Hormones Out of Whack: The Global Threat From Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals

Crossposted from Huffington Post

In Ruth Ozeki’s heartbreakingly funny novel My Year of Meats, narrator Jane Takagi-Little reflects on her journey through fertility challenges and miscarriage while producing a documentary series for Japanese television on behalf of the American corporate meat exporter Beef-Ex. About midway through the novel, Jane realizes that a synthetic hormone once used in livestock production, diethylstilbestrol (DES), was also for decades widely prescribed to millions of pregnant women. Confronting her mother, Jane asks,

“Mom, when you were pregnant, did your doctor tell you to take any medicine? Any pills?”"I don’t remember … It was a bad time. Doctor say I am so delicate.”

… Doc must have subscribed to the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, seen the [DES] ads. So he gave her a prescription, probably about 125 milligrams of diethylstilbestrol, otherwise known as DES, to take once a day for the first trimester of me. To keep me in place, floating between her delicate hips.

Sadly for Jane and millions of real-life women, DES didn’t prevent miscarriages — in fact, just the opposite was true. In a chapter on DES for a 2002 report by the European Environment Agency, the authors note the higher rates of pregnancy problems among women who took the drug and further reproductive health problems among their offspring. Incredibly, the ineffectiveness of DESwas known by the early 1950s, and early warning signs about health problems were also overlooked. The authors state, “Had the data [about DES] been properly analyzed in 1953, nearly 20 years of unnecessary exposure to DES might have been avoided. The fact that this drug was prescribed for two decades after its lack of efficacy was clearly demonstrated illustrates a massive failure of the system.”

I’ve recently written about synthetic chemicals that can mimic and alter our bodies’ natural hormones, chemicals like DES that can lead to harmful effects at even very tiny doses. Two decades ago, when researchers first documented these kinds of chemicals it seemed almost like science fiction. But 20 years later the evidence is stronger than ever, and now a team of 16 scientists from ten nations has released a decade-long research report on the global evidence of health hazards from these hormone-mimicking substances. Unlike DES, we are not exposed to these chemicals as prescription drugs, but through hundreds of everyday products, like food packaging, plastics, cosmetics, baby products, furniture and other products containing flame-retardant chemicals, and many other common products. Our risk of diseases related to exposures to these chemicals may be significantly underestimated, especially since there has been little attention to the exposure our children and families typically receive to the mixtures of the many hormone-altering chemicals in our homes, schools, and workplaces. more »

Moving to Safety First, for Our Children’s Health

we need flame-retardant free furnitureCrossposted from Huffington Post

When is a flame retardant not a flame retardant?

When it is no more effective in retarding flames than, well, nothing.

Since fire safety experts and government studies say that chemical flame retardants as they are used in many products are not effective, maybe we should stop calling them flame retardants.

Recently nonprofits from seven states announced that nap mats used in daycares nationwide contain harmful flame retardant chemicals, including a flame retardant that has been linked to cancer and others linked to hormone disruption and other serious health problems.

Maybe we should stop saying “flame retardant chemicals” and start calling them what they are: hidden time bombs.

Since most daycares don’t allow the kids to smoke at nap time, flame retardants are not only ineffective in nap mats, they’re also completely unnecessary. One of the unnecessary flame retardants found in several of the nap mats we tested is chlorinated Tris, a chemical linked to the development of cancer that was removed from children’s pajamas more than 30 years ago.

How did this happen? How could we allow chemical companies to put these useless and harmful chemicals in products our children and families use every day? more »

In New York, the 11th Hour in the Fight Against Fracking

Natural_Gas_Fracking_0It is an anxious and exciting time here in New York. We are in what health advocates are calling the 11th hour in determining the fate of New York and whether natural gas hydraulic fracturing (fracking) will take place in the state.

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Department of Environmental Conservation have a late February deadline to decide whether to lift the moratorium on fracking that has been effect in New York for the past 4 ½ years. Recently, media attention and public scrutiny has focused on fracking because of concern over toxins, sediment, and natural gas being released during the process and contaminating our air and groundwater.

Fracking has been banned by other places, including France (which banned fracking in 2011), but this method is still widely used in the U.S. In New York and elsewhere, CEH is concerned that we don’t know enough about the health and environmental consequences of fracking, and that in the rush to produce profits for the natural gas industry, protections for our health will be overlooked.

