Issue Date: June 2, 2008
Taking ACC To Task
The American Chemistry Council (ACC) has recently employed several strong-arm and deceptive tactics honed by groups such as the National Rifle Association (NRA) and big tobacco. Reports of lawsuits in some municipalities that are banning the use of retail plastic bags and the controversy over the risk-benefit analysis of bisphenol A (BPA) are particularly concerning. It is depressing, though not surprising, that the majority of public opinion equates sectors of the chemical industry with tobacco companies.
Sufficient data about BPA as an endocrine disrupter exist to cause reasonable people to question the use of BPA in products in which it is not required. Although the majority of the readers of this magazine do not need a primer on the difference between potency, selectivity, and the importance of exposure (dose), ACC does not do the industry any favors when it blindly denies any risk associated with BPA. It is bad science and an even worse public relations strategy, as ACC's misguided denial only fans the fires of chemophobia.
In addition, I read with stunned disbelief that ACC was suing various small cities over plans to ban the use of plastic bags at retail stores. ACC stated, and I paraphrase, that plastic is not the problem, it's people who don't recycle plastic who are the problem. Sound familiar? It echoes NRA's weary battle cry as it opposed any regulation of the gun industry. Estimates vary, but only 1???5% of plastic bags are reclaimed via recycling. It's not surprising that the implication of plastic detritus in the disruption of ocean food chains has enlightened municipalities proposing bans on plastic bags. Such bans may not be the best solution, but until we find better ways to use and reuse our dwindling petroleum-derived resources, such proposals are reasonable.
The chemical sciences bring myriad benefits to the service of humanity. The public is beginning to expect all drugs to be 100% safe, with no side effects. No drug meets those criteria, though the majority of drugs strike a balance between benefit and side effect (risk). The same logic applies to plastic additives and other commonly used chemicals. ACC would better serve our industry by properly informing the public of the reality that exposure to certain "safe" chemicals may carry some risk.
- Chemical & Engineering News
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