Monday, March 24, 2008


Thanks for sharing this Leonard....worth viewing:

The story of stuff

Pollution in People

This Green Life, March 2008

For years, I thought I could keep my body free of dangerous chemicals by taking just a couple of simple precautions -- using natural cleansers and buying organic food. Wrong.
Biomonitoring tests to check for chemicals in people always find them. It doesn't matter whether the people are old, young, newborn or even fetal, nor what their history is. Contamination is always found. It is therefore a virtual certainty that if I were to be tested, I would learn I was contaminated, too. Not to cause panic, but so would you.
This pollution of our bodies is thought by many scientists to be universal today. It goes by the name of body burden.
Where do the chemicals come from? They are used in a seemingly endless array of industrial applications and consumer products, including baby toys, air freshener, laundry detergent, shampoo, nail polish, food containers, rugs and furniture, to name a few.
And how do they get into our bodies? Through our food, tap and bottled water, indoor and outdoor air and many of the things we touch or put on our skin. Babies get them in the womb from their mothers. Hence, the phenomenon of infants starting life with chemicals already in their systems.
Given how ubiquitous chemicals are, the question is not really how they get into us, but whether there is any way to keep them out. I will get back to that.
Let's first talk about whether and how the chemicals might harm us. The chemical industry predictably claims they are safe. In reality, next to nothing is known about the vast majority of them. That's because our laws allow chemicals to go on the market without prior safety testing.
But we do know quite a bit about a few chemicals, and what we know is not reassuring. For instance:

* Phthalates have been linked to problems with reproductive system development in baby boys and to insulin resistance and obesity in adult men. They are used in a wide variety of cosmetic products, such as moisturizers, nail polish and baby powder; cleaning products; plastic food wraps; and toys, especially those made with PVC plastic. Other uses include medical equipment and building supplies.
* Bisphenol A (also known as BPA) has been linked to breast and prostate cancer, reproductive problems, diabetes and alteration of brain chemistry and behavioral changes. It is used in many household products, including plastic baby bottles, hard plastic sports bottles and metal food cans, which are often lined with plastic to prevent a metallic taste in food.
* PCBs, which were formerly used as electrical insulators, among other things, have been found to affect the immune, reproductive, nervous and endocrine systems. They are also considered a probable carcinogen. Though their production in the U.S. was banned in 1979, these long-lasting chemicals continue to circulate in the environment and in the food chain. New releases also occur when old equipment made with PCBs is damaged or improperly disposed of.
* Dioxins, a byproduct of the manufacture and burning of chlorine products, can affect the cardiovascular, respiratory, immune, reproductive, nervous and endocrine systems and cause cancer.

Other classes of chemicals shown to be toxic include PBDEs (used as flame retardants) and PFCs (used to repel water, stains and grease).
All the chemicals listed above are endocrine disruptors, meaning that they interfere with the workings of the endocrine -- or hormone -- system. Hormones are our bodies' chemical messengers. They tell cells to start or stop carrying out key functions at the proper time. While key to basic body functioning throughout our lives, they are particularly important to fetal development. During the nine months in which a baby takes shape, an exquisitely timed orchestra of these chemical signals ensures that the baby's body develops as it should. Any tampering with the type or timing of the signals can have tragic consequences, from cancers that emerge later in life to missing body parts. They can also affect the brain and behavior. The years directly leading up to puberty, when hormones again play a major role in body development, may be another time when people are particularly sensitive to endocrine-disrupting chemicals.
So, how can you protect yourself, your children and your children-to-be?
Unfortunately, moving somewhere remote is not, in itself, an answer. Many chemicals are highly mobile and resistant to breakdown. Over the last few decades, they have spread on wind and water currents to every corner of the globe, including the most pristine places.

However, your personal practices can make a difference in your LEVEL of exposure, not just to endocrine disruptors but to other toxins that humans are spewing out into the environment. These steps, in particular, can help:

* Buy organic food as much as possible. If cost is an issue, focus on the produce that will make the most difference, along with milk if you have young children.
* Eat less meat and meat products, especially fatty meats and butter, as many toxic chemicals are picked up by animals and stored in their fat (and ours).
* When choosing fish, follow these safety guidelines for avoiding mercury contamination.
* Reduce your use of cosmetics and fragrances and buy less toxic brands.
* Use unscented laundry detergent and cleaning products -- or use natural cleansers.
* Do not use chemical pesticides around your house, on your pets or on your lawn.