On Monday, February 4th anti-fracking groups rode in the early hours of the morning, making the long bus ride to Albany for a state legislative hearing on fracking. The hearing was the opportunity for the state legislature to question the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) on the agency’s proposal to permit future fracking and drilling projects in NY State.

NY State is faced with a February 13th deadline when the revised Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) will or will not appear in the DEC’s Environmental Notice Bulletin. The SGEIS legally has to be posted for 10 days in order to issue the final Findings Statement and final regulations by Feb 27th.

Additionally, the DEC, state Department of Health, and outside experts are currently working on a health review of fracking. Despite legal requirements for a full assessment of the health impacts from fracking, the agencies instead decided they would simply conduct review of the existing literature.

CEH and others have criticized this decision, which we believe could fail to adequately provide New Yorkers the information on health impacts that we need to inform decision making. Furthermore, the entire health review process has been shrouded in secrecy with no transparency or opportunity for public comment.

We have joined other New York health advocates in urging the Governor to open up the health review process and allow for public participation. We are calling on DEC to stop the finalization of the SGEIS, let the current regulations expire, and extend the moratorium on fracking. more »

With Liberty and Healthy Environments for All

Michael250pxMost Americans are taught in grade school about the Declaration of Independence and the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But even those elitist Americans with a college education don’t learn anything about the concept of a human right to a healthy environment. So it is not surprising when news headlines completely overlook an international environmental treaty that moves us closer to the notion of a right to environmental health.

As published on Huffington Post.

Earlier this month, the first-ever legally binding global treaty to protect people and the environment from mercury pollution made history when 140 nations reached agreement after four years of talks. The Minamata Convention on mercury pollution was hailed by Human Rights Watch, which has been battling to protect children in small scale gold mining communities from inadequate child labor protections and the severe health threats from mercury pollution related to mining.

Most Americans have also never heard of the Minamata mercury disaster. In the 1950s, in the town of Minamata, Japan, the Chisso Corporation began dumping large amounts of mercury into Minamata Bay and Minamata River. As a fishing and fish-eating community, when mercury moved up the food chain, the toxic chemical affected virtually everyone, killing 700 people, crippling as many as 9,000 others, and poisoning up to 50,000 who lived within 35 miles of the bay. Children born with mercury pollution suffered for decades more.

Like Monsanto’s years of dumping PCBs in Anniston, Ala., or DuPont’s dumping of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA, also known as C8) in Wood County, W. Va., company documentsshow that Chisso knew about the health effects from its mercury dumping, yet continued the practice for years as thousands of people suffered. Today, fracking companies are still allowed to use mass amounts of undisclosed toxic chemicals that can cause serious air and water pollution.

When I founded the Center for Environmental Health in 1996, one of our first efforts successfully helped close California’s last medical waste incinerator, a polluting plant in a low-income community just a stone’s throw from San Francisco Bay. At the time, medical waste incineration was known as the fourth leading source of mercury pollution. Community-based groups pointed to the environmental injustice of incinerators and other polluting industries that are disproportionately sited in their neighborhoods. We joined with the community-based groups working to shut the incinerator in support of environmental justice and because we believe that everyone has the human right to an environment free from chemical health threats. more »

No More Flame Retardant Chemicals in Gatorade – But How Healthy Is the Replacement?

flame retardant chemicals in Gatorade

Brominated vegetable oils-chemicals patented as flame retardants- have been used in orange Gatorade.

In response to customer pressure, PepsiCo has announced they will remove a controversial chemical that is added to orange Gatorade. As we’ve written about before, brominated vegetable oils (BVOs) are patented flame retardant chemicals that are also used (for another purpose) in many citrus flavored sodas.  The chemicals have been linked to a number of health hazards including heart damage, increased heart triglycerides, reduced fertility and behavioral problems.  Brominated flame retardants can also be transferred from  breast milk  to babies.

BVOs have been used in approximately 10% of sodas for decades in North America.  So why is a flame retardant chemical being used in sodas? It’s most commonly found in citrus flavored sodas and beverages to keep the fruit flavoring suspended in the drink, which is why the drink looks “cloudy”.  Drinks containing BVOs include Mountain Dew, Squirt, Fanta Orange, Fresca Citrus, and of course, Orange Gatorade.

