Animal testing and intense Food and Drug Administration debates with consumer groups have led to an ambiguous conclusion: Water bottles of the Nalgene variety may be bad for you. This week, the Miami University Bookstore in the Shriver Center received information from a student of a possible health threat posed by Miami-logo Nalgene-style water bottles. The prime suspect is a synthetic chemical called bisphenol A (BPA), which is contained within the polycarbonate plastic material-created in 1891, the chemical was originally used as a hormone inhibitor. Parallel to the bookstore’s decision, some stores across the United States and Canada have begun removing their own stocks of the water bottles from shelves based on certain animal testing evidence that links the chemical’s presence to hormonal imbalances, numerous cancers and scores of other health problems.
While The Miami Student editorial board believes that any conclusion over the health risk’s impact on humans is still being heavily debated and researched, we are able to understand the bookstore’s decision to remove the potentially harmful products from its shelves. What this board does not understand, and is displeased with, is the lack of acknowledgement of a problem by the university and subsequent warning to the student population. The quiet action of this removal begs the questions of how the university would handle other potential health risks in the future and if Miami researches all aspects of the products that it decides to stock.
This editorial board staunchly believes that the students’ right to immediate knowledge of the developing situation is paramount and that an announcement should have come in the form of a Blackboard posting. We feel that a passive Blackboard announcement would be successful for two reasons: One, it would preserve the sanctity of e-mail alerts, and two, it would function to inform the student body without inciting an exaggerated panic.
Furthermore, regardless of this editorial board’s understanding of the decision to remove the water bottles from the shelves, we believe that a more sensible and acceptable course of action would have been to leave the product for sale, but place a warning label near the bottles to inform potential buyers. In conjunction with the Blackboard announcement, a disclaimer placed in stores would be able to educate consumers in much the same way that there are warning labels on Sweet and Low packets or cigarettes. Those in the university store should be trusted to make an informed choice on their purchases without having to have their options inherently limited.
Regardless of one’s opinion on the steps taken, this editorial board does see it as an encouraging sign that the companies producing these potentially dangerous water bottles are already searching for new means to replace the offending chemical. A consumer’s right to and acceptance of knowledge, in combination with an active and accountable private sector, should be able to effectively protect all those involved in the future. The only way to promote a pragmatic and reasoned consumer response to all forms of questionable potentially dangerous situations is to ensure the right to knowledge.