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For a while now it has been known that some dental floss, such as Oral-B Glide, contain harmful chemical compounds called PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), similar to Teflon. These chemicals have all sorts of negative health effects, and are referred to as "forever chemicals" because they stick around.

A recent investigation by ehn.org (Environmental Health News) and Mamavation (a health/wellness site) tested 39 different brands of dental floss for PFAS by an EPA-certified laboratory. They found evidence of PFAS in one third of the samples, with levels ranging from 11 parts per million (ppm) to 248,900 ppm. Yup, it was Oral-B Glide with the incredibly high levels of PFAS.

These PFAS chemical compounds are linked to all sorts of health problems (e.g. kidney and testicular cancer, semen quality, thyroid disease, immune system effects, reproductive problems, and lowered sex and growth hormones in children) - so you want to avoid them if possible.

It turns out these chemicals are shed into the person's mouth when flossing if the floss contains PFAS, and can be measured in a person's blood.

The four floss brands with extremely high levels (over 70,000 ppm) were: Oral B Glide, Up & Up (Target brand) Smooth Slide Floss, Colgate Total Waxed Dental Floss, and Solimo (Amazon brand) Extra Comfort Dental Floss.

One piece of good news: No dental (tooth) floss marketed to children that they tested had indications of PFAS forever chemicals.

Bottom line: avoid non-stick smooth dental floss such as Oral-B Glide dental floss (or when the dental floss label brags that it is similar to Glide dental floss). Use plain waxed or unwaxed floss instead (e.g., Reach Waxed Floss, Tom's of Maine Floss). Look at the investigation results for brands to avoid and better choices.

From Environmental Health News (EHN.org): Tests find PFAS abundant ​in some dental floss

That nice waxy glide as you floss your teeth? Turns out it could be courtesy of PFAS, the "forever chemicals" that hijacks hormones and is linked to reproductive problems, birth defects, testicular cancer and a host of other diseases. 
...continue reading "Some Dental Floss Brands Contain Harmful PFAS Chemicals"

Waterproof jacket Credit: Wikipedia

Uh-oh... A recent study found that even if a water- or stain-resistant children's product is labeled as "green" and "non-toxic", that label may be false. Silent Spring Institute researchers found that odds are good that the product contains persistent harmful PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances). Precisely the opposite of what the "green" or "non-toxic" label promises.

PFAS are a group of toxic chemicals used in many consumer and industrial products. They are known to be endocrine (hormone) disruptors, and exposure to these chemicals has been linked to health problems such as certain types of cancer, reproductive harm (e.g., poorer semen quality), and birth defects, lowered sex and growth hormones in children, thyroid disease, immune effects, and liver and kidney damage.

Almost all of us have PFAS in our bodies (at varying levels). It's very hard to avoid them totally, but you should try to minimize exposure. They are found in a variety of consumer products such as firefighting foam, non-stick cookware, cosmetics, and materials that protect against grease, oil, and water (e.g., stain-resistant carpeting and fabrics, food packaging, and water-repellent clothing).

What can you do? If possible, avoid products that are water and stain proof or leak-proof, especially if children will be using the product. (For ex., can look for physical barriers instead of a chemical coating). Also, avoid products labeled with a trademark for water or stain resistance. PFAS don't have to be mentioned on labels, so it's buyer beware.

From Environmental Health News: “Green” children's products not always PFAS-free, warns new study

PFAS are finding their way into “green” and “nontoxic” products, especially waterproof products marketed toward children and adolescents, according to new research.

The researchers tested 93 items marketed to or often used by children and adolescents, including clothing, face masks, mattress protectors, rugs, sheets, and upholstery. They detected fluorine, a PFAS indicator, in 54 of the 93 products. The 54 products shown to contain fluorine were then tested for specific PFAS chemicals. ...continue reading "Waterproof “Green” Children’s Products May Contain Harmful PFAS"

There have been growing concerns about the presence of harmful endocrine disrupting chemicals called phthalates in common products and foods. A recent study found phthalates in a large variety of fast foods purchased from fast food restaurants - from hamburgers and chicken nuggets, to chicken burritos. They found detectable levels of phthalates in all the foods sampled, with meat products having higher levels than non-meat foods, such as fries and pizza.

This could explain why an earlier study found that people eating fast food had higher levels of phthalates than those who didn't eat fast food (and ate homecooked meals instead).

