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New York Times Columnist Is Worried About What's in His Urine

The FDA debunks his fears.

PlasticsAlinamdDreamstimeAlinamd/DreamstimeNew York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof is very worried about what is in his urine, and he wants you to be too.

In his latest piece, Kristof explains that he is very fastidious about avoiding contamination from endocrine-disrupting chemicals—that is, man-made substances that supposedly mimic the hormonal effects of estrogen and testosterone. Such substances, he tells us, are "blamed for an increase in undescended testicles and in a birth defect called hypospadias, in which the urethra exits the side or base of the penis rather than the tip." He is particularly anxious about avoiding bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical found in hard plastics, in the coatings of food and drink packages, and on the thermal paper used in some ATM and cash register receipts.

Well, now he's had a new urine test, and he's eager to tell us the results. Living as he does a BPA-free lifestyle, he's happy to report that he had a low level of BPA. Alas, the test also found "high levels of a BPA substitute called BPF."

In fact, Kristof reports that his Detox Me lab results from the Silent Spring Institute found that he tested "high" for four different endocrine-disrupting chemicals, including 1,4-dichlorobenzene, the effective ingredient in mothballs.* Exposure to that chemical is detected by measuring how much of its metabolite, DCP, is in your urine. A recent cohort study found that 81 percent of the U.S. population has DCP in its pee; in its biomonitoring summary, the Centers for Disease Control report that DCP averages about 5 parts per million in the urine of American adults. Kristof does not say whether his DCP level is higher than average. In any case, the Centers for Disease Control note that merely testing positive for DCP does not necessarily mean "an adverse health effect" is on the way.

On the same day that Kristof published his column, the U.S. Food and Drug Adminstration (FDA) released the preliminary results from a long-term study being conducted at its National Center for Toxicological Research. Their research looks at the effects of several different doses of BPA, evaluating chronic and early-life exposure in two different groups of rodents. "The doses ranged from low doses that would be comparable to typical human exposures, to doses that vastly exceed human exposures," according to the FDA statement. "A variety of endpoints were evaluated including growth, weight and tumor development. Overall, the study found 'minimal effects' for the BPA-dosed groups of rodents." The agency added, "Our initial review supports our determination that currently authorized uses of BPA continue to be safe for consumers." It similarly reaffirmed its earlier evaluation of some 300 scientific studies, which concluded that BPA is safe for consumers.

Meanwhile, even the chemophobes at the Endocrine Disruption Exchange acknowledge that BPF's potency is "in the same order of magnitude and of similar action as BPA." In addition, a new study** finds that BPF does not function as an endocrine disruptor. And what about Kristof's concern over hypospadias and undescended testicles? A 2010 review reported that "the bulk of evidence refutes claims for an increase in hypospadias rates." More recently, a population-based study in Nova Scotia found no increase in hypospadias or undescended testicles between 1988 and 2013. It's always fun to see some alarmism debunked the same day it's prominently promoted in The New York Times.

*For what it's worth, I am highly allergic to mothballs.

**Grain of salt: The study was supported by Valspar Packaging.

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Such substances, he tells us, are "blamed for an increase in undescended testicles..."

    Cure that and where would future New York Times writers come from?

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Then there's the old joke about the doctor saying anal sex is safe because you can't get pregnant from it, and the woman saying "where do you think lawyers come from?"

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    He is particularly anxious about avoiding bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical found in hard plastics, in the coatings of food and drink packages, and on the thermal paper used in some ATM and cash register receipts

    Sounds like Kristof has been watching too many HBO documentaries.

  • Rhywun||

    When I started seeing "BPA-free!!" all over the place I immediately lumped it in with all the other hysterias I ignore like "GMO-free!!" and "gluten-free*!!" - not out of any special knowlege but just weariness of all the hype.

    *bad for some, yes I know

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Well, gluten free for some people is a real thing if you have celiac disease.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Which if course you indicated with your *. So. Yeah.

  • Rhywun||

    I still suspect 90% of the people buying that stuff don't have the disease. It's being deviously equated to "healthy!"

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Way more than 90%.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I knew a guy with Celiac disease. Seemed to find all the hype annoying, but was pretty happy that nowadays there's whole special sections of food he can go to now.

  • Procyon Rotor||

    That's how you know it's a conspiracy. Cui bono? Celiac sufferers created this whole nonsensical fad for gluten-free to increase demand for the stuff and make it easier to obtain.

