Milwaukee’s Best No Longer
By Jon Entine
A brewing ethical brouhaha at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel illustrates the hazards of politicized science reporting.
In an era of partisan journalism, some have presumed that at least one area of reporting, science, was insulated from blatant bias. After all, there are facts, and it’s presumably easy to identify when data is being cooked. But that’s naive, and a brewing ethical brouhaha at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel underscores how the public can be short-changed when ideology, ambition, or hubris takes precedence over a news organization’s public responsibility to report controversies in context.
This incident erupted after a comprehensive review of plastic additive bisphenol A (BPA) by the German Society of Toxicology was published two weeks ago in Critical Reviews in Toxicology, a prestigious international journal. BPA is used to add strength and flexibility to many plastic products, from the protective lining of metal cans to bottles to dental sealants.
Over the past few years, the dominant narrative among select publications—the Journal Sentinel, most notably—is that BPA is dangerous to humans, infants, and pregnant women in particular, because it distorts development. Because of this, some have labeled it an “endocrine disruptor.” Indeed, it does subtly alter the way hormones in our endocrine system work, as do many chemicals, including soy, nuts, wheat, and berries. The “BPA is harmful” thesis never gained mainstream acceptance among scientists—no regulatory panel in the world has recommended restricting BPA based on the evidence, although political bodies have imposed restrictions, partly because of public perceptions stirred by articles in the Journal Sentinel and other publications. (The American)