Published today (Tuesday May 17th, 2016) on Independent Science News, “Unsafe at any Dose? Diagnosing Chemical Safety Failures, from DDT to BPA” was written by Jonathan Latham, PhD.
Synopsis: Why do concentrations of harmful chemical pollutants continue to rise, in the environment and in our bodies, despite decades of campaigning against them? The chosen strategy of most environmental and public health advocates has been to focus on the elimination (banning) of specific toxic chemicals. Such campaigns are sometimes successful on their own terms, but the result is never a reduction in chemical usage. Instead, a new chemical replaces the old one. Even worse, the replacement is often also found to be toxic. Neonicotinoid pesticides, for example, are the fourth and latest iteration of ‘safer’ pesticides. Rather than presuming that the problem is one of chemical ‘rotten apples’, this article considers whether or not the evidence indicates a more profound failure of chemical risk assessment. Jonathan Latham examines whether the fault lies with the science underpinning chemical risk assessments or the regulatory institutions responsible for their implementation. The conclusion reached is that the institutions are broken while the science is unfixable. This understanding has many implications besides showing an urgent need for a profound rethinking of the strategies and goals of campaigners who wish to create a world free of toxic chemicals.