endocrine disruptors

 Since my last post on the most commonly used pesticide in the world - glyphosate - there have been a number of important developments. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in the weed-killer or herbicide Roundup, which is manufactured by the chemical giant Monsanto. There have been more questions raised about the safety of glyphosate, and also what went on behind the scenes recently between Monsanto and some officials at the EPA, especially EPA deputy division director Jess Rowland.

Was there a downplaying of the pesticide's health effects or squashing of researchers and studies that raised health concerns? (Remember that the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a branch of the World Health Organization, found glyphosate to be a "probable carcinogen" in 2015, but the manufacturer Monsanto has fought long and hard against that designation) Was there corruption? Or ...?

A big problem is that the EPA relies on industry-funded studies to determine if something is safe or not - which is like the fox guarding the chicken house. Also, were the so-called "independent" research articles actually ghost-written by industry (Monsanto), which is what some documents are suggesting? And why was a government review of the pesticide squashed? Tsk.... tsk.... Another problem is that the EPA can choose which studies to include when making a decision - and they can choose to disregard independent peer-reviewed research (the better research) and rely on industry studies that are not peer-reviewed (definitely bias in these studies). And yes, this happened here. For example, the EPA has ignored more than 1500 published (and peer reviewed) studies on glyphosate from the last decade and instead relied largely on less than 300 unpublished, non-peer-reviewed studies. Another tsk...tsk....

Now a published paper by noted researchers (see below) makes the case that the debate over glyphosate remains unsettled and requires further review. The researchers recommend such things as better testing of glyphosate levels and its metabolites in the human body. They pointed out that some studies with rodents found that glyphosate is a carcinogen (can "induce cancers"), and other studies find glyphosate is associated with negative health effects in humans, such as chronic kidney disease and some cancers. Some research suggests that glyphosate is an endocrine disruptor. Also, chemical mixtures can be more toxic than individual chemicals - this is a concern with the chemicals in Roundup. Studies are needed examining people exposed through their occupations (e.g., pesticide applicators), and also "vulnerable populations (e.g., pregnant women, babies, children). The researchers added that current safety standards are outdated and may fail to protect public health and the environment.

I would like to add that this is why glyphosate residues need to be studied in food - we are eating the stuff unless we only eat organic food. Due to the practices of "preharvest application" of glyphosate (Roundup) and the increasing use of genetically modified crops (such as Roundup Ready crops) that allow the herbicide to be applied without killing the crop (but which means the pesticide is in the crop), the use of glyphosate is increasing rapidly. And then there is the use on school grounds, in suburban yards, and properties. Yikes! This is not a political issue - this is a health issue, and of having the right-to-know what is in our food, our bodies, and our environment (you don't think it just stays on the fields where it is used, do you?)

Excerpts from the NY Times article: Monsanto Weed Killer Roundup Faces New Doubts on Safety in Unsealed Documents

The reputation of Roundup, whose active ingredient is the world’s most widely used weed killer, took a hit on Tuesday when a federal court unsealed documents raising questions about its safety and the research practices of its manufacturer, the chemical giant Monsanto.... A case in federal court in San Francisco has challenged that conclusion, building on the findings of an international panel that claimed Roundup’s main ingredient might cause cancer.

The court documents included Monsanto’s internal emails and email traffic between the company and federal regulators. The records suggested that Monsanto had ghostwritten research that was later attributed to academics and indicated that a senior official at the Environmental Protection Agency had worked to quash a review of Roundup’s main ingredient, glyphosate, that was to have been conducted by the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The documents also revealed that there was some disagreement within the E.P.A. over its own safety assessment.

Excerpts from an article about the BMJ paper (see below) at Science Daily: Weedkiller chemical (glyphosate) safety standards need urgent review

But most of the science used to support the safety standards applied in the US was carried out more than 30 years ago, and relatively little of it was subject to peer review, they point out. More than 1500 studies have been published on the chemical over the past decade alone. "It is incongruous that safety assessments of the most widely used herbicide on the planet rely largely on fewer than 300 unpublished, non-peer reviewed studies while excluding the vast modern literature on glyphosate effects," say the experts. And despite the rapid increase in use there is no systematic monitoring system for tracking levels in human tissue, and few studies have looked at potential harms to human health.

But recent animal studies have suggested that glyphosate at doses lower than those used to assess risk, may be linked to heightened risks of liver, kidney, eye and cardiovascular system damage. And weed-killers, which combine glyphosate with other 'so-called inert ingredients,' may be even more potent. But these mixtures are regarded as commercially sensitive by the manufacturers and are therefore not available for public scrutiny, say the experts.

Excerpt from the BMJ Journal of Epidiomology and Community Health: Is it time to reassess current safety standards for glyphosate-based herbicides?

Use of glyphosate-based herbicides (GBHs) increased ∼100-fold from 1974 to 2014. Additional increases are expected due to widespread emergence of glyphosate-resistant weeds, increased application of GBHs, and preharvest uses of GBHs as desiccants. Current safety assessments rely heavily on studies conducted over 30 years ago. We have considered information on GBH use, exposures, mechanisms of action, toxicity and epidemiology. Human exposures to glyphosate are rising, and a number of in vitro and in vivo studies challenge the basis for the current safety assessment of glyphosate and GBHs. We conclude that current safety standards for GBHs are outdated and may fail to protect public health or the environment.