After news of flame retardant chemicals in Gatorade and other sodas came out last year, customer complaints quickly mounted. One of these unhappy customers was Sarah Kavanaugh, a 15-year-old high school student from Hattiesburg, Mississippi.  Sarah found out about these chemicals tainting her favorite drinks after searching for an ingredient she saw on a Gatorade label. In November, she started a Change.org petition calling for Gatorade’s manufacturer, PepsiCo, to remove BVO from the products. The petition gathered nearly 200,000 signatures from around the world in just a few months.  PepsiCo responded, announcing that they would remove the flame retardant chemical from their Gatorade formula.

Sweet, right?

Yes, we’re happy to hear that PepsiCo has responded to the demands to eliminate this toxic chemical, but why stop at Gatorade?  There’s a whole list of citrus flavored sodas, several of which are made by PepsiCo, that contain the chemical. So why is Pepsi and other soda companies  leaving those other citrus beverage consumers in the toxic dust? more »

The Flu Is Here. Don’t Lose Your Head! Use Our Flu Treatment Tips

Keep those pesky flu bugs away with these easy eco-tips!

Keep those pesky flu bugs away with these easy eco-tips!

Cross-posted from our friends at The Green Life Online

We’re in a particularly strong flu season. And it turns out we are not very smart about avoiding spreading germs. Most Americans use six or more antimicrobial products every day. But buying more products is probably not the right answer.

The good news? If you are careful about it, it’s easy to stop the spread of germs and keep yourself and you family healthy. And it’s eco-friendly and wallet-friendly, since you won’t have to buy lots of new stuff.

Sharing germs? Be careful!

It’s Not In Your Hands

Most common illnesses, including the common cold, are spread by the hands. And since the average kiddo touches his or her mouth and nose every three minutes, it’s a good idea to promote frequent handwashing.. But, surprisingly, clean hands may not help much with the fluOne recent study found that cleaning your hands has almost no impact on flu transmission.

Washing your hands, one expert notes, is “a simple thing to do and it may protect you from some other illnesses,” but isn’t the key for the flu.

Common Sense

So, how does the flu virus spread? According to the CDC, mostly “via large-particle droplets” (ewww…) which “generally travel only a short distance (less than or equal to 1 meter) through the air.” So, some common-sense eco-friendly tips: more »

For Some Chemicals, Less Is More

Crossposted from Huffington Post

When scientists suspect a chemical may cause cancer or other illnesses, one way they do testing is to expose lab animals to high doses of the substance and then see what happens. When anything tested this way shows harmful effects, industry goes on the offensive, arguing that only massively unlikely doses to people could cause harm (they don’t mention that they lobbied for using this high-dose testing method, since it’s cheaper than other methods). For example, in 2011, when animal testing prompted California to propose listing a chemical in caramel coloring (a main ingredient in cola) as a substance known to cause cancer, Coke claimed that a person would have to drink more than 18,000 cans of soda to be impacted.

In fact, independent scientists noted that a single can of soda contained almost four times as much of the chemical as the proposed safety standard.

Now, another troubling development in product safety is showing that we have not been protective enough about potentially harmful chemicals in products for our children and families. About a year ago, I wrote about chemicals that can mimic and alter the body’s hormones, and about the “Toxic Shell Game” whereby companies that are forced to replace harmful chemicals often do so with other similar chemicals that may also harm our health. more »

CEH In New York: Protecting the Public from Fracking Chemicals

Last week, I presented testimony to a New York State Assembly Committee hearing on the state’s proposed new rules for fracking – rules that we consider woefully inadequate to protect New Yorkers from the real health and environmental risks from fracking and fracking chemicals.

I gave testimony as part of a panel of experts that also included Jake Hays, the Program Director for Physicians Scientists and Engineers for Healthy energy; Dr. Donna Flayhan, the Director of the Lower Manhattan Public Health Project, Mary Jane Uttech, the  Deputy Public Health Director from the Cortland County Health Department, and pediatrician Dr. Larysa Dirszka.

The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) created the new proposed fracking rules, yet failed to testify or even to submit written testimony.

