Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Toxic Plastics

Concerns about bisphenol-a, or BPA,a chemical used to make hard plastics (such as reusable water bottles, some baby bottles, food containers, liners for canned foods) are growing.  Chemicals from these plastics, especially when heated, leach into food and human bodies.  The effect and toxicity of these chemicals are unclear, but the concern is enough that some retailers are demanding products made without them.  According to the New York Times, Wal-Mart has said that it will withdraw baby products made with BPA. The current data is based on animal studies: "Rat pups exposed to BPA, through injection or food, showed changes in mammary and prostate tissue, suggesting a potential cancer risk. In some tests of female mice, exposure appeared to accelerate puberty."  The article reports that "Canada has begun a study to monitor BPA exposure among about 5,000 people to assess any danger to adults."

Another mass tort in the offing?  A justification for adopting the precautionary principle perhaps?  Some scholars have argued in favor of expanding standing doctrine to include "precautionary standing."  See Jonathan Remy Nash, Standing and the Precautionary Principle, 108 Columbia L. Rev. (2008) also available on SSRN.  Others have argued that the precautionary principle is paralyzing.  See Cass Sunstein and Robert W. Hahn, The Precautionary Principle as a Basis for Decision-Making, The Economists Voice (2005) also available on SSRN.  For an analysis by a brilliant academic see Douglas Kysar, It Might Have Been: Risk, Precaution and Opportunity Costs,  22 Journal of Land Use & Environmental Law 1 (2006) available on SSRN.



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