Image result for fast food wikipedia  Another study is adding to the evidence that food packaging  is frequently coated  with harmful chemicals - called perfluorinated chemicals or PFCs. The chemicals are used because they resist grease and stains, but unfortunately they then leach into the food, and when people eat the food - it gets into them. The evidence is also growing that these chemicals have all sorts of harmful health effects, including endocrine disruption (they are hormone disruptors) - even in low doses. They are linked to kidney and testicular cancer, high blood cholesterol levels, thyroid problems, development and immune system problems, low birth weights, and decreased sperm quality. (See earlier post) The list keeps growing each year.

Researchers tested about 400 pieces of food packaging from 27 fast food chains,  including McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, Chick-Fil-A, Quiznos, Starbucks, and Dunkin’ Donuts (see how they scored). Overall, about 33 percent of the packages contained fluorine (a chemical not found in paper, but is an indicator of perfluorinated chemicals present to make the packaging grease and stain resistant). What is even more disturbing is that when the researchers more closely examined 20 samples to find out exactly what fluorinated compounds they contained - they found that 6 of the more rigorously tested packages contained PFOA (which was used in Teflon). PFOA was phased out for use in the USA years ago due to it being so long-lasting in the environment and its serious health effects, but other countries still produce it. Unfortunately, even the replacement chemicals  seem to be similarly harmful (not surprising because of the chemical similarities), and they also persist in the environment.

It should be pointed out that perfluorinated chemicals are also used in products such as stain and water resistant coatings on clothing, upholstery, carpeting and floor waxes. They are in non-stick coatings in pots and pans. The chemicals leach or migrate out of products and degrade very slowly — thus showing up in air, household dust, water, dirt, wildlife, and people. Yes, studies show that almost everyone in the U.S. has these chemicals in their blood, and unfortunately some of them can stay in the body for years. PFCs pass from mothers to their babies during pregnancy, and in breast milk after birth. Exposure to perfluorinated chemicals from fast food packaging is of big concern for children, because one-third of U.S. children consume fast food daily, and children may be especially susceptible to the adverse health effects.

Yes, we are surrounded by a sea of harmful chemicals that are tough to avoid, but we should at least try to minimize our exposure. Fast food restaurants should be encouraged to use nontoxic alternatives (e.g., aluminum foil or wax paper) - after all, the study showed that there is packaging out there without these chemicals.

What can we do to avoid PFCs? 1) Try to avoid or eat less fast food and food that comes in "grease-proof" containers. 2) Don't use non-stick pots and pans - use stainless steel instead. 3) Try to avoid clothing, upholstered furniture, and carpets with stain and water-resistant coatings. 4) Don't use microwave popcorn bags, and try to avoid microwaving foods in their packaging - use a glass dish instead. 5) Don't use dental floss such as Oral-B Glide dental floss (uses PFC), and use unwaxed or natural wax floss instead. 6) Avoid personal care products that contain ingredients that include the words “fluoro” or “perfluoro". *Please check out the Environmental Working Group site for more information (here and here).

From Science Daily: Extensive use of fluorinated chemicals in fast food wrappers: Chemicals can leach into food

Americans may be consuming fast food wrapped in paper treated with perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) -- the same chemicals used in stain-resistant products, firefighting materials and nonstick cookware, according to a new study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Researchers tested more than 400 samples of packaging materials, including hamburger and sandwich wrappers, pastry bags, beverage cups and French fry containers, and found evidence of fluorinated compounds called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs). Of the materials tested, these chemicals were found in 56 percent of dessert and bread wrappers, 38 percent of sandwich and burger wrappers and 20 percent of paperboard.

Previous studies have shown that these PFASs can migrate, contaminating the food and, when consumed, accumulating in the body....Previous studies have linked PFASs to kidney and testicular cancers, thyroid disease, low birth weight and immunotoxicity in children, among other health issues. The chemicals have an especially long half-life and take many years before just 50 percent of the intake leaves the human body. The results are concerning when considering the role of fast food in the American diet. The National Center for Health Statistics reported one-third of U.S. children consume fast food daily.

Samples were collected from a total of 27 fast food restaurant chains including McDonald's, Burger King, Chipotle, Starbucks, Jimmy Johns, Panera and Chick-Fil-A, in and around Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington, D.C., and Grand Rapids, Michigan. The study did not include takeout containers, such as Chinese food boxes or pizza boxes. [Original study]

ez-2016-00435z_0002 Credit: From L. Schaider et al., Fluorinated Compounds in U.S. Fast Food Packaging.

Image result for household dust  Flame retardants are in many products around us, both in and out of the home, but there is much concern over their health effects on humans. Older flame retardants (PBDEs) were phased out by 2013, but it turns out that the newer replacements (TBB and TBPH, including Firemaster 550) also get into people and also have negative health effects. So it shouldn't be a surprise that every single toddler tested in a study in New York City showed evidence of flame retardants on their hands (both the old kind and newer replacements), and that they had more on their hands than their mothers. Flame retardants were also found in all house dust samples. Since they are linked to many negative health effects, you really, really want to minimize the amounts in your body.

