Amy Sandberg: What’s the big deal about ‘little beards’ on women?
By Amy Sandberg
“The only thing that I heard is if you take plastic and put it in the microwave and heat it up, it gives off a chemical similar to estrogen. And so, I mean, in the worst case, some women might have little beards”
~Paul LePage, governor of Maine
Long ago, I cut a deal with my best friend: If one of us is on our death bed unable to care for ourselves, the other will tweeze her friend’s “man hairs.” It may sound vain to some, but there is dignity even in death. When my mom lay dying in her hospice bed, I plucked the dark hair from her chin and upper lip, trimmed her nails, and brushed her hair, because I knew she wouldn’t want to “be seen like that.” It was the least I could do after all those years she spent caring for and grooming me.
So I took great offense when Maine’s Republican Governor Paul LePage — exhibiting astounding ignorance (even for a politician) of the delicate balance of human chemistry — made in his February remark about “women might have little beards.” And Republicans wonder why they’re accused of a “war on women”?
Now before you go accusing me making too big deal over environmentalist and media hype about the side effects of BPAs — a class of chemicals added to plastic bottles and other packaging materials to increase flexibility, transparency, durability — first consider what a big deal it is in the scientific community — that is if you believe in such things as double-blind, placebo controlled research studies.
Two recent studies in Italy and Germany show that suboptimal storage conditions — such as prolonged exposure to sunlight and high temperatures — can cause leaching of BPAs in plastic bottles into fluid contents resulting in high levels of estrogenic activity in plastic-bottled water. In other words, plastic bottles can leach chemicals that disrupt the endocrine system.
The endocrine system is responsible for making our hormones. Hormones are substances that help to control activities in your body. Different types of hormones control reproduction, metabolism (food burning and waste elimination), growth and development, and yes, even facial hair. Hormones also control the way you respond to your surroundings, and they help to provide the proper amount of energy and nutrition your body needs to function.
While too few studies have been conducted to know with certitude about potential human health effects of drinking plastic−bottled beverages, investigators have found that BPAs combined with the xenoestrogens in our environment cause male fish to grow eggs in their testes, female deer mice to pick males who weren’t exposed to BPA in a controlled environment, hyperactive rats (some scientist speculate that endocrine disruptors could be linked to the rise in ADHD amongst school children) and many other strange behaviors in the animal kingdom.
The National Toxicology Program’s Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction, suggests, in response to the European studies, that people move away from polycarbonate plastics [due to BPA concerns].
So Governor LePage, if you’re reading this, let me see if I can help you understand what the big deal is. Suppose you were exposed to an everyday chemical that caused erectile dysfunction, or made your breasts “a little” larger. No big deal? Riiiight.
Sandberg works in the book publishing industry. Reach her at email@example.com.
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