You try to have a little faith in the process, in government claims that they want to mop up the environmental mess they've made. Then they go ahead and validate all those creeping suspicions you tried to muzzle, as the hopeful citizen you are, or try to be. Sure Stephen Harper promised to crack down on the thousands of unregulated chemicals saturating the market back in the fall, then only ended up targeting 200 of the worst 400 offenders, but hey at least he was taking action. Or at least it looked that way.
Still you had to wonder how much action they would end up taking around some of the most ubiquitous chemicals in our lives, especially after decades of telling us they were safe enough to be in our frying pans, dental fillings, candy wrappers and couches. Surely, they'd figure out some clever way to let them off the hook, I mumbled. And voila, last week, we get our first clue. The manager of Health Canada's contaminated-sites division, the man in charge of overseeing the government's research into the health impact of all these toxins, was outted for openly supporting one of the chemicals he'd been assigned to investigate, Bisphenol A.
Mark Richardson basically told a dental toxicology conference in Tuscon back in March that he thought the estrogenic compound embroiled in controversy was as safe as tofu and dismissed the threat. Of course I've also written about the potential dangers of consuming estrogen-mimicking soy protein products in large daily doses and how scientists have linked doing so to elevated cancer rates in post-menopausal women. The only difference is that most people come in much less frequent contact with soy than they do their bisphenol A-based dental fillings, water bottles and sippy cups, which basically entail getting a constant drip. To dismiss those low but consistent exposure levels as innocuous is outrageously irresponsible in the face of over a dozen studies that point to trace amounts of the chemical increasing the risk of birth defects, attention disorders, miscarriages, infertility, not to mention that exposure in the womb could mess with cells enough to trigger breast and prostate cancer later in life.
The good news is that, thanks to media pressure, the guy's been reassigned while his department looks into charges that he's too biased to do his job. Regardless, you'd be naïve to assume this'll mean the government's going to end its survey by banning the compound from Eden. Canada's never been the first to take the lead on these things plus too much big money (think Dow, GE, Bayer and Sunoco) and too many products (baby bottles, water bottles, aluminum/ stainless steel can linings, dental enamel fillings) are tied up with the chemical to let this one fade from shelves without a fight - and a hell of a lot of high-priced lobbying.