Last Wednesday (July 16, 2009) a California regulatory board elected to not place Bisphenol A (BPA) on a list of products that may cause harm to unborn babies. The panel, comprised of seven physicians, concluded that BPA should not be covered under Proposition 65, which compels regulators to identify substances that can cause birth defects, developmental or reproductive harm. BPA is commonly used to harden plastics and as a metal coating; and the concern of mothers is that children are being exposed to BPA from plastic baby bottles. Of course, unless the mothers are ingesting their first trimester chardonnay from rubber-nippled baby bottles, I am at a loss to see how Proposition 65 advances their position. But in an effort to be sensitive to their concerns, I’ll grant them some scientific license.
Few groups are as prone to being alarmist and overly concerned with unproven, hypothetical, far fetched scenarios as first-time parents.
If I may? A baby’s pacifier hits the floor. In the next few moments I can tell with 97.3% accuracy (I made that up, but it’s close, I’m sure) how many children the parents have. If this is the first child the parent will pick up the paci, sterilize it and give Jr. a new fresh one. If this is the second child, the parent will run the pacifier under hot water and return it to the child. If this is child #3, the parent will lick the paci clean and return it to the baby. If it’s the fourth child the parent will simply replace the pacifier in the kid’s mouth. If it’s the fifth-born child, well, polite company doesn’t discuss the horribly anti-hygienic behaviors parents of fifth children engage in: suffice it to say that fifth children possess immunities mere mortals can only dream of having.
BPA has become the hot new topic among young mothers– joining the GSA, YMCA and “who’s YOUR maid” , even though according to the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment 92.6 percent of people have detectable levels of BPA. (One assumes that this also means that 92.6% of nursing mothers contain BPA, an irony lost on BPA’s detractors lest they be forced to demand breast feeding be considered under Prop 65 as well.) But when a well watered seed finds itself in fertile soil rapid growth is unavoidable. And the water has been pouring in from those hoping to profit from the panic.
BornFree is the manufacturer of BPA free baby bottles begging $5.50 a pop from pop’s pocket. Originally sold in Whole Foods markets a few years ago, BornFree is now moving more than one million each year and is looking for a bigger piece of the baby bottle market, an industry selling more than 60 million bottles annually. BornFree’s CEO, Ron Vigdor has enlisted the help of Fenton Communications, which has experience with anti-BPA campaigns, to help transmit the evils of BPA and drive up demand for BPA free bottles.
Honestly? I don’t object to Mr. Vigdor’s aggressive tactics–it’s just business in America–half-truths and quibbles used to create business opportunities. The entire marketing machine of American business exists to convince us that we NEED that which we previously were doing quite well without.
What I DO object to is preying on the fears of the weakest members of society, in this case new parents, a group too often inclined to misdiagnose the common cold as the bubonic plague (and usually at 3:00 in the morning much to the delight of pediatricians). Leave these poor folks alone–there will be plenty of time to scare them about the BPA in their kids’ dental fillings or coating their can of organic peanut sprouts.