More and more research is finding health problems with flame retardants because they are "not chemically bound" to the products in which they are used - thus they escape over time. and get into us via the skin (dermal), inhalation (from dust), and ingestion (from certain foods and dust on our fingers). And because flame retardants are persistant, they bioaccumulate (they build up over time). They can be measured in our urine and blood. Evidence suggests that flame retardants may be endocrine disruptors, carcinogenic, alter hormone levels, decrease semen quality in men, thyoid disruptors, and act as developmental neurotoxicants (when developing fetus is exposed during pregnancy)  so that children have lowered IQ and more hyperactivity behaviors.

Where are flame retardants found? All around us, and in us. They are so hard to avoid because they're in electronic goods, in upholstered furniture, polyurethane foam, carpet pads, some textiles, the foam in baby items (car seats, bumpers, crib mattresses, strollers,nursing pillows, etc.), house dust, building insulation, and on and on. What to do? Wash hands before eating. Try to use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter. Try to avoid products that say they contain "flame retardants". Only buy upholstered furniture with tags that say they are flame retardant free. From Science Daily:

NYC toddlers exposed to potentially harmful flame retardants

Evidence of potentially harmful flame retardants on the hands and in the homes of 100 percent of a sample of New York City mothers and toddlers has been uncovered by researchers. The study also found that on average toddlers in New York City had higher levels of common flame-retardants on their hands compared to their mothers.

Researchers at the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health (CCCEH) within the Mailman School of Public Health report evidence of potentially harmful flame retardants on the hands and in the homes of 100 percent of a sample of New York City mothers and toddlers. The study also found that on average toddlers in New York City had higher levels of common flame-retardants on their hands compared to their mothers. The Center's previous research has linked early life exposure to a common class of flame-retardants called PBDEs with attention problems and lower scores on tests of mental and physical development in children.

Beginning in the 1970s, manufacturers added PBDEs, persistent brominated flame-retardants, to couches, textiles, electronics and other consumer products to comply with flammability standards. They began phasing out PBDEs in 2004 and started using newer alternative flame-retardants, including TBB and TBPH, which are components of the commercial mixture Firemaster 550®. TBB and TBPH are brominated flame retardants for which little is known about their health effects in humans, though they have been linked to reduced fertility and endocrine disruption in animal models.

Researchers visited the homes of 25 mother-child pairs enrolled in the CCCEH Sibling-Hermanos birth cohort, which began in 2008. When children were 3 years old, dust was collected from their homes and hand wipes were collected from the mother and child; these samples were analyzed for flame retardant compounds....Results are consistent with other studies, which demonstrate that toddlers tend to have higher exposure to flame retardants when compared with adults, likely because of the amount of time they spend on the floor.

 The research finding of dogs having elevated levels of the endocrine disruptor bisphenol A (BPA) from eating canned food mirrors what is happening to humans - eating canned food raises BPA levels in a person. The study also found that elevated BPA levels resulted in changes in the gut microbiome (the community of microbes living in the gut). Specifically, they found the abundance of a number of bacteria species increased or decreased depending on BPA levels in the dogs. This is not good.

This is of concern because BPA  is linked to a variety of health problems. [See all posts.] So it's best to minimize exposure to BPA, BPS, and other hormone disrupting chemicals, and also "BPA-free" products (which usually contain BPS). The BPA is in the lining of the cans used in canned food, and this leaches into the food. Unfortunately, dog food cans thought to be BPA-free in the study also contained BPA, which then leached into the dog food.  From Futurity:

Dogs have 3X more BPA after eating canned food

Researchers saw a three-fold increase in BPA levels in dogs who ate canned dog food for two weeks. They also saw changes in the dogs’ gut microbesBisphenol A (BPA) is a widely used industrial chemical found in many household items, including resins used to line metal storage containers, such as food cans. The chemical can disrupt hormones and is linked to a range of health problems. “Bisphenol A is a prevalent endocrine-disrupting chemical found in canned foods and beverages,” says Cheryl Rosenfeld, an associate professor of biomedical sciences in the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine....

Dog owners volunteered their healthy pets for the study. Blood and fecal samples were collected prior to the dogs being placed on one of two commonly used, commercial canned food diets for two weeks; one diet was presumed to be BPA-free. Robert Backus, an associate professor in the veterinary medicine and surgery in the College of Veterinary Medicine, and other researchers on the team then analyzed the cans and the food contained in the cans for BPA levels and performed gut microbiome assessments.

“The dogs in the study did have minimal circulating BPA in their blood when it was drawn for the baseline,” Rosenfeld says.“However, BPA increased nearly three-fold after being on the either of the two canned diets for two weeks. We also found that increased serum BPA concentrations were correlated with gut microbiome and metabolic changes in the dogs analyzed. Increased BPA may also reduce one bacterium that has the ability to metabolize BPA and related environmental chemicals.”

“We share our homes with our dogs,” Rosenfeld says. “Thus, these findings could have implications and relevance to humans. Indeed, our canine companions may be the best bio-sentinels for human health concerns.”

