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Hot Topics - 'Hormone Mimics'

Consumer Reports says:

  • "There is growing debate about the potential health implications of the chemicals that leach from some plastics, and especially their possible effects on babies. You may have seen headlines raising concerns about the soft vinyl teethers and toys that infants sometimes suck or chew. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has, as a precaution, recommended that parents dispose of any such items they own. Based on our own findings, we think the agency's advice is sound." [From "Baby Alert: New Finds About Plastics; Parents may want to replace some baby bottles and teethers," May 1999].

  • "Although research indicates that manmade chemicals may be causing problems in wildlife, at least in localized areas, it's too soon to tell whether hormone mimics pose health risks for people. But should we ignore warning signs and simply hope the news will eventually be good? It makes more sense for government, industry, and individuals to take reasonable steps to limit exposure. The EPA and industry should modify processes that release dioxins, for instance, and the FDA and industry should phase out the use of plasticizers suspected of causing endocrine problems. Such a phaseout is certainly possible: Some plastic wraps already contain no plasticizers. If in the face of all that is still uncertain, you want to reduce your ingestion of the suspect compounds, here are several low-cost strategies that may help: Consider using alternatives to pesticides and insecticides on lawn and pets. Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly or, better yet, buy organic foods. Limit your ingestion of fatty foods (where the compounds can accumulate. Heed official advisories about fish contamination. And if you reheat food wrapped in plastic, make sure the wrap does not touch the food. The attitude that may serve us all best is one of prudent caution, not blissful ignorance." [From "Hormone mimics", June 1998].

  • "Which suspected endocrine disrupters are in our foods, and at what levels? One category: certain plasticizers, which add flexibility to plastic food wraps, among other products." [From "Hormone Mimcs," June 1998].

"Testing Consumer Reports" - Brill's Content reports (Sep. 99), "The plastics stories also shared another theme. Both warned that the chemicals seeping from the plastic could behave as "endocrine disrupters,"which may interfere with the development of wildlife—and perhaps that of humans. Reducing the use of chemicals that may act as endocrine disrupters is a priority for the Natural Resources Defense Council, which gave Consumers Union an $85,000 grant last year."

"Another Phony Health Scare" - Gregg Easterbrook writes in the Sacramento Bee (Sep. 12), "Buried in the back pages of the newspapers a week ago were reports that the National Research Council (NRC), an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, had found no proof that synthetic chemicals act as human "endocrine disrupters." The NRC declared the theory of endocrine disrupters "rife with uncertainties" -- possibly true but unsupported by experiments or health data. This may sound like a humdrum scientific data blip. But it's major news. For three years now, organizations ranging from environmental groups to Consumer Reports have been proclaiming the existence of a deadly wave of endocrine disrupters that cause cancer, infertility and personality abnormalities. It's been said that endocrine disrupters are so malignant that they even render plastic plates and baby bottles potential killers."

"No chemical threat found; Panel doesn't find hormone link" - The Chicago Sun-Times reports (August 6), "A panel of scientists convened by the National Research Council found no persuasive evidence that chemicals in the environment are disrupting hormonal processes in humans or wildlife... The panel could not confirm the horror stories that have been spread about these chemicals over the last few years," said Bonner R. Cohen, senior fellow and environment specialist at the Lexington Institute in Arlington, Va."

"Consumer Reports asks, ACSH answers " - The American Council on Science and Health writes to Consumers Union (July 20), "A decades-old trusted name, Consumer Reports has no place in the pseudo-science lab. Fooling consumers with false headlines and scary stories disillusions readers and undermines credibility. Only by focusing on well-researched and documented health risks can your publication be a valuable resource for consumers' edification and ultimate well-being."

"Scary baby bottle blather" - Michael Fumento writes in the Washington Times (May 16), "When it comes to testing dishwashers, VCRs, and TVs, Consumer Reports has established a reputation for fairness and impartiality that has made it one of the most trusted consumer sources in the United States. Unfortunately, any month's issue that discusses a subject with an environmentalist angle should be renamed "Consumer Distorts."

Consumer Reports blasted by one of its own - About the 20/20 television program alarming parents about plastic baby botles, a former Consumer Reports reporter writes to ABC's Brian Ross, "Your 'expose' last night on the Consumer Reports baby bottle story was the worst news magazine segment I've ever seen. I say this as someone who worked at CR for 12 years and knows something about the place. You were suckered (all too willingly, I'm sure) by Consumers Union and gave CU's irresponsible story even wider publicity. Let's count just a few of the ways you screwed up:..."