Phthalates are a group of chemicals used to make plastics soft, but are also known to disrupt the endocrine system. The chemicals leach into the food from the stain and water resistant packaging used for fast foods, and even from the gloves the food handling workers wear. When the foods are eaten, the consumer also ingests these chemicals -  and the higher the levels in the body, the greater the health effects.

Endocrine (hormone) disruptors, such as phthalates, are associated with all sorts of health problems, including cancers, reproductive harm (e.g. poorer semen quality), lowered sex and growth hormones in children, thyroid disease, immune effects, and liver and kidney damage. Unfortunately, they are already found in the bodies of almost all Americans, so we should try to reduce our exposure.

Bottom line: try to eat less fast food, and try to eat more home cooked meals. Remember, the more you eat fast foods, the higher the phthalate levels in your body (it's a dose-response effect).

From Science Daily: Potentially harmful industrial chemicals detected in US fast foods

Chicken nuggets, burritos and other popular items consumers buy from fast food outlets in the United States contain chemicals that are linked to a long list of serious health problems, according to a first-of-its-kind study published today.  ...continue reading "Endocrine Disruptors Called Phthalates Found In Fast Food"

Something to ponder: Are tiny plastic particles (microplastics) that enter the human body traveling to the brain and causing harm? An article by the science writer Erica Cirino examines that question by looking at existing research and comes to the disturbing conclusion of: Yes, they are.

Yes, that plastic particles are inhaled or ingested (in food, water, and air), that many are excreted, but some travel to organs in the body, are absorbed in the bloodstream, and some eventually cross into the brain. Research in fish shows that this ultimately results in abnormal (dysfunctional) behavior. [Note: she is the author of the book Thicker Than Water, which addresses the plastics pollution problem.]

One problem is that plastic particles contain all the chemicals in the original plastic, which includes endocrine (hormone) disruptors.  Another is that the plastic particles accumulate once they are in the organs. Yes, studies find plastic particles in humans (e.g., the placenta, the lungs, and other tissues) and also that many microparticles are excreted in feces. But much is still unknown.

A study by Canadian researchers estimated that the consumption of microplastics by Americans ranges from 39,000 to 52,000 particles (depending on age and sex) each year. When they added in inhalation of microplastic particles, the numbers increased to 74,000 to 121,000. And those who only drink bottled water may be getting an additional 90,000 microplastics (versus about 4000 microplastics from tap water). Yikes!

Since more and more plastics are entering the environment each year, then this does not bode well for humans. We need to deal with plastic pollution!

Excerpts from an article by Erica Cirino in The Scientist: Opinion: Plastic Pollution May Endanger Brains

In 1950, 2 million metric tons of plastic were produced globally; in 2015, petro-chemical companies churned out 381 million metric tons. Most plastic waste—more than 6.3 billion metric tons of it has been generated by humans over the last 80 years—is never recycled. And to scientists’ best knowledge, petroleum-based plastic will never biodegrade. Instead, it breaks up into ever-smaller particles that always remain plastic.  ...continue reading "Microplastics Are Entering Our Bodies"

Finally, some good news (perhaps) regarding the damaging,  unregulated, and widely used PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) chemicals. PFAS are man-made chemicals commonly called "forever chemicals" because of how they stick around, persist, and contaminate both humans and the environment. Including our communities, our drinking water (at least 2411 drinking water systems), and military installations.

Last week the US House of Representatives passed a bill (PFAS Action Act, H.R. 2467) that would finally designate certain PFAS compounds as hazardous substances, would regulate PFAS  in drinking water, and would issue grants to help community water systems treat PFAS contaminated water. It would make clean-up of PFAS contamination of groundwater at military installations a priority (PFAS was in the firefighting foams used by the military).

These chemicals have been used for years in many industrial and consumer products, such as food packaging, non-stick cookware, cosmetics,  and products containing stain and water-repellents (e.g. fabrics, carpeting). Even dental floss!

Why the concern? PFAS are known endocrine (hormone) disruptors associated with all sorts of harmful health problems, including cancers, reproductive harm (e.g. poorer semen quality), lowered sex and growth hormones in children, thyroid disease, immune effects, and liver and kidney damage. Unfortunately, they are already found in the bodies of almost all Americans (at varying levels), so we should try to reduce our exposure.

