Since joining Plastics News — and therefore learning more than the average consumer about the business and science of plastics — there have been more than a few times when I thought my husband was going to have to physically remove me from our favorite outdoor equipment store.
Or that he might just go wait in the car while I ranted and raved in Target, making a scene next to a display touting “BPA free!” as an item's major selling point.
Admonitions to at least try to behave in public usually begin when I start muttering under my breath, “Look at that! Nothing in that pile of junk was ever even made of polycarbonate in the first place!” and “Don't people know liquid silicone rubber when they see it?”
It escalates from there.
The truth is that the average American consumer probably doesn't know LSR when they see it. Or polycarbonate. And even with all the fear-mongering, they probably know very little about bisphenol-A (BPA), a feedstock used to make polycarbonate and epoxy resins — other than to avoid it at all costs or suffer horrible physical consequences ranging from cancer to impotent grandchildren, depending on which Internet or cable news outlets they prefer.
This is why the Washington-based American Chemistry Council last week kicked off an ad blitz that includes full-page ads in USA Today, the Wall Street Journal and in a number of consumer, news and health websites.
ACC says the ads encourage consumers and manufacturers to “Listen to the Science,” and that the experts say BPA is safe.
The campaign comes close on the heels of declarations from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), within months of each other, that BPA is safe and poses no health risk to humans at current exposure levels.
Even Health Canada, one of the first to decry BPA in 2010, later rolled back its anti-BPA declarations.
The ACC ads direct consumers to a website, www.factsaboutbpa.org, chock full of studies, links and very basic information on what polycarbonate and epoxy resins are and why they are used.
“Listen to the Science” ACC implores. But who can hear it in the cacophony of misinformation and pseudoscience consumers are slammed with on a daily basis? Such an ad campaign is only a start, one that probably should have been made years earlier, but a start nonetheless, with ample science backing it up.
It is the industry's responsibility to make it more than a start. Federal agencies have spent hundreds of millions without finding a link between BPA and health problems, turning up empty handed time and again; the research has been done. It's time to take that information and use it to help educate consumers on how the polycarbonate you make, mold and sell keeps their glasses thinner and lighter, their bike helmets stronger and their canned soup free of things that will actually hurt them, like E. coli bacteria.
Putrich is Plastics News' Washington-based staff reporter.