A chemical frequently used in place of BPA called BPS (bisphenol S) and found in "BPA-free" products is also an endocrine disruptor. This also has negative health and behavioral effects. In this study the effects were seen in mice, but they are worrisome. Makes you wonder, what are all the effects in humans? From Science Daily: Plastics compound, BPS, often substituted for BPA, alters mouse moms' behavior and brain regions

In the first study of its kind, environmental health scientists and neuroscientists examined the effects of the compound bisphenol S (BPS) on maternal behavior and related brain regions in mice. They found subtle but striking behavior changes in nesting mothers exposed during pregnancy and lactation and in their daughters exposed in uteroBPS, found in baby bottles, personal care products and thermal receipts, is a replacement chemical for BPA and was introduced when concern was raised about possible health effects of that plastic compound.

 Both males and females should consider trying to lower their exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals (hormone disrupting chemicals) when contemplating pregnancy. These chemicals are found in many personal care, food packaging, and plastic products. They can interfere with natural hormone function and are linked to a wide assortment of health problems. Evidence (like this study) is mounting that higher levels of endocrine disruptors in the body have a negative effect on the developing embryo. So men - an important time to try to lower your exposure to endocrine disruptors is the 3 months preconception (it takes about 3 months for sperm to mature), and for women it's the entire pregnancy period (from conception to birth). You can't totally avoid endocrine disrupting chemicals (they're detected in almost all of us), but you can lower your exposure.

What to avoid and what to do? Read the ingredient lists of all personal care products and try to avoid those with phthalates, parabens, triclosan, bisphenol-A (BPA), BPS, triclocarbon, and oxybenzone (BP-3). Try to buy "unscented" or "fragrance-free" products. Canned foods are considered one of the most significant routes of human exposure to bisphenol A (BPA), so limit canned foods. Note that "BPA-free" cans and plastic containers also contain endocrine disruptors. Another way to lower exposure to endocrine disruptors is to buy and store food not in plastic containers, but in glass containers or stainless steel. Don't microwave food in any sort of plastic containers. Avoid products with fragrances in them, including air fresheners and dryer sheets. Avoid flexible vinyl (e.g. shower curtains). [For all posts on endocrine disruptors, and an article from National Institutes of Health. Also check ewg.org for lists of products]. From Environmental Health News:

Are plastic chemicals in dads hurting embryos?

Turns out, moms, it's not just about you staying off alcohol and avoiding potentially harmful chemicals while pregnant or trying to become so. Your partners' exposure to plastics and packaging could play an important role in your ability to conceive a child. A father’s exposure to chemicals commonly found in plastics, personal care products and food packaging might decrease the quality of embryos produced by their sperm, according to a new study out of Massachusetts.

The study, published today in the journal Human Reproduction, is the first to examine dads’ exposure to phthalates and embryo quality through five days of in vitro fertilization (IVF). The lower quality embryos had fewer signs of the type of progress that leads to a fetus. The findings suggest men’s exposure to the chemicals—used in vinyl products, food packaging, fragrances and in other plastics to make them pliable—might hamper the development of their unbornEmbryos are the result of a fertilized egg in a woman and are the precursor to the fetus. About 12 weeks into pregnancies, the unborn is considered a fetus.

Most people have phthalates in their bodies and the compounds disrupt the endocrine system—interfering with hormones that are crucial for reproduction.While the study doesn’t prove phthalates in men lead to poor quality embryos, it adds to mounting evidence that the ubiquitous chemicals may impact pregnanciesSperm mature over 72 days on average, almost three months,” said senior author of the study, Richard Pilsner, an epidemiologist and assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “During that time, we may tell men to maybe try to avoid phthalates. There’s no way to totally escape exposure but you could minimize it.

Led by Pilsner, researchers collected 761 immature eggs from 50 couples undergoing IVF at the Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Mass., and checked their progression to embryos. They tested embryos at three days and five days after the eggs were fertilized, and collected urine samples from the couples on the same day as the semen sample and egg retrieval to test for phthalate metabolites, substances formed after the body processes phthalates. At day five, high exposure to phthalates in men was linked to fewer—or no—signs of the type of development that eventually leads to a fetus and placenta compared to men with lower exposure.

Phthalate exposure for fetuses has been linked to genital defects, lower IQs and miscarriages but it’s not clear what impacts this poor embryo quality could mean for the unborn. Russ Hauser, a professor of reproductive physiology at Harvard University, said in an email that the impacts might range from pregnancy loss to effects on children's health later in their life.

Shanna Swan, a professor of reproductive science at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York who was not involved in the study, said the study is limited in that it is small, and not representative of the general population because it only included couples undergoing IVF. They also didn’t see any association with the women’s exposure and decreased embryo quality. But this isn’t the first study to report a male-only effect. Higher phthalates in father’s urine was associated with an increased time for couples to conceive, according to a 2014 study. Swan said the current study was strengthened in that it is “remarkably consistent” with the 2014 study. Some phthalate metabolites linked to impacts in both studies are known to target male reproductive hormones, she said.

