Kristof Over the Top on Chemicals

In a column for today’s New York Times, Nicholas Kristof reveals that there are indeed people out there who are afraid of receipts — not to mention microwave popcorn, canned food, plastics, cosmetics, and food packaging….

What’s the source of all this fear? Chemicals, and particularly so-called “endocrine disruptors.” According to Kristof, all sorts of chemicals, including BPA (a component of many plastics, which has been in use for 60 years) can mimic hormones and lead to a multitude of health problems, from genital deformities, to infertility, to breast cancer and even obesity…

“People think that because Kristof is an expert on other topics, he must be a trustworthy source of information on chemicals,” adds ACSH’s Dr. Gilbert Ross. “What they don’t realize is that, on the topic of chemicals, he just doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He goes so far as to repeat the thoroughly discredited myths about gender-bent frogs and declining sperm counts — favorite activist dogma, but completely unfounded.”

Full ACSH critique worth reading.

Comments (3)

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  1. brian says:

    Kristof may not be an expert on those things, but he appears to be citing experts in the article. (Philip Landrigan, the Endocrine Society, etc.) Where he goes too far is where he implies that government needs to ban certain types of packaging, etc.

    More research probably needs to be done on some of these chemicals……all of the answers probably won’t be known with certainty for a few decades. I’m not going to say that the guy is a kook.

  2. Devon Herrick says:

    I like the work of Bruce Ames, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at UC Berkeley. He has thoroughly debunked some of the bunk on cancer and environmental chemicals in the NCPA study, Misconceptions About Environmental Pollution, Pesticides and the Causes of Cancer.

    Here is what he had to say about environmental chemicals and cancer…

    Regulatory policy that focuses on traces of synthetic chemicals is based on misconceptions about animal cancer tests. Recent research indicates that:
    a) Rodent carcinogens are not rare. Half of all chemicals tested in standard high dose animal cancer tests, whether occurring naturally or produced synthetically, are “carcinogens”;
    b) There are high-dose effects in rodent cancer tests that are not relevant to low-dose human exposures and that contribute to the high proportion of chemicals that test positive;
    c) The focus of regulatory policy is on synthetic chemicals, although 99.9 percent of the chemicals humans ingest are natural. More than 1,000 chemicals have been described in coffee: 28 have been tested and 19 are rodent carcinogens. Plants in the human diet contain thousands of natural pesticides that protect them from insects and other predators: 63 have been tested and 35 are rodent carcinogens.

    There is no convincing evidence that synthetic chemical pollutants are important for human cancer. Regulations that try to eliminate minuscule levels of synthetic chemicals are enormously expensive: The Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that environmental regulations cost society $140 billion per year. Others have estimated that the median toxic control program costs 146 times more per life year saved than the median medical intervention.

    Attempting to reduce tiny hypothetical risks also has costs; for example, if reducing synthetic pesticides makes fruits and vegetables more expensive, thereby decreasing consumption, then cancer will be increased, particularly for the poor.

    Yet Ames is a firm proponent in power of micronutrients on health.

  3. Paul H. says:

    Glad to see this bit of silliness get its comeuppance.