Of course industry opposes the legislation and called it a ban. No, it's not a ban, but a first step in regulating the chemicals and cleaning up contamination. We'll see what happens in the Senate. Will they also pass legislation?

Excerpts from The Beacon: U.S. House passes PFAS bill regulating ‘forever chemicals’ in drinking water

The U.S. House on July 21 passed bipartisan legislation that would regulate toxic chemicals found in drinking water, as well as designate two types of those toxic chemicals as hazardous substances that would spark federal cleanup standards.   ...continue reading "Legislation That Would Regulate “Forever Chemicals”"

It turns out that we are unknowingly being exposed to toxic chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in cosmetic products. A group of researchers tested 231 cosmetic products in both the US and Canada and found that about half of them had high levels of PFAS. And most of the time they were not listed on the ingredients list. Yikes!

PFAS are man-made chemicals commonly called "forever chemicals" because of how they stick around or persist in both humans and the environment. They are found in many products, such as food packaging, non-stick cookware (Teflon), and products containing stain and water-repellents.

They are known endocrine (hormone) disruptors associated with all sorts of harmful health problems, including cancers, reproductive harm (e.g. poorer semen quality), lowered sex and growth hormones in children, thyroid disease, immune effects, and liver and kidney damage. Unfortunately, they are already found in the bodies of almost all Americans (at varying levels), so we should try to reduce our exposure.

Out of 8 categories of commonly available cosmetic products tested, the ones with the highest levels of PFAS levels were foundations, mascaras, and lip products. This was especially true of cosmetics advertised as “wear-resistant” to oils and water (e.g. waterproof mascara) or “long-lasting. This means that when a person applies the cosmetics, the chemicals are getting into the person through the skin, by inhaling the chemicals, or even through the tear ducts (for example - mascara).

The 8 categories of cosmetic products tested included: lip products, eye products, foundations, face products, mascaras, concealers, eyebrow products, and miscellaneous products. Unfortunately, the researchers did not list what products had high levels, low levels, or even no PFAS.

So, if it's not in the ingredient list, then how does a person know which cosmetics are safe and which are harmful? Right now the best thing to do is to go to Environmental Working Group (EWG), and go to their consumer guide page - click on "Skin Deep" for their cosmetic data base.

In addition, this past week Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) introduced the "No PFAS in Cosmetics Act". Collins said: “Our bill would require the FDA to ban the addition of PFAS to cosmetics products.”

From Science Daily: Use of PFAS in cosmetics 'widespread,' new study finds

Many cosmetics sold in the United States and Canada likely contain high levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a potentially toxic class of chemicals linked to a number of serious health conditions, according to new research from the University of Notre Dame. ...continue reading "Many Cosmetic Products Contain Harmful Chemicals"

Pregnant women now have another reason to try to limit exposure to flame retardants while pregnant - having higher levels of flame retardants in their blood during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of preterm birth.

Nearly 100% of North American women have flame retardants  such as poly-brominated ethers (PBDEs) in their bodies, which can be measured in their blood. Unfortunately they are  hormone (endocrine ) disruptors, and they are also very similar in structure to thyroid hormones. Flame retardants have a number of harmful health effects during pregnancy.

A team of NY and California researchers checked the level of one type of PBDE in the blood of 3,529 pregnant women in the first trimester of pregnancy. They found that those with the highest levels (above 4 nanograms per milliliter of blood) had a higher incidence of preterm birth. But if they had levels below that there wasn't an increased risk of preterm birth.

Flame retardants are all around us (e.g. synthetic carpeting, upholstered furniture), but they migrate out of the product, and so get into us. Yes, they are in our household dust. There are ways to minimize exposures - for example, check carpeting, sofa, and upholstered furniture labels, and only buy those products free of flame retardants. See tips on how to lower your exposure to harmful chemicals.

From Medical Xpress: Exposure to flame retardants early in pregnancy linked to premature birth

Expectant women are more likely to give birth early if they have high blood levels of a chemical used in flame retardants compared with those who have limited exposure, a new study finds. ...continue reading "High Flame Retardant Levels During Pregnancy Linked to Preterm Birth"

Human sperm. Credit: Wikipedia

Back in 2017 the world was shocked by a major study that focused on dropping sperm counts in men living in Western countries - a drop of over 50% in 4 decades, or about 1% per year. Along with an increase in infertility. If the drop in sperm counts continues at its current pace, it ultimately means that humans soon will not be able to reproduce. Worse case scenario: extinction of humans.