    ...Do I have to /sarc?

  • Red Tony||

    We'll just ignore it anyway and accuse you of being a paranoid conspiracy nutcase.

  • Sometimes a Great Notion||

    My uncle was the same. He was mostly happy that more gluten free beer got out on the market because the 1st one he found tasted like ass.

  • Brandybuck||

    I knew a woman with celiac disease. Within a couple of years her husband had it too. it must be contagious or something.

  • Rhywun||

    Kristof reports that his Detox Me lab results from the Silent Spring Institute found that he tested "high" for four different endocrine-disrupting chemicals

    I'm no scientician but for some reason that name of that outfit screams "grain of salt" to me every bit as much as the other one.

  • Greg F||

    I'm no scientician but for some reason that name of that outfit screams "grain of salt" ...


    Screams "money extracted from paranoid fools" to me.

  • Griffin3||

    1,4-dichlorobenzene, the effective ingredient in mothballs.* Exposure to that chemical is detected by measuring how much of its metabolite, DCP, is in your urine.

    I imagine, not only is DCP related to how much mothball chemical you eat, but how much DCP is in the water you drink, and it passes right through you. And, you know, NYC water.

  • Jim C.||

    "Silent Spring Institute"

    Why does this make me viscerally angry?

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I think they are actually a legit cancer research center though.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Reading a little more about them I am suddenly less sure. Need someone knowledgeable in the domain to tell us if their work is any good.

  • marshaul||

    I'm not even going to look. There is no way that a group proudly naming themselves after Rachel Carson's patently mendacious book aren't full of shit. You might as well ask whether the "Thetan Institute" is a legitimate cancer research group.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Such substances, he tells us, are "blamed for an increase in undescended testicles and in a birth defect called hypospadias, in which the urethra exits the side or base of the penis rather than the tip."

    Did... did we just learn some unpleasant facts about Nicholas Kristof's genitals?

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Only sort of, as the weird urethra issue is due to him getting a Prince Albert a year ago.

  • Ornithorhynchus||

    This is the same idiot who keeps promoting all the sex-trafficking hysteria, right?

  • Longtobefree||

    Yet another piss poor report from the New York Times - - - - - -

  • Sevo||

    "Such substances, he tells us, are "blamed for an increase in undescended testicles and in a birth defect called hypospadias, in which the urethra exits the side or base of the penis rather than the tip.""

    blamed by the same folks who won't eat GMOs and are worried about cel-phone radiation. IOWs, low-watt lefties.

  • DJK||

    Wow. The minimum price for DetoxMe testing is $299 and tests for all of 10 chemicals. They must be using a mass spectrometer made of gold.

  • Hugh Akston||

    At that price you would think they would at least throw in a courtesy scan of your thetan levels.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    But for every test purchased, $200 of it goes to a solar farm that Al Gore is building to claim carbon credits. So it's a win-win-win... win.

  • Sigivald||

    I can't believe that "DetoxMe" from the "Silent Spring Institute" might ever use bad science and scaremongering to separate fools from their money!

    I never respected Kristof a lot, but this really makes me think he's a tool.

  • Holi 2018||

    Lovely content here. Very useful stuff with health saving good. Go ahead a part in Fresh health every day.

  • Teddy Pump||

    And exactly why should I believe the FDA?...The same outfit in bed with Big Pharma & their toxic poisons, which for the most part do not work & make crazy & depressed people more crazy & depressed & even violent....See: Columbine shooters, Sandy Hook shooter, Aurora Theater shooter, Fla. shooter, 2 church shooters, Orlando shooter & so on!

  • marshaul||

    First of all, the words "toxic" and "poison" have specific meanings, which you are clearly abusing for emotional impact.

    Secondly, the FDA evaluates drugs on a different basis from something like, say, BPA. In the case of BPA, they aren't reporting a study done by the IP owner, they are reporting a synthesis based on over "300 scientific studies".

    Why the fuck do some people have such a hard time with basic shit like this? If you're seriously that bad at evaluating sources, you might as well just let the FDA dictate everything to you. They're probably right more often than you are, based on your approach to epistemology.

  • Teddy Pump||

    Why do idiots like U believe that Big Pharma's drugs & vaccines are NOT toxic & poisonous?...& look how they fight tooth & nail against Raw Milk & Natural Cures....Check out a list of the side effects of their drugs!!!!

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