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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

'Reasonable' Rhetoric

The ladies at Independent Women's Forum are out in full force with a new campaign - it's called 'Reasonable Moms'.



I've heard mumblings about it for a little while now, but other than a pretty broad statement about parenting pressure and guilt, with some pointed rhetoric thrown in, the Reasonable Mom movement seemed pretty tepid at first. I definitely had my suspicions about the underlying motives of this project, which turned out to be correct.

After the scheduled event in Washington, IWF tweeted a link to their project's 'fact' sheets. My head promptly exploded.


These 'fact' sheets are on three topics: BPA, GMOs, and Food Dyes. Let's take a look, shall we?

First up, the sheet on BPA. According to the NIH Bisphenol A (BPA) is "a chemical produced in large quantities for use primarily in the production of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins." BPA use is expanding since it's introduction to the marketplace in the 1960's - 10 billion pounds were produced worldwide by 2012, and the estimated market value reached over $13 billion in 2013. The market is predicted to grow by about 5% annually. BPA is big business.

Though originally discovered in the late 1800's, BPA renewed interest in the 1930's when scientists were looking for a drug to treat miscarriages and menstrual problems. Despite its estrogen mimicking effects BPA fell to the wayside in favor of the more potent DES, now banned from use due to increased rates of reproductive diseases and cancers from exposures in utero. BPA began to thus become widely used in consumer products like plastics and in canned food linings. Like most of the 80,000 chemicals on the market, under the law there is no requirement to do comprehensive safety studies. And if you had any doubts about the ineffectual framework in place, the EPA has still yet to be able to ban asbestos. Yes, you read that right.

Many studies have shown negative health effects from BPA. The majority of independent studies in particular have shown harm - contrasting starkly with industry studies conclusions. From a report in Newsweek:


"One 2006 analysis by vom Saal and Wade Welshons showed that 11 out of 11 industry-funded studies found BPA had no significant action, while 109 of 119 studies that had no industry funding (92 percent) did find effects of BPA."

An independent review of the literature in 2013 found 'strong links exist between early exposure and altered behavior and asthma in children.' An expert scientific panel concluded that 'The published scientific literature on human and animal exposure to low doses of BPA in relation to in vitro mechanistic studies reveals that human exposure to BPA is within the range that is predicted to be biologically active in over 95% of people sampled. The wide range of adverse effects of low doses of BPA in laboratory animals exposed both during development and in adulthood is a great cause for concern with regard to the potential for similar adverse effects in humans.' 

A review by scientists from 2008 concludes in part that "The data collected thus far in the field of environmental toxicology are sufficiently robust to raise concerns about the potentially deleterious impact of endocrine-disrupting chemicals on human development." We have many, many more studies supporting this statement now.

From Vandenberg and Prins in Andrology 2016: "...more than 100 epidemiology studies suggest associations between BPA exposures and a range of conditions and diseases, including metabolic syndrome, infertility, and severity of asthma..." The authors address the controversy surrounding BPA, saying that "one factor that cannot be ignored is the role of ‘manufactured doubt’, a concept that was originally invented by representatives from the tobacco industry to generate scientific debate about issues that were relatively well settled solely for the purpose of shaping public opinion and delaying regulatory action...It has been suggested that the chemical industry, as well as trade manufacturing groups, has used similar tactics to keep harmful EDCs, including BPA, on the market, long after scientific inquiry has identified their potential to cause harm (Bergman et al., 2015; Oreskes et al., 2015)."



Funny they should mention that. The IWF fact sheet on BPA reads like it's coming directly from a chemical industry sponsored website. They make the claim that 'people simply don’t come in contact with high enough levels of BPA through the use of everyday products and consumables for it to impact the human body' But, our bodies are made to respond to tiny doses of hormones down to the parts per trillion level, and hormone mimicking chemicals do not follow a linear dose response pattern. But this should come as no surprise to those familiar with the IWF - they deny the science around endocrine disrupting chemicals just like they deny the science supporting climate change. 

IWF also makes the claim that many health and safetey regulatory agencies have 'concluded that BPA is safe.' First on the list is the World Health Organization. From an expert meeting report by WHO and FAO:

I guess they are counting on people being too lazy to look? The fact sheet has ZERO citations, and the best part - they tell you to 'check out these good sources for more reliable information:'



First they list SciBabe, an ex Amvac Chemical Corporation employee. Second, we have one of the Science Moms. And third we have Angela Logomasini an IWF contributor and Director of Risk and Environmental Policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Last but not least - the American Council on Science and Health (whose name they got wrong, a common theme with the Pink Posse) the group you think of first when you think of corporate astroturf

President of ACSH at the Reasonable Moms event with the dude that keeps calling me an 'organic shill' on Twitter, Julie Gunlock from IWF,  Jenny Splitter - another 'Science Mom', and Jamie Wells of ACSH.

Right on the heels of this event was an article in the Federalist written by Julie Gunlock (badly) criticizing the work of Leonardo Trasande, an associate professor of Pediatrics, Environmental Medicine and Population Health at NYU School of Medicine.


Trasande (with two a's), who was interviewed recently in the press for a new study he authored that assessed the cost of health problems associated with exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Julie attempts to smack down one of those reports with her article, hilariously mis-spelling voilĂ  as 'VIOLA' along with the name of the man she is disparaging as 'Trasende' throughout the piece. But, more importantly, the piece lacks any credible evidence to back up her critique. She's all over the map, from cancer to bisphenol A to EWG, to organic food, to 'correlation does not equal causation' - and even goes so far as to accuse Trasande (with two a's) of fabricating data in a prior study. But she never really addresses the study itself or gives any reasons as to why it is 'junk science' as she states. She ends with:

"The scientific community must do more to reign in activist scientists and dubious scientific studies that create fear and alarm where no documented danger exists."

Rough translation: This type of research threatens industry, and all we can do to stop them is attempt to libel them in shitty articles like this. Fuck my life. 

Look, I don't know for sure who butters their bread over at IWF, but you can usually get a pretty good picture from what they are pushing in their campaigns. The other two fact sheets on GMOs and Food Dyes read about the same as the BPA one, with no citations, dubious references to astroturf and junk science industry front groups, and loaded language meant to persuade mothers that they are UNreasonable by being concerned about the effects of these things on their children's health. 

Oh noes! Not the CHEMOPHOBES. Say it isn't so!

Like we are supposed to think they give a fuck about the earth?


In reality, there exists plenty of evidence that these things may not be as safe as the people selling them may want us to believe, and given the state of the current science, taking a precautionary approach is in fact a very reasonable position.


Bottom line advice for moms: Don't let IWF tell you how to parent, or define what being reasonable is.