June 10 2013
Plastics Today: Crying ‘wolf’ on plastics is anti-science
By Clare Goldsberry
We all remember the story of the little boy who cried ‘wolf’ so many times to get the attention of people that when a wolf actually showed up to eat him, no one paid any attention. Now a coalition, the Independent Women’s Forum, is calling out the “Mind the Store” campaign for its anti-science demands that stores rid shelves of thousands of common, safe consumer products. The Independent Women’s Forum is urging retailers to stand firm against what it says is a “well-funded, anti-science campaign of fear.”
The coalition hopes to counteract what it calls a “culture of alarmism” through a coalition letter, “signed by 23 prominent pro-freedom organizations to call out a misinformed assault on chemicals, retailers and consumers.” The letter was sent to the nation’s 10 largest retailers, urging them to stand firm against the “Mind the Store” campaign, headed by what the group calls a “radical environmental organization” (Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families) that relies on “junk science to spread fear and misinformation about chemicals.”
The Independent Women’s Forum says that “removing popular and safe products from store shelves will do nothing to improve public health.” Members of this coalition share a commitment to identifying false alarmism, flawed science, and manufactured hysteria and providing a reasonable voice to counteract efforts to limit consumer choices, stifle free-enterprise, and take away our freedoms.”
The letter to retailers pointed out how flame retardants, common in furniture and building materials, are “largely responsible for the sharp decline in household fires since the 1970s. Formaldehyde, which is used in personal care products, helps prevent bacterial growth. Phthalates are added to plastics to make toys less breakable. And bisphenol-A, a chemical used in food packaging, safeguards against deadly botulism in canned food.”
Every day each of us as business people in the plastics industry and as consumers, are called upon to do a cost-benefits analysis of almost everything we purchase. Often, the “greater good” tips the scales in favor of chemicals such as formaldehyde or bisphenol-A, because the alternative would, as the Independent Women’s Forum notes, would limit consumer choices, stifle free-enterprise, and take away our freedoms.”
There is a reason science is a critical part of our life. As journalists, we in the plastics industry trade publications business have an obligation to raise alarms when it’s necessary – when there is a “clear and present danger” to the populace. But we also have an obligation to use science when we write about plastics, chemical additives, and green materials.
Life is always about risk and reward and weighing the costs vs. the benefits. Since the development of plastic materials the benefits have far outweighed the risks or the costs in terms of better health in the medical industry; lower energy costs and less pollution in the transportation industry; safer food and beverages that keep longer; and better ways to build homes, decks, railings and fences and even textiles like carpet with materials that recycle plastics into long-lasting new products.
A ‘culture of alarmism’ doesn’t do anybody any good. Crying wolf over every product that has something in it to make it safer, stronger, lighter-weight, or creates a safer environment for our food, soon falls on deaf ears. If people don’t know the scientific truth about these things, they soon quit believing anything they hear. Let’s face it – living is hazardous to our health.
To find out more about this project, go to www.CultureofAlarmism.org.