At the same time as you take these steps in your own life, keep in mind that the real solutions to body burden, like other forms of pollution, are societal not individual. Without government regulation, safety from chemicals is a losing battle.
—Sheryl Eisenberg

Tests reveal high chemical levels in kids' bodies

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Michelle Hammond and Jeremiah Holland were intrigued when a friend at the Oakland Tribune asked them and their two young children to take part in a cutting-edge study to measure the industrial chemicals in their bodies.

Tests showed Rowan's blood had high levels of a chemical that can cause thyroid dysfunction in rats. "In the beginning, I wasn't worried at all; I was fascinated," Hammond, 37, recalled. But that fascination soon changed to fear, as tests revealed that their children -- Rowan, then 18 months, and Mikaela, then 5 -- had chemical exposure levels up to seven times those of their parents.

"[Rowan's] been on this planet for 18 months, and he's loaded with a chemical I've never heard of," Holland, 37, said. "He had two to three times the level of flame retardants in his body that's been known to cause thyroid dysfunction in lab rats."

The technology to test for these flame retardants -- known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) -- and other industrial chemicals is less than 10 years old. Environmentalists call it "body burden" testing, an allusion to the chemical "burden," or legacy of toxins, running through our bloodstream. Scientists refer to this testing as "biomonitoring." 

Trasande says that industrial toxins could be leading to more childhood disease and disorders.

"We are in an epidemic of environmentally mediated disease among American children today," he said. "Rates of asthma, childhood cancers, birth defects and developmental disorders have exponentially increased, and it can't be explained by changes in the human genome. So what has changed? All the chemicals we're being exposed to."

In 2004, the Hollands became the first intact nuclear family in the United States to undergo body burden testing. Rowan, at just 1½ years old, became the youngest child in the U.S. to be tested for chemical exposure with this method.

Rowan's extraordinarily high levels of PBDEs frightened his parents and left them with a looming question: If PBDEs are causing neurological damage to lab rats, could they be doing the same thing to Rowan? The answer is that no one knows for sure. In the three years since he was tested, no developmental problems have been found in Rowan's neurological system.

Trasande said children up to six years old are most at risk because their vital organs and immune system are still developing and because they depend more heavily on their environments than adults do. "Pound for pound, they eat more food, they drink more water, they breathe in more air," he said. "And so [children] carry a higher body burden than we do."

Studies on the health effects of PBDEs are only just beginning, but many countries have heeded the warning signs they see in animal studies. Sweden banned PBDEs in 1998. The European Union banned most PBDEs in 2004. In the United States, the sole manufacturer of two kinds of PBDEs voluntarily stopped making them in 2004. A third kind, Deca, is still used in the U.S. in electrical equipment, construction material, mattresses and textiles.

Another class of chemicals that showed up in high levels in the Holland children is known as phthalates. These are plasticizers, the softening agents found in many plastic bottles, kitchenware, toys, medical devices, personal care products and cosmetics. In lab animals, phthalates have been associated with reproductive defects, obesity and early puberty. But like PBDEs, little is known about what they do to humans and specifically children. 

The Environmental Protection Agency does not require chemical manufacturers to conduct human toxicity studies before approving their chemicals for use in the market.

In the three years since her family went through body burden testing, Michelle Hammond has become an activist on the issue. She's testified twice in the California legislature to support a statewide body burden testing program, a bill that passed last year. Michelle also speaks to various public health groups about her experience, taking Mikaela, now 8, and Rowan, now 5, with her. So far, her children show no health problems associated with the industrial chemicals in their bodies.

"I'm angry at my government for failing to regulate chemicals that are in mass production and in consumer products." Hammond says. "I don't think it should have to be up to me to worry about what's in my couch."

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Parents told to avoid lindane-laced lice shampoo

Sat. Mar. 15 2008

The Canadian Press

Parents are being urged to avoid over-the-counter lice treatments that contain the pesticide lindane, which has been outlawed for agricultural use in dozen of countries, including Canada.

Health Canada hasn't banned lice and scabies treatments that contain lindane, but some environmental groups say Canada should follow California's lead and take the products off the shelves.

They say exposure to lindane can lead to adverse effects on humans, especially children and seniors.

And California sought a ban because the chemical was turning up in water testing.

Kevin Mercer of the environmental group Riversides says parents often go to the extreme to kill lice because they're disturbed by the thought of their kids harbouring bugs, and the stigma of becoming infected.

