Thursday, May 6, 2010
A panel of experts, put together by the president and known as the "cancer panel," released a report yesterday that brings to light the potential danger of all sorts of chemicals found in everyday products that American’s use. The report also shines a spotlight on the negative effects of under-regulation and points out that out of 80,000 or so products, only several hundred have even been tested for safety. The final report included a slew of suggestions for consumers, including the use of organic foods and products (I can just see how the right will characterize this – as Obama’s “organic arugula report?”). The fact that people are seeing this report as being a departure from the norm should tell us a lot about our priorities as a society.
The struggle against companies out to make a profit, no matter what the risk to our health, has been around for ages. Remember DDT? Then there’s the entire tobacco industry. Oh, and don’t forget our more recent struggle with the plastic additive BPA. Though federal legislation has been proposed to ban its use, the bill is none too popular, especially considering the lobbying powers of the food industry. Corporations have never really had our best interests at heart, it seems. Just the other day I listened to Maureen Storey - Senior Vice President, Science Policy, American Beverage Association – try to argue on NPR that “soda is comprised mostly of water,” and therefore it’s good for you. Uh, yeah. Sort of like Bill Cosby’s conclusion that it’s ok to eat chocolate cake for breakfast because it contains eggs and milk (except that he’s a comedian, and she’s scientist).
The panel also pointed out that when evidence of the effect of a substance is unclear, we err on the side of the chemical, rather than our health. Though the government may urge us to steer clear of “endocrine disruptors”(which sound like something from a sci-fi thriller), they won’t go so far as to ban them from the products we use in our everyday lives. I can’t help assuming that these decisions are being motivated by some company’s bottom line.
Is it silly to think that this new report could be the beginning of a shift in values? Might we begin to place more emphasis on protecting Americans from chemicals that cause cancer and other health issues and less emphasis on protecting a corporation’s right to make a profit at any cost? I suppose there’s always hope. And until then, you can check out the safety of the products you use here and here.