  Uh oh....A recent study found that every baby teether tested (and they tested 59 teethers), including all those labeled "BPA free", leached various parabens, bisphenols (including BPA or bisphenol A), and other endocrine disrupting chemicals. Infants chew and suck teethers to soothe the pain from their teeth emerging in the first year of life.

The researchers tested for 26 chemicals in three different types of teethers (solid plastic, gel-filled, and water-filled), and found parabens and bisphenols leaching from all of them. To see what leaches from the teethers, they placed the teethers into water - this is similar to what happens when babies mouth teethers and their saliva is exposed to chemicals in the teethers. The gel filled teethers leached the most chemicals overall. Even though 48 of the 59 teethers were labeled “BPA-free,” the results showed that the labels were misleading, because in this study BPA migrated (leached out) from all the teethers.

Endocrine disrupting chemicals can interfere with natural hormone function and are linked to a wide assortment of health problems (see posts on them). Even though the levels of the chemicals found were low, it is important to remember that effects from endocrine disrupting chemicals (hormone disruptors) are from very low levels. So exposing developing infants to these chemicals is of concern. What was disturbing is that these study results were far worse than a small study of teethers in Europe where the standards regarding endocrine disrupting chemicals are stricter than in the US. What should be done? Manufacturers should design products without using problem ingredients right from the start. Problem solved! From Science Daily:

Baby teethers soothe, but many contain low levels of BPA

Bisphenol-A (BPA), parabens and antimicrobials are widely used in personal care products and plastics. The U.S. and other governments have banned or restricted some of these compounds' use in certain products for babies and kids. But the compounds' presence in and leaching from teethers hasn't been thoroughly investigated. Now a study in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology reports that all tested plastic teethers contained BPA and other endocrine-disruptors that leached at low levels.

Studies have shown that in animals, endocrine-disrupting compounds (EDCs) -- which include BPA, parabens and antimicrobials -- can potentially interfere with hormones and have harmful developmental, reproductive and neurological effects. As a result, the European Commission in 2011 restricted the use of BPA in baby bottles. The U.S. followed suit a year later, banning it from baby bottles, and also from children's drinking cups....But very few if any studies have investigated whether the compounds are used to make teethers and if the compounds leach out of these products, which are designed to soothe babies' gums when their teeth come in. Kurunthachalam Kannan and colleagues wanted to see if the products contained EDCs and if the compounds could migrate out.

The researchers analyzed 59 solid, gel-filled or water-filled teethers purchased online in the U.S. for 26 potential endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Although most of the products were labeled BPA-free or non-toxic, all of them contained BPA. In addition, the researchers detected a range of different parabens and the antimicrobials triclosan and triclocarban in most of the teethers....Based on estimates of average use time and the body weight of a 12-month-old baby, calculations suggest that exposure to BPA and other regulated EDCs in teethers would be lower than the European standards for temporary tolerable daily intake levels. However, these thresholds are set for individual compounds. Current regulations do not account for the accumulation of multiple EDCs, note the researchers. Additionally, not all chemicals measured in the study are regulated.

 Many articles have been written about endocrine disrupting chemicals and the numerous health problems they're linked to (see posts on them). It's been known for decades that endocrine-disrupting chemicals pose a danger to human health because the compounds can interfere with natural hormone function. Chemical exposure occurs through routine contact with plastic bottles, vinyl items, toys, food cans, cosmetics, flame retardants, and other consumer products containing "endocrine-disrupting chemicals". We ingest, breathe them in (inhalation), or absorb them through the skin as consumer products are used and also as consumer products break down (the dust).

Finally a study examines the financial cost of these chemicals - an estimate of more than $340 billion annually due to health care costs and lost wages (the authors say this is a conservative estimate). What can ordinary people do to lower their exposure to these chemicals? Avoid the use of pesticides in the home, lawns, and gardens. Eat as much organic foods as possible. Avoid buying food in cans, including soda. Store food in glass and stainless steel containers. Avoid microwaving in plastic containers (use glass instead). Avoid plastic bottles with the numbers 3, 6, and 7 on the bottom. Avoid vinyl items such as vinyl shower curtains and vinyl toys. Avoid fragrances (get unscented products). Read labels on lotions, shampoos, soaps, make-up - avoid phthalates and parabens. Avoid flame retardants (check the labels on new upholstered furniture). Avoid non-stick pots, avoid stain-repellant items, avoid air fresheners and dryer sheets. And that's just a partial list....From Environmental Health News:

Toxic economy: Common chemicals cost US billions every year

Exposure to chemicals in pesticides, toys, makeup, food packaging and detergents costs the U.S. more than $340 billion annually due to health care costs and lost wages, according to a new analysis. The chemicals, known as endocrine disruptors, impact how human hormones function and have been linked to a variety of health problems such as impaired brain development, lower IQs, behavior problems, infertility, birth defects, obesity and diabetes. The findings, researchers say, "document the urgent public threat posed by endocrine disrupting chemicals.” 

The researchers estimated costs by looking at exposures, then projecting 15 medical conditions linked to the chemicals and the associated health costs and lost wages. The findings are built upon calculations made by the Endocrine Society, the World Health Organization and the United Nations Environment Program. A similar study conducted in Europe found about $217 billion in annual costs due to exposure to these compounds. 

