It’s been a tough month for parents. Open a newspaper, and you are virtually guaranteed to read about the latest environmental toxin seeping into children’s blood and endangering neuronal or reproductive development. Mattel recalled toys that may be coated in lead paint. Meanwhile, a committee at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) declared ‘some concern’ that a compound in many plastics, bisphenol A (BPA), affects neuronal development. And finally, the University of California at Davis announced a several million dollar study of possible environmental triggers for autism.
If you are a parent and also a scientist, what is the proper response to the conflicting urges to protect your children and evaluate the data? Rebecca Roberts, a biochemist who studies BPA, writes in PLoS Biology:
The mother in me still waits anxiously for the regulatory agencies and the legislature to catch up with the research on BPA that the scientist in me appreciates. I have switched my brand of sippy cups to one that doesn’t contain BPA (a quick internet search will yield many sites describing these and other BPA-free baby products). Nevertheless, while I feel proactive as I watch my daughter happily drink her water, I still cringe a little bit when she drops the sippy cup, toddles over to her toy bin, and starts to gnaw on her plastic turtle instead.