(April 28, 2008) — Regarding your report on Wal-Mart and others yanking PC baby bottles and sippy-cups (“PC bottles yanked off shelves,” April 21, Page 1), please stop using the phrase “containing BPA” as if bisphenol A were an additive.
BPA is a building block for polycarbonate, and the other one, phosgene, is even more dangerous. But what matters is what remains, not what it was. Nowhere in your article did I see talk of safe limits or negligible residuals. Reminds me of the signs we use to see around that said: “My mind's made up, don't bother me with facts.”
There are two important precedents: one is the vinyl chloride issue of the early 1970s. This building block for PVC was an accepted carcinogen, and was found to accumulate in the air at tops of warehouses of bagged PVC resin. After some predictable corporate squirming, the industry cleaned up its act and made sure a negligible amount remained in the polymer. The issue was resolved, and even Greenpeace hasn't brought it up in the anti-PVC frenzy that they feed.
The second precedent is the acrylonitrile in soda bottles, which was alleged to be carcinogenic in 1974, after Monsanto had introduced its acrylonitrile-related Lopac Coke bottle. Monsanto and Coca-Cola yanked the bottles from the market — as Wal-Mart is doing now with PC — leaving the field open for DuPont's PET, which became a huge success. Many years later, Lopac was cleared in court as having too little residual acrylonitrile to worry about — but it didn't matter by then. PET had put down its roots so deep that it was selected as No. 1 in the recycling number game.
Who is fighting the misinformation that implies that BPA is an ingredient in the formulation of PC, rather than a building block that disappears (or at least should disappear) after polymerization? Who is talking about safe limits or negligible residuals? Who is going to ABC after its newsmaking “expose” of BPA in “rigid” bottles and demand that the network make clear that its concern does not apply to the ubiquitous and also rigid PET single-serve water bottles or standard beverage bottles? We have a nice chance to show how the public can be so easily and falsely scared, as we were in the case of mad cow disease, when one cow was found in the USA and no one got sick — yet people stopped eating beef and whole countries talked of banning beef imports!
I've often maintained that the public doesn't want such truths, and that we need the belief systems that support the anxieties created by the impersonal corporate/global world and our own insatiable appetite for stuff. I'm still calling for an independent study of why the public believes such distortions, but no one so far has listened. Maybe your call will be more effective than mine.