Wednesday, January 9, 2013

NYU School of Medicine Tells Big Lies About BPA

The Dihydrogen Monoxide Award

January 9. 2013 ~

We spend a lot of time and effort ferreting through outrageous media coverage of science issues in determining our Dihydrogen Monoxide Award winners but this time, we’re doing something a little different.

This week’s award goes to the dutiful flacks at the NYU School of Medicine for their January 9, 2013 news release on the results of a study of the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) whose co-lead author is a university researcher. In fairness, we should state that a flack’s job is to get media coverage of whatever it is they’re pushing. However, we don’t think that should include shopping around false information in pursuit media coverage and the January 9 release is chock full of blatantly false information.

Let’s start with this whopper, which nicely sets the stage for whipping the media into a frenzy. It’s a close cousin of the old “banned substance” lie:

“The study adds to the growing concerns about BPA, which was recently banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration…”

FACT: The US Food and Drug Administration has done nothing of the sort – ever! As a matter of fact, the FDA has explicitly refused to ban BPA. Oh dear, did the good PR folks at NYU forget that the FDA gave a gigantic smack-down to the Natural Resources Defense Council when the agency rejected the NRDC’s petition to ban BPA? Not very professional, kids. As an antidote for this sort of problem, we recommend reading. It’s very helpful, especially for those interested in facts. Just think of the motto of Faber College – Knowledge is Good.

Apparently not content with promoting the exact opposite position of an American regulatory agency, NYU’s School of Medicine decided to look north and east for new positions to misrepresent:

“Its use has been banned in the European Union and Canada…”

Wow! These guys are just makin’ up stuff left and right! As recently as September 2012, Canada went out of its way to affirm the safety of BPA in food contact applications.

Not only that, but Health Canada also went so far as to note that their position affirming the safety of BPA was the same as policies in the European Union, the United States and Japan!

“… based on the overall weight of evidence, the findings of the previous assessment remain unchanged and Health Canada’s Food Directorate continues to conclude that current dietary exposure to BPA through food packaging uses is not expected to pose a health risk to the general population, including newborns and young children. This conclusion is consistent with those of other food regulatory agencies in other countries, including notably the United States, the European Union and Japan.” (Emphasis added)

As for the European Union, not only has the EU’s food safety body declared BPA safe for use in food contact, it went out of its way to explain why French efforts to ban the stuff are wrong headed.

Whoa, Nelly! How can a guy get so many fundamental facts wrong in ginning up a news release and not get banned from writing future news releases? It’s a mystery to us too.

There there’s the classic “banned from baby bottles,” line. It thrives on misinterpreting the facts:

“Its use has been banned… in the United States for use in baby bottles and sippy cups.”

This is a factual statement. But what makes it such a cheap shot is the fact that the only reason FDA took the action of banning BPA from baby bottles is because it was asked to ban it for that purpose – BY THE PEOPLE WHO MAKE BABY BOTTLES!

Check out this coverage by USA Today. First, we have the headline:

After baby bottle makers voluntarily ban BPA, FDA makes it official

Then there’s the third paragraph of the USA Today article, which we conveniently repeat hear for your review:

“Consumers can be confident these products do not contain BPA,” FDA spokeswoman Shelly Burgess said. She said the agency did not act because it believes BPA is unsafe but because the bottle industry wanted a formal ban for baby products. “We continue to support the safety of BPA for use in products that hold food.”

Let me repeat that: “She said the agency did not act because it believes BPA is unsafe but because the bottle industry wanted a formal ban for baby products.”

See what we mean? The people who make baby bottles stopped using the stuff years ago and asked the FDA to formally ban the stuff, which it did, and in the process the FDA reiterated “… the safety of BPA.”

One thing that was not factually flawed was how the news release tried to make the case for more money for more research. After all, that may be the point here – to use a bunch of false information to create a lot of bad reporting to raise more money so more researchers can increase their prestige and salaries by conducting more research. It’s kind of a vicious cycle, you know?

So congratulations to the cracker-jack flack squad at NYU’s School of Medicine for winning this week’s Dihydrogen Monoxide Award! We give this award four stars. After all, it manages to completely misrepresent the BPA policy positions affecting a score of nations and hundreds of millions of people. It takes a special kind of skill to pull a boner of this proportion.

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