The U.S. public has greater exposure to flame retardant chemicals, due in part to stringent fire-safety rules. These compounds are added to furniture foam and electronics to slow the spread of flames. In Europe, pesticides were the main cost driver. Both flame retardants and certain pesticides can impact brain development when unborn babies are exposed..... Conversely, Europe has been much more proactive in tackling a particularly concerning groups of flame retardant chemicals called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs).

PBDEs were the worst offenders in the U.S., accounting for nearly two thirds of the estimated health problems. PBDEs were estimated to annually cause about 11 million lost IQ points and 43,000 additional cases of intellectual disability to the tune of $268 billion. Pesticide exposure—the second most costly chemical group in the U.S.—causes an estimated 1.8 million lost IQ points and another 7,500 intellectual disability cases annually, with an estimated cost of $44.7 billion. The researchers also looked at common chemicals such as bisphenol-A (BPA), used in polycarbonate plastics, food tin cans and receipts; and phthalates, found in food containers and cosmetics.

Trasande countered that estimates are on the conservative side. Researchers calculated the health-related costs from just a fraction—less than 5 percent—of known endocrine disrupting chemicals, he said. “We also didn’t focus on chemicals already banned, such as persistent organic pollutants,” he said. Those compounds, which include DDT and PCBs, remain common in the environment and in human blood despite being off the market for years, even decades.

Trasande said the study highlights the need to address endocrine disruptor exposure in the United States, especially as the country updates the federal Toxic Substances Control Act. The 2016 updates to the act, which regulates both existing and new chemicals, contained no mention of endocrine disruption, Trasande said. Chemicals should be screened for any potential impacts to human hormones before they hit the marketplace, he added. 

While many of these toxics linger in the body for a long time, people can take steps to avoid exposure. “We can ask questions about flame retardants and perfluorinated compounds when we buy rugs and furniture, and choose products without these substances,” Grandjean said. “We can choose to avoid tuna and other large predatory species of fish, and we can choose organic fruits and leafy vegetables.”  (Original study)

  More bad news about BPA (bisphenol A) - an endocrine disrupter linked to a number of health problems, including reproductive disorders (here, here, and here). A new study has lent support for a  link between bisphenol A (BPA) exposure during pregnancy and later breast cancer. BPA can cross the placenta in the womb, and so expose the fetus, it has been found in placental tissue, and newborns can be exposed through breastfeeding. BPA is found in the urine of about 95% of the U.S. population.

It's hard to avoid BPA because it's found in so many products, but a person can lower exposure to it by avoiding canned products (it's in the can linings), as well as plastic bottles and containers, microwaving or heating food in plastic containers, and fast food (it's in the packaging and leaches into the food) . Glass and stainless steel is OK for storing food. By the way, BPA substitutes such as BPS  and BPSIP have the same negative health effects (because they're chemically similar) - so also avoid "BPA-free" products. From Endocrine News;

A Pervasive Threat: The Danger of in utero BPA Exposure

A new study presented at ENDO [Endocrine Society] 2016 revealed a possible link between bisphenol A exposure in utero to breast cancer later in life. In the process, the researchers created a new bioassay that can test chemicals much faster than typical animal studies. Almost every single person alive today has detectable amounts of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) in his or her body, according to the 2015 joint Endocrine Society/IPEN publication Introduction to Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs): A Guide for Public Interest Organizations and Policy-Makers.

These EDCs — phthalates (plasticizers), bisphenol A (BPA), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and others, in their bodies — are hormone-like industrial chemicals that did not even exist 100 or so years ago. Studies on human populations consistently demonstrate associations between the presence of certain chemicals and higher risks of endocrine disorders such as impaired fertility, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disorders, and cancer.

The xenoestrogen BPA is especially prevalent as a component used in rigid plastic products such as compact discs, food and beverage containers, food and formula can linings, and glossy paper receipts. In the case of food containers, when they are heated or scratched, the BPA can seep out into the food and then be ingested. BPA also escapes from water pipes, dental materials, cosmetics, and household products among others and is released into the environment or directly consumed. According to research, such exposures help account for why BPA has been found in the urine of a representative sample of 95% of the U.S. population.

Notably, BPA can cross the placenta in the womb, indirectly exposing the fetus — it has been found in both maternal and fetal serum as well as neonatal placental tissue. Newborns can also be directly exposed through breastfeeding.

The results of a study presented at ENDO 2016 provide compelling support for the idea that fetal exposure to BPA might increase risk for development of breast cancer in adulthood; in fact, it may explain why overall incidence increased in the 20th century. Lucia Speroni, PhD, a research associate and member of the Soto-Sonnenschein lab at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston and the study’s lead investigator, reports, “We found that BPA acts directly on the mammary gland and that this effect is dose dependent: A low dose significantly increased ductal growth, whereas a high dose decreased it.”

“Because these effects are similar to those found when exposing the fetus through its mother, our experiment suggests that BPA acts directly on the fetal mammary gland, causing changes to the tissue that have been associated with a higher predisposition to breast cancer later in life,” Speroni explains. In replicating the process of mammary gland development in vitro, this method additionally allows for live observation throughout the whole process.....The lab team had previously shown that the most harmful time for exposure to BPA is during fetal development by causing alterations in the developing mammary gland.

