- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 1, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Putting plastic in perspective

The Washington Times does consumers no favors by publishing Gilbert Ross’ pro-industry dismissal of the health dangers of drinking from hard plastic (polycarbonate) bottles (“Plastic hysteria strikes again,” Commentary, April 24) without also informing consumers that Dr. Ross’ serious-sounding group, the American Council on Science and Health, gets considerable funding from the chemical industry. In fact, ACSH’s funders are a virtual who’s who of the nation’s biggest chemical companies, including American Cyanamid, Monsanto, Pfizer, Archer Daniels Midland, Ciba-Geigy, Ethyl, Exxon, Chevron, Dow, DuPont and Union Carbide — just to name a handful — according to the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest.

This biased article completely ignores a broader category of health concerns, including those related to bisphenol-A (BPA) and phthalates in toys and other products used to feed and care for children, about all of which the National Institute of Health’s National Toxicology Program has recently issued warnings. You would have helped consumers to determine the veracity of the speaker by letting them know the money behind the voice.

ELISA ODABASHIAN

Director



West Coast office

Consumers Union

San Francisco

Contrary to the insinuations of Dr. David O. Carpenter, my organization, the American Council on Science and Health, accepts only no-strings-attached donations (“Plastics caution,” Letters, Saturday). We will accept support from almost anyone, including foundations, corporations and a growing number of individuals — as long as it is understood that the contributions will have no effect on the high quality of our research and conclusions, which are published in peer-reviewed journals.

Our 400-member advisory panel — made up of scientists, physicians and academicians — serves on a voluntary basis. These facts explain why, contrary to Dr. Carpenter’s assertions, our science-based position on bisphenol-A (BPA) is immune to the “industry funding” smear so often resorted to by those with no other arguments to support their theories.

In fact, our position is at odds with that of the plastics industry itself. The spokespeople for the makers of BPA have acquiesced to the media and regulatory storm provoked by the recent government report. They have chosen to “call for more research” rather than simply to call a spade a spade; that is, pointing out that the report’s “concerns” were based on rodent tests, of no relevance to the health of humans of any age.

We published a report evaluating all the scientific information on BPA in 2004. This report was written by an expert in the field and peer-reviewed by nine volunteer academicians with no ax to grind. Our conclusion was that BPA is safe to use as we’ve been using it since the 1950s. The current uproar derives from inappropriate, unscientific extrapolations from “low-dose” rat tests to human health. If these tests are to be the benchmark for environmental “safety,” we would be left with none of our commonly used consumer goods and precious few of our foods, as well. Even the EPA has pulled back from such judgments. As but one example: Peanut butter contains trace levels of the animal carcinogen aflatoxin. Will Dr. Carpenter and his colleagues’ next scare involve PB&J;?

Dr. Carpenter’s spurious linkage of the “risks” of BPA with those of smoking are clearly alarmist: While no one has ever been harmed by BPA, the toll of cigarettes in our country alone reaches into the millions.

The substitutes for BPA are much less studied and will likely be subject to a similar scare campaign in the near future. If BPA is banned, the American consumer will pay the price. Meanwhile, scientists who have spoken out on this hysteria — yes, it’s hysteria, not merely “concern” now — are apparently to be hounded by Congress as well as by Dr. Carpenter and his minions. However, I wouldn’t retract a word from my Commentary, as the scientific facts are behind me.

DR. GILBERT ROSS

Medical director

American Council on Science and Health

New York

Freedom of Choice makes the choice clear

Nat Hentoff listed a number of reasons Sen. Barack Obama’s pro-abortion actions as a legislator and candidate changed his view of Mr. Obama, including: opposing the Supreme Court upholding the ban on the barbaric partial-birth abortion procedure, voting against the Born Alive Infant Protection Act that would have required that babies who survived abortion receive medical treatment, voting against a bill that would have required a parent be notified before a minor daughter could have an abortion in a state she didn’t live in, and Mr. Obama’s infamous remark, “I don’t want them punished with a baby” if his daughters make a mistake and become pregnant (“Abortion senator to abortion president,” Op-Ed, Monday).

Mr. Hentoff implies that because of Mr. Obama’s “extremist” positions as a candidate and legislator he would be a pro-abortion extremist as president. However, there is no need to wonder, as Mr. Obama has already told us at a July 17, 2007 Planned Parenthood forum, “Well, the first thing I’d do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act.”

The Freedom of Choice Act would make legalized abortion the law of the land, but it would go further and overturn federal and state limits on abortion nationwide, invalidating pro-life laws that have been upheld by the Supreme Court in the decades since Roe v. Wade. Fortunately, it is highly unlikely that Congress will pass FOCA. Mr. Obama is definitely a pro-abortion extremist.

MARY DOUGHERTY

Catholics United for Life

New Hope, Ky.

A missing ingredient in world food debate

Georgie Anne Geyer has been on my “must read” Washington Times list for nearly 15 years because her insights and experience almost always prove correct. However, her article “Food shortage anguish” (Commentary, Tuesday) completely misses the key factor regarding global hunger.

Miss Geyer’s analysis of the current rise in hunger is accurate, but she fails to mention that even without any of the new factors, there would still be about 27,000 children a day dying from easily preventable malnutrition and hunger-related infections.

Also, even if we solved all the current problems like diverting food back to people instead of sport utility vehicles, eliminating drought in Australia and reducing food demand in China or food hoarding in India, the number of malnourished would still remain astronomically high.

The basic problem wouldn’t be, as Miss Geyer concludes, overpopulation. The world and this nation have more than enough food, financial resources and new technologies to feed us and all the hungry of the world — if there is the political will to do so. Doing so would actually save us far greater money in the long run, as better-nourished people (especially children) are able to learn, work and contribute more to the quality of life for all on this increasingly troubled planet.

If we did eliminate hunger from the world, the next president of the United States would have to deal with fewer pandemics, fewer failed states, less economic uncertainty, less crime and even fewer murderous radical Islamists.

But none of this is new. A U.S. Presidential Commission on World Hunger during the Jimmy Carter years produced all the information needed to end hunger by the year 2000, and it was virtually ignored.

It’s time all nations of the world acknowledge what was agreed to after the horrors of World War II when an American president’s wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, worked to create the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and rallied the world to unanimously approve it, knowing that enforcement of such basic rights, such as the right to food, would prevent such global horrors as war, genocide, disease and starvation in the future.

We can wean ourselves from oil, greatly reduce the obesity-related illnesses that now plague our nation’s health system and even better protect our air and water if we shift to sustainable food production and energy production means that we have known for decades.

We can pay now, or we will pay far more later. All we have to do is walk our talk regarding our reverence for human rights, human life and this amazing planet that God has given us.

CHUCK WOOLERY

Rockville

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