American Chemistry Council, cranky toddler

In The Corporation the film shows how if you considered the attributes of corporations, it could be diagnosed as a psycopath. I see the same thing in the ACC (American Chemistry Council), but frankly, a toddler seems more on the money. They have that same ability to look sweet while ernestly telling you something you know isn't true. They've gotten so bad that Reps. Dingell and Stupak is investigating ACC for shady dealings with the EPA (via EWG). (I also see mention of the fixers, the Weinberg group. If your industry is in deep, tobacco style, this is who you call. But they're not toddlers, just sleazy adults so that's for another day).

ACC has also taken to suing communities that are trying to ban plastic bags. Words fail me so I'll let Mr Savall from a letter to Chemical and Engineering News take it away for me:

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.

Brad Savall
San Diego


Do you have the BPA?


Didn't you hear it was bad?


Can you give up the BPA?

(shakes head)

Let go of that BPA.

No, no, no! Mine!

Now don't bite. No, we don't hit people to get our way.

Mine, mine, mine! Wah!

More like this

By Sarah Vogel On Wednesday, May 14 the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee held a hearing on Plastics Additives in Consumer Products to discuss the safety of two chemical compounds, bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates, in consideration of new legislation and calls for regulatory…
The team of investigative reporting team of Susanne Rust and Meg Kissinger at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel just keeps rolling along, this time with an amazing story about how microwave safe plastics are leaching bisphenol-A (BPA) at potentially unsafe levels. We are saying potentially unsafe…
by revere, cross-posted at Effect Measure Everyone knows newspapers are struggling, which means cutting back on everything, including investigative reporting. So it is nice to acknowledge that there is still some wonderful reporting going on. A particular standout has been Susanne Rust and her…
by Richard Denison, cross-posted from EDF Blogs Today, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) unveiled its "10 Principles for Modernizing TSCA."   Also today, the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition - of which EDF is a member - issued a news release and unveiled its 9-point "Platform for…

The right of a local community to make its own decisions notwithstanding, why not institute a 5, 10, 25, 233 cent tax on on all single use bags? I've not found a good reason to shun one type of bad decision over the other, so it seems to be a wash unless one avoids both.
Along these lines, one should not forget the DuPont Corporation's statement on PFOA:
"To date, there are no human health effects known to be caused by PFOA, although study of the chemical continues."
a statement with which DuPont's own Epidemiology Review Board takes exception.

By Insistent Chemist (not verified) on 02 Jul 2008 #permalink

I don't know why anyone would write into Chemical & Engineering News to complain about malfeasance in the chemical industry. Rudy Baum is a big defender of corporations and even attacked journalist at ACS who first exposed The Weinberg Group.

Much of this was covered by Vanity Fair article called Uncovering the Weinberg Group. Rudy Baum is a hack and complaining to his magazine is a fruitless task.

Two little comments:

1) to Thom above -- C&EN is a good magazine with a balanced view; most articles they publish cite people on both sides of an issue, and the Union of Concerned Scientists and other groups that are definitely not chemical industry hacks are often referred to and quoted. Rudy Baum tends toward environmentalism, believes in global warming and often speaks in favor of taking action about it, leans a bit left politically, and gets frequent complaints about all of this.

2) About Mr. Savall's letter -- he makes some fine points, but then damages his own credibility by making a snide (and false) comparison to the NRA's position on gun safety and usage. I am not much of a fan of the NRA myself, but I do believe in the rights of people to defend themselves, and to compare that to people defending a practice that is damaging the environment is inaccurate and shows a lack of critical thinking.


By Philip Boncer (not verified) on 05 Jul 2008 #permalink

I live in a small midwestern town which recycles some things, but not plastic bags. If we want to recycle our plastic bags, it's 20 miles one way to the big city. Needless to say, it is uneconomic for us to recycle plastic bags.

"to compare that to people defending a practice that is damaging the environment is inaccurate and shows a lack of critical thinking."
It was obviously a reference to "guns don't kill people, people kill people". "plastic bags don't kill the environment, people who don't recycle kill the environment". Picking holes in a broad analogy based on a kneejerk defence of anything to do with guns isn't a great sign of critical thinking either.

Yes it was obviously a reference to that. I got that. But (a) the analogy fails because pollution due to unrecycled plastic is harmful due to people's *inactions*, while guns are harmful (when they are) due to people's *actions*, and (b) he showed his bias by terming the gun argument as the "NRA's weary battle cry as it opposed any regulation of the gun industry", which is both unfair and inaccurate. So it wasn't a kneejerk defense; he was intentionally disparaging our rights to arms as a snide aside in his otherwise unrelated letter. And thus I did think critically about what he was saying and why, and responded appropriately.


By Phil Boncer (not verified) on 10 Jul 2008 #permalink

I am a bit late to the table with this discussion but just now noted my letter being quoted. I would like to thank the poster for including the complete letter so that I was not quoted out of context.

Regarding the comments from PhilB. At no time in my letter regarding the ACC and BPA do I disparage the NRA. âWeary battle cryâ conveys the pretense correctly surmised by Jamie that "guns don't kill people, people kill people" has been used for decades and does not address the problem. I have no political agenda with either the NRA, nor tobacco companies, though I consider their strong-arm tactics defending the products, to which they are loyal, to be deceitful at best.

I think that the ACC, like the NRA has lost itâs way. The ACC should help to advance the myriad of benefits, which chemists and chemicals can bring to the service of man. That should come with the acknowledgment that potential risks are possible, even for compounds that have been used for decades. The ACC (like the NRA) has decided to blindly defend even positions which the best evidence shows may not be defensible.

To consider my statements snide toward gun-owners is in the eye of the beholder. I consider hunting to be a wonderful pursuit, which I enjoy.

To Thomâs statement of âI don't know why anyone would write into Chemical & Engineering News to complain about malfeasance in the chemical industry.â Discussion is the root of all solutions. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that C & E News published my letter, especially as it is read by many of the people who can help solve the problems faced by the chemical industry. I truly believe that chemists can bring great change to the world, but not if we deny harm that can be caused by chemicals, or as a more pressing concern, the combination of chemicals.