Image result for fast food wikipedia Recent research examined levels of endocrine disruptors called phthalates in people eating fast food. Researchers found evidence of a dose–response relationship between fast food intake and exposure to phthalates - the more one eats fast food, the more phthalates (actually metabolites of the phthalates) can be measured in the person's urine. Fast food consumers had higher urinary levels of the phthalates DEHP, DiNP, and BPA than those not consuming fast food (even though the differences in levels of BPA among groups were "non-significant"). This is of concern because these endocrine disruptors are linked to a number of health problems. (Earlier discussion of this research.)

DEHP, DiNP, and BPA are detected in over 90% of the population in the US, but since there are many health concerns - it is better to have lower levels than higher levels. (Zero levels would be best). Note that phthalates and BPA are quickly metabolized and excreted in urine, with elimination half-lives of less than 24 hr - which is why the study looked at what had been eaten in the last 24 hours. But this also shows that one can quickly reduce their levels in the body.

Some possible sources of phthalate contamination in fast food are: PVC tubing, vinyl gloves used for food handling, and food packaging, including beverage cans - the chemicals leach or migrate out into the food and then are ingested. (More on chemicals migrating from containers to food), Fast food was defined as food obtained from restaurants without waiter service and from pizza restaurants, as well as all carry-out and delivery food. Another excellent reason to cut back on fast food (like we don't have enough reasons already!). The following news report discusses the research. From Environmental Health Perspectives:

Phthalates in Fast Food: A Potential Dietary Source of Exposure

Many research studies have surveyed nutritional habits, but fewer have studied how food processing and packaging might introduce unwanted chemicals into foods. In this issue of EHP, researchers report that fast food consumption appears to be one source of exposure to the chemicals di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) and diisononyl phthalate (DiNP).1

The authors used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) to estimate the percentage of individuals’ calories that came from fast food, fat intake attributable to fast food consumption, and fast food intake by food group. During NHANES interviews, respondents had reported their diet from the preceding 24 hours. Fast food was defined as food obtained from restaurants without waiter service and from pizza restaurants, as well as all carryout and delivery food.2 ....The final study population included nearly 9,000 people aged 6 years or older. Approximately one-third of people surveyed had eaten fast food in the preceding 24 hours. Study participants who ate fast food were more likely to be male, under age 40, and non-Hispanic black, and to have higher total calorie and total fat intake from fast food, compared with the general population.1

Fast food consumers had higher urinary levels of DEHP, DiNP, and BPA than non-consumers, although the differences in average urinary levels were small and for BPA were non-significant. When fast food intake was categorized by food group, DEHP metabolites were associated with intake of grains and “other” (a category that included vegetables, condiments, potato items, beverages, and more). DiNP metabolites were associated with intake of meat and grains.1

The authors also found that the associations between phthalates and fast food were not uniform across the population.1They speculate that the pronounced association they saw between fast food consumption and DEHP in black consumers could reflect higher overall consumption of fast food and/or different food choices among this population. Prior research suggests that predominately black neighborhoods in urban areas have a greater density of fast food restaurants than white neighborhoods.3

The authors point to PVC tubing, vinyl gloves used for food handling, and food packaging as possible sources of phthalate contamination in fast food. DEHP is a ubiquitous high-molecular-weight phthalate that has been removed from some products due to concerns about potential adverse health effects.5 In some cases it is being replaced with DiNP.2

The related Environmental Health Perspectives research article:  Recent Fast Food Consumption and Bisphenol A and Phthalates Exposures among the U.S. Population in NHANES, 2003–2010

Experimental animal studies demonstrate that DEHP and DiNP have endocrine-disrupting properties because of their anti-androgenic effects on the male reproductive system (National Research Council 2008). Human exposure to DEHP has been associated with adverse reproductive, neurobehavioral, and respiratory outcomes in children (Braun et al. 2013; Ejaredar et al. 2015) and metabolic disease risk factors such as insulin resistance in adolescents and adults (James-Todd et al. 2012; Attina and Trasande 2015). Though epidemiologic evidence of DiNP is less complete, recent studies report associations between exposure and similar health outcomes including adverse respiratory and metabolic outcomes in children (Bertelsen et al. 2013; Attina and Trasande 2015). BPA is also a suspected endocrine disrupter, and experimental and human evidence suggest that BPA is a reproductive toxicant (Peretz et al. 2014). In addition, prenatal BPA exposure has also been associated with adverse neurobehavioral outcomes in children (Mustieles et al. 2015).

Given the concern over chemical toxicity, it is important to identify modifiable sources of exposure that may be targeted for exposure reduction strategies. Simulated exposure modeling, observational epidemiologic studies, and intervention studies all suggest that diet is an important exposure pathway for both high-molecular-weight phthalates and BPA.....Phthalates have been shown to leach into food from PVC in materials like tubing used in the milking process, lid gaskets, food preparation gloves, conveyor belts and food packaging materials (Cao 2010;Serrano et al. 2014). In fact, an intervention study reported that urinary BPA and DEHP were reduced by 66% and 53–56%, respectively, when participants’ diets were restricted to food with limited packaging (Rudel et al. 2011). Foods high in fat, such as dairy and meat, may be more contaminated by high-molecular-weight phthalates that are more lipophilic such as DEHP (Serrano et al. 2014). Fast food may be an important source of exposure to phthalates and BPA because it is highly processed, packaged, and handled.

