Your recent Viewpoint [“Get a head start on bioaccumulation,” April 19, Page 8] cites a report from the World Wildlife Fund.
The report looks at chemicals found in people and animals, such as “perfluorinated compounds (used in nonstick coatings such as Teflon), phthalates, phenolic compounds and brominated flame retardants.”
“WWF claims the 'body burden' of chemicals is getting worse, citing a study that found that in the 1960s, researchers found five organochlorine compounds and mercury in marine mammals, while today more than 265 organic pollutants and 50 inorganic chemicals have been found in these species.”
I guess you left it to us readers to see the fallacies and errors in WWF's position, so I'll point out a few.
* A reactant is not a product. Perfluorinated materials are used in the making of Teflon and other coatings, but that doesn't mean the coating is toxic.
There is a profound chemical (and physiological) difference between monomers and polymers, like bricks and buildings, that is misunderstood, or maybe even deliberately used to fan the fears of chemophobia.
There is an unusual fallacy here, as the perfluorocarbons have been criticized because of their persistence — they don't degrade, they don't go away — but if they are that unreactive, how can they harm us?
* WWF mentions the category of phthalates as if anything related to this chemical structure is bad in any amount. I know this relates to plasticized PVC, but our beloved and accepted-as-safe PET is made from a (tere)phthalate, too.
It is misleading and damaging to use the word phthalates by itself.
* Same with phenolics. Are they referring to the original Bakelite, a phenol-formaldehyde plastic in very limited use today? Is phenol itself “bad”?
Sometimes I think the chemophobes are particularly afraid of words with Greek origins. Thus, phthalates, which even have the unpronouncable ph-th combination, are suspect merely because of the name!
What if we were afraid of all words with Greek roots, like theater, chorus, oxygen and — plastic (from plassein, to flow)?
* Comparing 1960 to now is silly. How many of the “more than 265 organic pollutants and 50 inorganics” could have been detected by researchers in 1960? And what are the actual quantities of these substances? What do we know about their toxicity?
Further, why should we assume that anything foreign is a pollutant? Are gold teeth and pacemakers and flu vaccines “pollutants”? Why be so selective with materials?
I do know why, of course, which relates to the anti-plastic agenda that WWF and so many others have, and which I've been trying to expose for what it is (and why) for a long time.
Their well-intentioned but scientifically unsound noises have become a “mind burden” to me. Any science without numbers and comparisons, let alone peer review and criticism, is not science but just that — noise.