In my testimony, I described just some of the health and environmental concerns surrounding fracking, including air and water pollution and the potential impacts from hormone-altering chemicals used in some fracking operations. Indeed, chemicals used in fracking carry a wide variety of potential health hazards. As I discussed, a 2011 review found that 632 chemicals have been used in natural gas fracking; the review found that many studies demonstrating health hazards from these chemicals, including: more »

Hillary Clinton: Say “No” to Strawberry Pesticide

dangerpesticidesBefore she leaves office, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has an opportunity to protect children and families from a harmful strawberry pesticide. You can take action today (petition link) to tell her to say no to more dangerous strawberry pesticides.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the nation’s largest and most prestigious organization of children’s health doctors recently published a position statement about pesticides and children. The doctors noted that evidence links young children’s exposure to pesticides to childhood cancer and learning and behavior problems, and suggested policies to protect children. The statement is written in technical language, so we translated some of the doctor’s report (see our chart) into ordinary English.

Now, there’s a current controversy about an oldie-but-deadly pesticide. Twenty years ago, the U.S. agreed to an international phase-out of methyl bromide, a pesticide used by many strawberry growers. Methyl bromide is a potent ozone destroyer, hence the phase-out. The deadline for the phase out was 2005, but amazingly, eight years past the deadline, the agribusiness industry is still clinging to this toxic pesticide!

Right now, the California Department of Food and Agriculture, on behalf of strawberry agribusiness corporations, sent a letter asking Secretary of State Clinton and EPA Administrator Jackson to get more methyl bromide for California. Why? Because instead of coming up with safe, non-toxic alternatives to methyl bromide, industry’s favored alternative was another toxic pesticide called methyl iodide – a chemical known to cause genetic damage, miscarriages and cancer.

Last year, thousands of people just like you helped force the industry to drop its plans to replace methyl bromide with methyl iodide. You know that a vibrant organic strawberry industry is booming in California and those farmers do not use ANY fumigant pesticides.

It’s far past time for the strawberry industry to learn that we won’t stand for a choice between miscarriages and skin cancer! Tell Hillary Clinton that this toxic shell game must end — twenty years is long enough to find safer ways to grow strawberries, without these harmful pesticides.

Another Hall of Shame

hall-of-shameYesterday, for the first time since 1996, no players were chosen for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Many first-time nominees, including Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and several others were considered reputation-damaged, steroid-tainted players. In the run-up to the vote, the New York Times noted that this years’ scurrilous Hall of Shame nominees would hardly be exceptional additions in Cooperstown, which is already stocked  with racists, gamblers, and drug users, among other miscreants.

But another Hall of Shame deserves some new (and some returning) inductees this year. Below, our choices (some current and some lifetime achievement nominees) for the corporate Hall of Shame.

Flame retardant chemical companies: The flame retardant industry deserves a lifetime achievement spot, based on their decades-long campaign (in concert with the tobacco industry, as the Chicago Tribune exposed in 2012) to mislead the public about their harmful products. The industry’s now defunct front group Citizens for Fire Safety and their lead “expert” witness Dr. David Heimbach deserve special mention for their dirty tricks campaigns and lying to public officials.

Alpha Natural Resources: The largest mountaintop removal mining company, Alpha took over the notorious Massey Energy company, after that corporate criminal’s deadly Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster nearly sunk the company. According to the Appalachian Community Health Emergency, mountaintop removal mining sites are responsible for “shockingly disproportionate levels of cancer, heart disease, pulmonary disease, birth defects and other physical and mental illnesses. More than four thousand people die in West Virginia communities every year because they live near such sites.” Local residents and environmental groups have sued Alpha repeatedly for its polluting operations, but the company remains unabashed. After another mining company recently acknowledged the damage from mountaintop removal and reached a legal agreement to phase-out such operations, Alpha told reporters, “(T)his does not affect our mining plans.”

Monsanto: A shoe-in for lifetime achievement in creating polluting products (among other crimes and lies), Monsanto makes it this year for serving as the chief funder of the lie-filled campaign against California’s GMO labeling ballot initiative. With upcoming GMO labeling votes in New Mexico, Washington and other states, expect Monsanto to be a perennial Hall of Shame inductee.

more »