Not too long ago I remember the fervor that erupted over BPA in plastic bottles and etc. Parents were up in arms about the danger the chemical posed to their babies via the plastic bottles they used. Even the water bottle company Sigg got into hot water when it was learned that their bottles contained BPA liners, which they eventually discarded in newer production runs.
The sad news is now learning that even though the battle over BPA appears to have been won, we’re still in unsafe territory when it comes to plastics. The chemicals that still remain can be just as horrible as BPA or even worse.
Actually, when you read about our history with plastics one can’t help but feel discouraged.
The fight over the safety of plastics traces back to 1987, when Theo Colborn, a 60-year-old grandmother with a recent Ph.D. in zoology, was hired to investigate mysterious health problems in wildlife around the Great Lakes. Working for the Washington, DC-based Conservation Foundation (now part of the World Wildlife Fund), she began collecting research papers. Before long, her tiny office was stacked floor to ceiling with cardboard boxes of studies detailing a bewildering array of maladies—cancer, shrunken sexual organs, plummeting fertility, immune suppression, birds born with crossed beaks and missing eyes. Some species also suffered from a bizarre syndrome that caused seemingly healthy chicks to waste away and die.
To me Dr. Colborn was cut from the same cloth as Rachel Carson. They were both our modern cassandras, valiantly fighting for our well-being yet stalked by the hounds of hell in industry. The Mother Jones piece I’m quoting above is right to compare the plastics, chemical and tobacco industries when it comes to their diabolical ways of continuing to poison the public-at-large for decades. I need only look at industry alone to know what Hobbes says is true– man is a wolf to man.
People who would knowingly promote products that would cause harm to their fellow man surely have no soul. Or maybe it’s more like Hannah Arendt’s “banality of evil.” Either way what is to be done, if anything? Is the money simply too much to counter? Or can we somehow harness the Internet to fight back in the 21st century?
The one thing that we have today that we did not have in past fights is the Internet. When the tobacco industry was telling everyone that smoking was safe, the tools of mass communication weren’t there to push back. Now things are different and education is important. We have to continue to get the word out there. This is why the journalism that outlets like Mother Jones does is so important. Even with the number of news organizations we’ve seen fold, the need for the truth has never been more vital to our republic.