When the NYTimes' columnist, Nicholas Kristof, writes based upon his experiences and observations among the impoverished and exploited women and children of the third world, he is resonant and inspirational.
So why doesn't he stick to those topics where his passionate rants and anecdotes can do much good. Or to put it more productively, why doesn't he avoid ranting about his perceptions concerning chemical dangers?
His latest broadside is entitled "Contaminating Our Bodies With Everyday Products." He proudly illustrates his thorough lack of familiarity with science-based precepts of dose-response and disease causation with such laughers as these: "Unregulated substances...are sometimes linked to breast and prostate cancer, genital deformities, obesity, diabetes and infertility," which he attributes to a "landmark statement" from some barely-known ob-gyn federation. Sometime linked to what? Everything, it seems. And such studies generally either find, or do not find, a link to some definable exposure to a specific product or substance or behavior. What if they were regulated? I guess the link to all those conditions would miraculously disappear!
He continues: "The gynecology federation’s focus is on endocrine disrupters, chemicals that imitate sex hormones and often confuse the body. Endocrine disrupters are found in pesticides, plastics, shampoos and cosmetics, cash register receipts, food can linings, flame retardants and countless other products." He again cites that august medical group for pointing out that 'virtually every pregnant woman in America has at least 43 different chemical contaminants in her body.' I ask, How many "chemical contaminants" do non-pregnant women (and possibly men) have in their formerly pristine bodies? How does one tell the difference between a contaminant and a good old fashioned chemical? And what endocrines, exactly, do "endocrine disrupters" disrupt? I thought the endocrine disrupter theory had gone out with toxic vaccines, but apparently not here at The Times anyway. (I am pretty sure Nick does not know that the harder we look for a chemical in the body, the more likely we are to find it, down to parts per trillion. Nor does he know that the mere presence of a chemical is not evidence of its harm).
He then descends into the last refuge of the demagogue by analogizing the chemical industry's reams of evidence-based and official-government approvals on the safety of their products, with the Evil Old Tobacco Industry's depredations (themselves carried on during the last century, not this one): "The warnings are a reminder that the chemical industry has inherited the mantle of Big Tobacco, minimizing science and resisting regulation in ways that cause devastating harm to unsuspecting citizens." Oh, Nick.
No wait: here in fact is his height (depth) of irresponsible scaremongering, an allusion which should have brought down the wrath of the Times' editors, if they bothered to read it: "They are the ones treating women with breast cancer....linked to early exposure to endocrine disrupters." Bullcrap Nick. As a defender of exploited women in other regions, you of all people should be ashamed of such blatant pandering to those few remaining anti-chemical NGOs who still adhere to the breast cancer-chemical link. There is zero valid scientific evidence linking any environmental chemical exposure to breast (or any other) cancer (as opposed to occupational exposure, where some evidence exists to some cancers).
Here's the punch line: What can be done to reduce your risk from these and other toxic chemical exposures? "For now, experts say the best approach is for people to try to protect themselves. Especially for women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, and for young children, try to eat organic, reduce the use of plastics, touch cash register receipts as little as possible, try to avoid flame-retardant couches...." Yes, he is very, very concerned about the illusory (not to say imaginary, but let's say hypothetical) dangers of flame-retardants in home furnishings! He seems to be not so concerned about the dangers, the very very real dangers, of fires in the home. While this may be the season to be jolly, it is also undeniably the season when the risk of lethal fires rises dramatically, thanks to holiday candles of every ethnicity, and those dried-out Christmas trees which seem to linger well past the New Year and go up like kindling when a flame comes near.
Thanks Nick! We'll be sure to avoid flame-retardants and never, ever touch a cash register receipt! If we can avoid those for 120 years, we'll live a long, long time.