"Health Scare Alert: Consumers Union, ABC News to Alarm About Plastic Baby Bottles " - Steven Milloy, publisher of the Junk Science Home Page warned parents today [Apr. 19] that Consumers Union and the ABC News program "20/20" plan to use "junk science" to launch a scare about the safety of plastic baby bottles.

"Statement from the American Plastics Council Regarding Consumer Reports 'Baby Alert' (May 1999)" - "Consumer Reports has committed a serious error alleging dangers from the use of polycarbonate plastic baby bottles, based on an apparent lack of understanding of toxicology or safety and risk assessment."

"Soft Plastics, Softer Science" - Michael Fumento writes in the Wall Street Journal (Apr. 2), "From the tremendously successful attack on plasticizers in toys last December on ABC's "20/20," to Ms. Burros's column, to Time's article, the pattern has been the same. Without the support of science, environmentalist groups like Greenpeace and Consumers Union instead release "studies" that bypass the medical journals and go straight to sympathetic or gullible journalists. By promoting this pseudoscience, these journalists alarm -- and harm -- all of us."

"Plastic Wrap and Health: Studies Raise Questions" - Marian Burros writes in the New York Times (Jan. 12), "Because research has shown that plasticizers can leach into food on contact, especially food with a high fat content, Consumers Union recently tested prewrapped cheese. Nineteen pieces of cheese were analyzed, and the seven that were wrapped in the PVC cling wrap used by supermarkets contained consistently high levels of DEHA. The levels ranged from 51 to 270 parts per million, with an average of 153.These are very large amounts," said Edward Groth, an environmental scientist and food safety specialist with Consumers Union, though he acknowledged that no one knows if the levels are harmful. The European Community has set a provisional limit of 18 parts per million for DEHA migration from plastic wraps to food. In a separate study, Consumers Union tested seven national and store brands of consumer plastic wrap for plasticizers: Glad Crystal Clear Polyethylene, Duane Reade, Foodtown, Dowbrands Saran Wrap, America's Choice, White Rose and Reynolds Plastic Wrap. Only Reynolds Wrap was found to be made with DEHA. There is no way to tell by looking at the box if a wrap contains DEHA."

  • "Phthalate Esters Panel Responds To Recent New York Times Article " - The Chemical Manufacturers Association asked the New York Times for a retraction writing, "We are aware of no scientific evidence that DEHA acts as an endocrine disruptor.The Consumers Union has offered no evidence supporting this inference and, as you report, Dr. Edward Groth himself acknowledges that there is no evidence that the levels of DEHA migration found in the Consumers Union tests pose any threat to human health."

"Truth Disrupters" - Michael Fumento writes in Forbes (Nov. 16, 1998), "'EPA To Hunt Dangers in Everyday Products,' read the headline in the New York Times last summer. Soon, the story said, the Environmental Protection Agency would begin testing the first of about 62,000 chemicals for harmful hormonal effects. 'The action,' it declared, 'is in response to a growing body of research indicating that man-made industrial chemicals and pesticides may commit a kind of molecular sabotage within the body's regulatory apparatus, possibly causing birth defects, low sperm counts, breast cancer, mental impairment and a range of other ailments.' Sounds scary -- and it is scary, to the chemical industry, at least. To do a thorough testing of a suspect chemical costs an average $1.5 million. If the EPA does not call off the hunt at a preliminary stage, somebody has to cough up $23 billion to test just the most suspicious 24% of the lot. But are everyday chemicals hidden causes of birth defects, mental impairment and other bad things? It turns out that there is no growing body of research to that effect. Indeed, the testing is in response to stunning findings reported two years ago in Science magazine. Last year the authors of that Science article officially withdrew the findings, after neither they nor anyone else could replicate their work. But the witch-hunt continues unabated."

"Another Enviro-Scare Debunked" - Texas A&M researcher Stephen Safe writes in the Wall Street Journal (Aug. 20, 1997), "It is clear that the best science now points to the conclusion that xenoestrogens and related compounds are less harmful than had been suggested. Which raises two questions: In light of the new findings, will Congress reconsider the laws it passed last year? And will newspapers and magazines pay as much attention to scientific news that isn't alarming?"

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