 Many of us grew up having silver colored dental fillings (called dental amalgam) in our teeth. Dental amalgam has been used for over 150 years for the treatment of dental cavities (caries) because it is durable, easy to use, and affordable. But it is composed of about 50% elemental mercury (Hg) and so it may release a certain amount of mercury both during the time the cavity is filled and afterward with normal wear. Mercury can cause adverse health effects, such as effects on the central nervous system, kidneys, and immune system. Human mercury exposure also occurs through the consumption of mercury (MeHg) contaminated seafood.

Recently many dentists switched to the use of the composite resins, which are mercury-free alternative materials. However, these can release can release small quantities of bisphenol A (BPA) when applied and as they degrade in the mouth. BPA is an endocrine disruptor, has been found to cause various adverse health effects, including reproductive effects, and can be measured in urine. Which raised the question, do persons with composite resin fillings have elevated BPA in their bodies?

This study examined 14,703 subjects who were divided into three groups based on the number of dental surface restorations (DSR): 0, 1–8, or greater than 8. Dental surface restorations applies to fillings, and not crowns. Note that a tooth's surface can have 5 surfaces (in molars and pre-molars), so 8 filled surfaces can be fewer than 8 teeth with fillings. (It's not the number of fillings, but the surface area they occupy - so the Science Daily article title is misleading.)

They found that the more dental surface restorations a person has, the higher the levels of mercury in the blood. But they found no association between dental surface restorations and urinary BPA. These results are reassuring for those with fillings made of composite resins, but not for people with fillings of dental amalgam. Note: DSR are Dental Surface Restorations, THg is blood total mercury, IHG is inorganic mercury, and MeHg is methyl mercury (typically from seafood). From Science Daily:

Have more than eight dental fillings? It could increase the mercury levels in your blood

Dental surface restorations composed of dental amalgam, a mixture of mercury, silver, tin and other metals, significantly contribute to prolonged mercury levels in the body, according to new research from the University of Georgia's department of environmental health science in the College of Public Health.This research, which analyzed data from nearly 15,000 individuals, is the first to demonstrate a relationship between dental fillings and mercury exposure in a nationally representative population.

The researchers further analyzed exposure by specific types of mercury and found a significant increase in methyl mercury, the most toxic form of mercury, related to dental fillings. Yu said this result suggests the human gut microbiota, a collection of microorganisms living in the intestines, may transform different types of mercury.

Dental amalgam has been the go-to dental filling material for more than 150 years, because it's affordable and durable. However, about half of the compound contains mercury, a heavy metal known to be toxic at high levels, causing brain, heart, kidney, lung and immune system damage. New research suggests that methyl mercury may cause damage even at low levels.

"As toxicologists, we know that mercury is poison, but it all depends on the dose. So, if you have one dental filling, maybe it's OK. But if you have more than eight dental filings, the potential risk for adverse effect is higher," Yu said....The results show that individuals with more than eight fillings had about 150 percent more mercury in their blood than those with none. The average American has three dental fillings, while 25 percent of the population has 11 or more fillings.

The study also looked at dental composite resins, a mercury-free alternative for dental fillings that can release small amounts of bisphenol A, or BPA, which may cause developmental or reproductive damage. The results found no association between dental fillings and urinary BPA, but further research is needed to understand BPA exposure from resin-based materials.

From the original study in :  Associations of blood mercury, inorganic mercury, methyl mercury and bisphenol A with dental surface restorations in the U.S. population, NHANES 2003–2004 and 2010–2012

Elevated mercury in urine usually indicates exposure to an elemental or inorganic source of mercury, while elevated mercury in blood usually indicates exposure to organic mercury or recent exposure to a high level of elemental mercury vapor. However, our current study found that THg, MeHg, and IHg significantly increased with the number of the DSRs after the adjustment of covariates. It is well established that inorganic mercury is released into circulation from amalgam restorations (Lorscheider et al., 1995); it is also widely believed that the only source of the organic form, methyl mercury, is from fish in the diet. However, accumulating evidence demonstrates that human oral or gut commensal bacteria can methylate mercury....Leistevuo et al. found a correlation between the total amalgam surfaces and organic mercury in saliva, suggesting both methylating and nonmethylating bacteria can enhance the formation of toxic methylmercury (Leistevuo et al., 2001).

Conclusions: We have found that dental surface restorations significantly contributed to the blood concentrations of THg and IHg in both periods of study, as well as MeHg in 2011–2012, after adjusting covariates such as age, education, race/ethnicity, gender, smoking, and fish consumption history. However, no association between the dental fillings and urinary BPA was found. This is the first study to demonstrate the relationship between dental fillings and body level of Hg and /or BPA in a nationally representative population. Our findings did not address the potential adverse health effects at low thresholds of mercury exposure; however, a significant correlation between the blood level of mercury and dental restoration raises major concerns about potential mercury exposure.