Back in the early 1970s, no one can deny that there really were legitimate environmental horror shows that needed to be attended to. Many remember Reserve Mining, in Silver Bay, MN—infamous for dumping taconite debris straight into Lake Superior. Coal-fired power plants using no abatement were all too common, and even though clean-up of automobile engines had already started, there was still a long way to go.
Aggressive enforcement along with advances in abatement technology were to make great strides, and by the late 1980s most of the big targets had been conquered. What was to happen with the burgeoning environmental movement?
Three factors came into play at about the same time. That environmental legislation could have profound effects on industry while growing government was not lost on the Left. As such, the notion of “from Red to Green” was born, whereby those in favor of an overarching, even socialist government, saw a way to achieve their goals that would have made Antonio Gramsci proud.
The second factor involved creating scares over chemicals of all types, usually focused on their alleged effects on babies or children.
One of the earliest kids’ causes was to be found in major efforts—none of which proved very successful—against teenage smoking. The theory was simple enough: Since it is difficult for people to quit smoking, and most of them started when they were teens, why not discourage them from starting in the first place?
But, there was some misdirection here. Clearly, few teenagers die of lung cancer or heart disease—the two main killers associated with cigarette smoking. Thus, strictly speaking, smoking is not really a children’s health issue at all. Rather, it can be PACKAGED as a children’s health issue. It was soon discovered that appeals on the basis of children’s health had great traction, whether they were true or not.
Sadly, these appeals would draw significant attention away from legitimate children’s health issues such as obesity and Type 2 diabetes.
The third factor was the subversion of public education. Long gone are the days of reading, writing, and arithmetic dominating the curriculum. These have been trumped by relevance, ethnic history, self-esteem preening, and, far too often, flat-out socialist proselytizing. Also lost in the shuffle are science and critical thinking skills.
Given these circumstances, is it any wonder that a host of phony chemical scares have been foisted on the public?
Recent examples of phony scares include bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates. Related to this are substances that are toxic, but their ingestion scenarios have been way overblown such as lead.
The lamentable Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, currently embarrassing Congress on a daily basis as it decimates small business, was founded on the pretext of improving children’s safety, and contains restrictions on lead and phthalates. Even though the overwhelming source of lead poisoning is lead in paint, and that hazard has been subject to considerable regulation for over 30 years, the new law forces testing of ALL children’s products, from books to bicycles, and has already had many “unintended consequences.”
I use quotes for the above term since the consequences of this absurd law were obvious, and unless Congress wishes to portray themselves as simpletons, could hardly be unintended. It might be better to call them “ignored consequences,” and then wonder why they were ignored, and have not yet been remedied.
No credible data on deleterious effects of phthalates on humans has ever been proffered. At most, dicey extrapolations of animal testing have been used to create scares based on these compounds, as well as BPA, acting as so-called endocrine disruptors.
However, there are many naturally occurring phytoestrogens, far more potent as disruptors than either phthalates or BPA, such as genistein—found in many legumes and certainly in soy-based infant formula. Thus, the flagrant contradiction of banning the BPA in baby bottles and nipples, but ignoring the “danger” in the formula itself. And, yes, genistein is also present in human milk.
Lead, too, occurs in most of the foods we eat. As such, the notion that “any amount of lead is dangerous” is clearly nonsensical. May we add that formaldehyde is present in most fruits and vegetables, and exists in human breath at a median level of about 30 parts-per-billion—a level deemed “dangerous” by some irresponsible and clueless authorities. Yet, these chemicals and dozens more are being used to scare parents and promote donations to dubious “environmental” groups.
It is long past time to expose these organizations as the charlatans they are, and to save our emotions and money for causes based on truth rather than mindless fear.