Report by Emily Hughes, Associate Editor, Medical Plastics News
Following the publication of The Times’ front page article, ‘Everyday plastics plunge men into fertility crisis' on 18th June, the British Plastics Federation (BPF) responded to the Editor of the newspaper over its “misleading nature”.
According to the articles in both The Times and the Mail Online, PVC flooring, shower curtains, car dashboards, non-stick pots and waterproof jackets could be affecting fertility.
The BPF’s response pointed out the “misleading nature of the article, as well as its potentially dangerous consequences.” Reinforcing the Plastics Industry’s stance on issues of chemical safety, the letter went on to explain how regulations such as REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation of Chemicals) ensure the rigorous evaluation and testing of chemical substances.
The Times and the Mail Online based their articles on information given by Niels Jorgensen at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology’s annual conference in Lisbon.
According to the Mail Online Dr. Jorgensen said “the cocktail of chemicals in everyday items is a significant factor in the decline of male fertility.” (Fiona Macrae, Science Editor for the Daily Mail)
However, The Times and the Mail Online failed to make clear, within their stories, information from Dr. Jorgensen’s articles that have been published in peer-reviewed journals.
Three separate articles, published by Dr. Jorgensen and his colleagues, describe that semen quality is affected by physical activity, male reproductive health is affected by alcohol and that sugar-sweetened beverages also affect the reproductive hormone levels in young men.
The two newspapers appear to have been selective in the research behind their stories, basing the articles on information from Dr. Jorgensen that does not currently appear on his list of published, peer-reviewed articles.
The Mail Online has written that “Dr. Chris Flower, of the Cosmetics, Toiletry and Perfume Association, said that Dr. Jorgensen did not have any firm evidence and the EU had strict rules on the safety of chemicals,” yet still ran a story that ignores Dr. Jorgensen’s published works in favour of a story based on research not reviewed by other experts in the field.
British Plastics and Rubber reported in January 2015 that a type of phthalate, which according to the Mail Online is a ‘suspect substance’, has been re-evaluated by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and found to possess “no health risk to consumers of any age group, including unborn children, infants and adolescents.”
The letter written by the BPF was published in the ‘Letter to the Editor’ column of The Times on 19 June. The BPF’s Director-General, Philip Law, says the Association “takes a firm position on misleading stories about plastics in the media and endeavours to protect the interests of the UK Plastics Industry.”