Saturday, January 16, 2010

Sylvester McMonkey McBean and the FDA

Mr. McGuire: I just want to say one word to you - just one word.
Ben: Yes sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Ben: Yes I am.
Mr. McGuire: 'Plastics.'

A few years ago, when I was still playing doctor, the FDA released a "Public Health Notification" regarding plasticizers in IV tubing. Back in 2002, when King W sat on the throne, the gummint advised that hospitals avoid DEHP (if possible), particularly for very young males.

I stormed over to the Chair of Pediatrics (not an unusual event) and showed him the memo. He got excited, and talked to the NICU folks, who were already aware, and had made the changes that were financially feasible.

Watch an old war movie. Look at the IV fluids.

Me: I just want to say one word to you - just one word.
Pediatric Chair: Yes, Mike? [exasperated look].
Me: Are you listening?
Pediatric Chair: Yes I am.
Me: 'Glass bottles.'

Oh, yes, glass safety was raised--I keep forgetting about those pesky babies escaping from their isolettes, tossing glass bottle around when the nurse isn't looking.


BPA is in the news--the FDA has raised concerns about bisphenol-A (BPA), used in plastics. Yep, the same BPA declared safe in 2008.

Unlike most potential toxins, BPA (and DEHP) mimic hormones--BPA was specifically designed as a synthetic estrogen and noted as such back in 1936 (Dodds and Lawson, Nature 137: 996).

Hormones work in minute quantities. Very minute.

I will be squeezing last summer's peaches into a food grade plastic bucket today, along with a few pounds of honey, some chlorinated water, and yeast. The peaches will thaw in the same bowl my mom used decades ago, and I will think of her.

Next week I will transfer the bubbling mess into a glass carboy.

And this is where I am supposed to preach moderation and sanity--we all use plastic and chlorinated water--it's safe, why feed the scaremongers and tinfoil hat crowd?

Why indeed....

Because we are deliberately putting a compound designed to act like estrogen into our food!

And Sylvester McMonkey McBean?

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month
is sponsored (and controlled) by AstraZeneca, a pharmaceutical company descended from Imperial Chemicals Industries (ICI), the inventors of polyethylene, the same stuff treated with BPA to make it more useful for packaging.

ICI makes tamoxifen, a key drug used for treating breast cancer. ICI also makes huge amounts of organochlorines, associated with breast cancer.

Breast cancer rates for women here have risen from less than 1 in 20 rate before 1940 to a 1 in 8 chance today. Next October, during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, check out how much of the official NBCAM literature mentions environmental causes of breast cancer.

So, yeah, everybody's doing it, drinking BPA, and look, we're all healthy, really.

It's a testament to the power of propaganda that the plastics industry uses a known hormone mimic to package food, and the onus falls on those who think this might be a bad idea to show the link between BPA and ill effects.

(During my mom's last week of consciousness, I carried her to the bathroom, her bones settling into my arms as easily as her nightgown. She died before her 60th birthday. So, yeah, maybe I'm emotionally invested in this--doesn't change the facts, though.)

Images (other than my own) lifted from other websites--
I figure both are icons of culture and fall under Fair Use
in a blog that makes no money and has a readership the size of the Walton family.
If anyone knows otherwise, drop me a line....)


Kate said...

I stand and stare into the refrigerator looking at all the plastic that holds my food.

How will I ever be able to move away from this?

All food preparation is in glass, ceramic and steel. Food storage: well, that's something else entirely.

John Spencer said...

When you talk about propaganda, I'm reminded of this small reality:

I read recently that diarrhea kills more children in Africa than AIDS or malaria. The issues are economic, systemic and difficulty. I can't imagine a "Run for the Runs" event. Kids dying from something that feels normal to us just isn't too glamorous. It doesn't fit with wearing red or pink or whatever else is required for "awareness."

A second thing I'm reminded of is the reality that breast cancer kills men and most men don't think it's possible because they turned the awareness issue into a pink-oriented concept.

All of this to say, true awareness requires analysis and connections and critical thinking -- not propaganda and pink lids on yogurt and a company like Unilever that makes my coffee, peanut butter and shampoo (which makes sense, they must be a chemical company) advertising itself as an eco-friendly and altruistic company because they donate half a cent on each sale of pink peanut butter.

doyle said...

Dear Kate,

We do what we can do--still, Mason jars never completely disappeared.

And what do I know? I have 6 gallons of melomel mash sitting in a plastic pail with a plastic airlock, all sitting in a 15 gallon bucket.

Dear John,

First breast cancer I saw was a pathology sample--it was once attached to a male.

If we spend too much time analyzing, the culture can be crushing.

Still, if you want to live, live. (But you know this already....)