In another sign that the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel is a more effective consumer watchdog than the federal government, the newspaper has turned up evidence that the chemical industry wrote the Food and Drug Administration assessment that deemed Bisphenol-A safe, despite a growing number of independent and government research to the contrary.
The Journal-Sentinel should be commended, again, for its role uncovering and publicizing industry influence on chemical risk analysis in various federal agencies. (Pulitzer, anyone?) Lest anyone fail to realize the cost of turmoil in the mainstream media, this is an example of why the health of the nations newspapers matter. The Journal-Sentinel announced plans in July to cut 130 jobs -- 10% of its full-time staff -- and that was before its parent company announced a third-quarter loss of $17.1 million, according to Forbes.
The paper's latest revelation is that the FDA used an American Chemistry Council report as the basis for its own health analysis of Bisphenol-A, an ingredient in plastics and the lining of cans. It mimics the hormone estrogen and has been linked to a wide range of problems in laboratory studies and, increasingly, human health studies.
The chemical industry, which profits handsomely on sales of the chemical, asserts its safe. The FDA, similarly -- and, not surprisingly, as it turns out -- has agreed. Canada, meanwhile has declared it hazardous and ordered it removed from baby bottles. The U.S. National Toxicology Program also expressed concerns.
The FDA is now reviewing its health assessment. One can hope that shame, if not a sense of public duty, will compel it to independently consider independent science, rather than the industry's spin.
And one can only hope that newspapers with investigative teams like the Journal-Sentinel can survive the turmoil traditional media faces. It's not that online media can't undertake investigations of the same kind, but these news gathering institutions have deep histories, long experience, and are still -- unquestionably -- relevant.
(Another example: The McClatchy news service wrote today that the White House Office of Management and Budget weakened the Environmental Protection Agency's new rule restricting airborne lead, a known neurotoxin, so that 60% fewer facilities would be regulated.)
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