By Jennifer Rogers, MPH

I recently read an article about Bisphenol-A (BPA) that eerily reminded me of the movie, “Thank You for Smoking.” In the movie, the “merchants of death” or MOD Squad, as they call themselves, are lobbyists for the alcohol, gun, and tobacco industries and meet for lunch while plotting to keep vital information about the harmful health effects of their products out of the hands of the public. And they do so with great success, not to mention, great profit.

What does this have to do with BPA? A recent Washington Post article said a group of chemical industry lobbyists met at the exclusive Washington, DC Cosmos Club to develop a public relations strategy to “tamp down public concerns” around the safety of BPA. BPA is a chemical that has been linked to breast cancer, testicular cancer, low sperm count, miscarriage and other reproductive problems. In fact, it has already been banned in Minnesota and Chicago. The BPA lobbyists agreed to use many of the same strategies used in the 1990s to create doubt around the harmful health effects of tobacco. As the meeting minutes reflected, industry representatives mentioned using fear tactics to dissuade people from choosing BPA-free packaging. They floated messages suggesting that people will no longer be able to buy cheaper canned goods, or that they will lose access to baby food. Furthermore, attendees said they doubted they could find a scientist to serve as a spokesman for BPA, instead deciding to use a young pregnant woman as their “holy grail.” Like Joe Camel or the Marlboro Man, the new “MOD Squad” is looking for ways to put a pleasant face on dangerous product. They can do this because there is so little oversight from any federal agency.

As a health advocate and a consumer, I find this news incredibly disturbing. BPA is just the tip of the iceberg--there are many more chemicals like BPA that pose a danger to our health. Although we have made great strides in some aspects of our health, when it comes to our reproductive health there are some startling trends. Sperm counts have decreased by about 50 percent in many industrialized regions, younger women are reporting difficulty conceiving, and more babies are born premature. One of the most common birth defects today is malformations of male reproductive organs. For the most part, we do not know exactly why this is happening, but evidence suggests that something in our environment is a cause.