the BPA-free mania spreading across the nation may actually lead to the introduction of more dangerous replacement chemicals — something that we here at ACSH have tried to point out for years. But immediately after making this important point, Ms. Browning goes off the anti-chemical deep end.

Devoid of any sound scientific evidence, Ms. Browning impugns the results of countless studies demonstrating the safety of BPA. The substitution of new chemicals is a problem, she says, because ”by the time we know what those new chemicals do to us, entire generations are affected. We are the guinea pigs.”

What’s her solution? Glass bottles. Apparently, parents should revert to this anachronistic feeding method in order to protect their babies, she explains. But, notes ACSH’s Dr. Josh Bloom, “In order to make the bottles shatter-proof they need to be coated with PVC, which contains phthalates. Catch 22, anyone?”

Ms. Browning also advocates revamping the Toxic Substances Control Act, which would require manufacturers to “prove” that the chemicals used in their products are safe before entering into commerce — neglecting the scientific fact that is is impossible to prove a negative. While she doesn’t explicitly state it, it’s clear that her agenda is to promote the precautionary principle, says ACSH’s Dr. Gilbert Ross. “The precautionary principle, if applied rigidly, would bring progress to a halt. In addition, her ingenious idea to start using glass baby bottles clearly doesn’t take into account the fact that glass easily shatters, and when in the hands of a small child, will pose a much greater health risk.”

Dr. Bloom points out one major problem with the writer’s blithe suggestion to test everything first: “Even if companies agreed to rigorously test every single chemical before it comes to market, how could you possibly test the health effects in humans of 80,000 chemicals? It’s very easy to say that we need to prove the safety of every single chemical — not to mention combinations of them. But on a practical level, this is impossible. Drug companies take years and spend hundreds of millions of dollars to evaluate safety for just a couple hundred potential drug candidates per year. Who is going to do that for a new detergent, or hair dye? No one.”

Further, anti-chemical activists are opposed to studies testing the alleged health risks that chemicals pose to humans because “they know that if they were to be completed, they’d find no impact on human health,” adds Dr. Ross.