The Canadian Paediatric Society is reviewing its position on lindane products and currently recommends that they not be used on infants and children under 17. The society advises that other lice-fighting products that don't contain lindane are considered safe.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Prescription drugs found in drinking water across U.S.

March 10, 2008 Associated Press:

A vast array of pharmaceuticals -- including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones -- have been found in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans, an Associated Press investigation shows.
How do the drugs get into the water?

People take pills. Their bodies absorb some of the medication, but the rest of it passes through and is flushed down the toilet. The wastewater is treated before it is discharged into reservoirs, rivers or lakes. Then, some of the water is cleansed again at drinking water treatment plants and piped to consumers. But most treatments do not remove all drug residue.

A 'growing concern'

"We recognize it is a growing concern and we're taking it very seriously," said Benjamin H. Grumbles, assistant administrator for water at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Here are some of the key test results obtained by the AP:

• Officials in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, said testing there discovered 56 pharmaceuticals or byproducts in treated drinking water, including medicines for pain, infection, high cholesterol, asthma, epilepsy, mental illness and heart problems. Sixty-three pharmaceuticals or byproducts were found in the city's watersheds.

• Anti-epileptic and anti-anxiety medications were detected in a portion of the treated drinking water for 18.5 million people in Southern California.

• Researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey analyzed a Passaic Valley Water Commission drinking water treatment plant, which serves 850,000 people in Northern New Jersey, and found a metabolized angina medicine and the mood-stabilizing carbamazepine in drinking water.

• A sex hormone was detected in the drinking water of San Francisco, California.

• The drinking water for Washington, D.C., and surrounding areas tested positive for six pharmaceuticals.

The situation is undoubtedly worse than suggested by the positive test results in the major population centers documented by the AP.

Rural, bottled water also unchecked

Rural consumers who draw water from their own wells aren't in the clear either, experts say.

Even users of bottled water and home filtration systems don't necessarily avoid exposure. Bottlers, some of which simply repackage tap water, do not typically treat or test for pharmaceuticals, according to the industry's main trade group. The same goes for the makers of home filtration systems.

CANADA: Contamination is not confined to the United States. More than 100 different pharmaceuticals have been detected in lakes, rivers, reservoirs and streams throughout the world. Studies have detected pharmaceuticals in waters throughout Asia, Australia, Canada and Europe -- even in Swiss lakes and the North Sea.

Read Full Article Here

MAP: See the cities where drugs were found in drinking water

Thursday, March 6, 2008

New Legislation on Lead, Cadmium, and Phthalates in Toys

Washington State Legislation Will Protect Children’s Health By Eliminating Lead, Cadmium, and Phthalates From Toys!

Olympia, WA
February 19, 2008

Parents, consumer advocates, and environmental groups cheered last night’s passage of the Children’s Safe Products Act of 2008 (HB 2647) by the House of Representatives. The bill passed with bipartisan support on a vote of 95-0. “Earlier generations got the lead out of paint and gasoline, it is time we got the lead and other toxics out of toys,” said Representative Dickerson, D-Seattle, the prime sponsor of the measure.

The bill will eliminate three toxic chemicals, lead, cadmium, and phthalates, from toys and other children’s products. It will also require manufacturers to report whether their products contain other chemicals found to be of a concern for children’s health.
“Toys should be the only things in a child’s toy box, not harmful toxic chemicals. The passage of this bill means children and parents are one step closer to having safer toys and other products,” said Ivy Sager-Rosenthal, environmental health advocate for the Washington Toxics Coalition.

Health professionals applauded the House’s action today. They are concerned because children are especially vulnerable to exposures from toxic chemicals. Even low levels of chemicals are linked to harm to reproductive development, learning, and health. “The House’s passage of this bill brings us closer to implementing pivotal steps to protect children’s health,” said Dr. Laura Hart, President, Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility, “We have a responsibility to protect children, our most vulnerable population, from chemical exposures. Health professionals throughout the state urge continued action to pass this legislation and create a healthier, safer world in which our children learn, grow and play.”

The legislation passed on the same day that Toys R Us, the national retail chain, announced new lower lead and phthalate standards for toys it sells. Wal-Mart, Target, and Sears are just a few of the retailers who have already announced plans to phase out toxic chemicals in toys and other children’s products.

The Children’s Safe Products Act takes immediate action to ban lead, cadmium, and phthalates from toys, starts the process of identifying other hazards in toys, and gives parents the information they need to make safer choices. If the legislation becomes law, Washington would join California, Michigan, and Illinois, as having taken action on toxic toys.