In early July I received the news that I had joined the ranks of TED iconoclasts: a TEDx talk that I gave several months before had been censored by TED, despite a water-tight list of scientific references I provided them with to back up every claim.
The talk was on environmental medicine and elaborated on five pearls of advice about how to protect your immune system from common substances that can poison it. It was originally titled “Take the Lid off your Coffee Cup” — and that was about as punchy as the content got.
Why, then, would it be censored? Was the coffee lid advice too hot for TV?
The key points of my talk seemed innocuous enough:
- Certain chemicals in your immediate environment can damage your immune system.
- Some are worse than we thought or worse than we were told.
- There are steps you can take to avoid these chemicals as an individual and even to help shift how these chemicals are used on a community level.
It’s more about what I didn’t say than what I did that triggered TED’s censorship radar.
If you read between the lines in my TEDx talk you’ll get the message, which I didn’t explicitly articulate for good reason: The federal regulatory agencies that are supposed to protect U.S. citizens from the chemicals I mentioned are doing anything but that.
The truth hurts (almost as much as environmental chemicals)
While I never explicitly mention the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or the National Toxicology Program, the implicit comparison to European chemical regulatory activity intimates how feeble the theater of safety is in the U.S.
I highlighted a new public health recommendation in Europe regarding the toxicity of BPA (a chemical that frequently shows up in plastics) to human health.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has always taken a more cautious stance toward BPA than the FDA, but in a recent draft opinion that reviewed a large body of BPA studies conducted between 2013 and 2018, EFSA lowered the “tolerable daily intake” of BPA by 100,000 times.
About a month after I gave my talk EFSA revised the new tolerable daily intake by five-fold (now to 20,000 times lower than their 2015 recommendation). The numerical edit amounts to a negligible difference in reality as complying with either of the new recommendations means getting plastics out of food and beverage storage and production completely.
If U.S. federal regulators didn’t already have egg on their faces, they certainly do now.
EFSA’s draft opinion comes on the heels of a multi-million dollar investigation in the U.S. called CLARITY-BPA that combined the efforts of the FDA, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Toxicology Program to settle a longstanding dispute in BPA toxicology research.
For most of the near decade over which the investigation was conducted, the independent researchers involved in CLARITY reported that the FDA was cooking the books on the studies for which they were responsible and willfully misleading the public about the safety of BPA.