Want to be flame retardant? Eat meat. Apparently, chicken and red meat consumption is linked to a higher body burden of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) – a chemical used as a flame retardant in consumer products. Unfortunately, while that might be a handy trait if possessed by a human, that’s not what you get from eating a lot of PBDEs. Instead, what you get is endocrine disruption.
Endocrine disruptors was the subject of a recent column by Nicholas Kristof who encourages us to learn from the frogs. Amphibians seem to be the canaries in the coal mine for endocrine disruptors. The frogs are showing up with all kinds of genital abnormalities. One such chemical that appears to affect frogs, atrazine, is such a popular pesticide that it contaminates drinking water in some parts of the country. Some countries ban atrazine, but it’s perfectly legal in the U.S.
Another endocrine disruptor is BPA (Bisphenol A) which JayinPortland has been reporting on regularly on the blog La Vida Locavore.
BPA is used in everything from baby bottles to canned foods. One recent headline was that BPA stays in our bodies longer than previously thought. Then we found out what the FDA was doing about it: Nothing. In fact, worse than nothing. They were siding WITH the pro-BPA lobby.
There are a few bills in Congress to ban BPA, and there’s a lot of money going into lobbying against those bills. (You can take action here.) The version of the food safety bill that just passed the House Energy & Commerce Committee included a provision requiring the FDA to study the safety of BPA, which – if it passes in the final bill – will essentially just stall any ban on BPA. In other words, calling for an FDA study is WORSE than doing nothing, because it puts off any ban on BPA that might have otherwise passed.
California, Maryland, Connecticut, and Minnesota also have BPA bans in the works. Minnesota was the first to ban BPA, although they only banned it in baby bottles and sippy cups. Connecticut followed suit soon after. California just passed a BPA ban (in food and drink containers designed for kids 3 and younger) through the Senate so now we’re waiting on the Assembly – and the signature of the Governator. You can take action here.
Of course, BPA is not the only endocrine disruptor out there – it’s just the one that’s in the news, and that we’re closest to getting rid of. The question we should be asking ourselves is how we came to legalize so many harmful chemicals in the first place, and how we might reform our system so that we can prevent doing so in the future.