Dr. Shanna Swan, who an author of the study, has a just published an excellent eye-opening book about this topic. The cause for these sperm count drops and increasing infertility are the hormone (endocrine) disrupting chemicals in everyday products all around us. In plastics, in many pesticides, in personal care products, in our foods (from the packaging)... Yes, all around us. It turns out these chemicals have all sorts of harmful health effects, not just lowering of sperm counts and increasing infertility. [see below]

Good news: we can't escape all the harmful chemicals around us, but we can really decrease our exposures and so decrease the levels of these chemicals in our bodies. And it's better for our health! For tips on ways to reduce your exposures and the levels of harmful chemicals in your body - see Avoiding Harmful Chemicals.

The highly recommended book is written by Shanna Swan, PhD and Stacey Colino: Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race. Scribner, 2020. With many pages of references at the end.

An interesting short interview with Dr. Shanna Swan. From The Intercept: TOXIC CHEMICALS THREATEN HUMANITY’S ABILITY TO REPRODUCE

..a book that ties industrial chemicals in everyday products to a wide range of changes taking place in recent years, including increasing numbers of babies born with smaller penises; higher rates of erectile dysfunction; declining fertility; eroding sex differences in some animal species; and potentially even behaviors that are thought of as gender-typical.

Excerpts by Shanna Swan and Stacey Colino's piece from Scientific American: Reproductive Problems in Both Men and Women Are Rising at an Alarming Rate

When you see or hear a reference to “the 1 percent,” most people think of socioeconomic status—the people with the top 1 percent of wealth or income in the United States, which is how the term is commonly used in our culture.

Not us, though.  ...continue reading "A New Book Discusses Falling Sperm Counts and The Chemicals Around Us"

Many people don't realize that the plastic toys our children play with may contain harmful chemicals. Children get exposed to these chemicals by touching the toy (absorption through the skin), or ingesting chemicals (e.g. when a baby mouths the toy, or child ingests dust from the toy), but also from breathing in chemicals leaching out of all the plastic toys in the room into the air. This has been known a long time, yet here we are...

An international team of researchers looked at 419 chemicals and found 126 chemicals of concern (chemicals known to be harmful) in plastic toys - chemicals that they felt should no longer be used in children's toys. Many are endocrine disruptors, while others are linked to cancer. In this group were 31 plasticizer chemicals (including phthalates and BPA [bisphenol]), 18 flame retardants, and 8 fragrances. These chemicals can be measured in the urine. [Note: they did not look at some chemicals, such as lead, cadmium, arsenic, etc.]

The researchers conclude: "Nowadays, existing regulations mainly prioritize a small set of chemicals, and regulators struggle to keep up with the thousands of new chemicals entering the market every year." They stress that we need to avoid "regrettable substitution" (substituting a dangerous chemical with another equally dangerous related chemical - such as replacing BPA with BPS). We need to identify safer substances that can be used in toys.

The more plastic toys in a room, the more exposure. They are outgassing all the time - even if you can't smell it. Soft plastic toys emit (outgas) the most chemicals. Children are especially vulnerable to these chemicals. Currently there is no international agreement over which chemicals to ban or regulate, and not enough chemicals are regulated or banned in toys and children's products.

There is no way right now to know which plastic toys contain dangerous chemicals and which don't. Toy manufacturers do not tell us what chemicals are in the toys. So... yes, we absolutely need (global) regulations to totally ban the use of certain chemicals in plastic toys, especially because so many toys are produced in countries with weak environmental regulations. We need to use safer chemical alternatives in plastic toys.

Bottom line: Try to have fewer plastic toys, especially soft plastic toys. Try to ventilate rooms frequently (every day) by opening windows, even if only for a short while.

From Science Daily: Potentially harmful chemicals found in plastic toys

It has long been known that several chemicals used in plastic toys in different parts of the world can be harmful to human health. However, it is difficult for parents to figure out how to avoid plastic toys containing chemicals that may cause possible health risks to their children.   ...continue reading "Plastic Toys May Contain Harmful Chemicals"

The issue of plastics, the chemicals they contain, and the harms to human health has been documented in a new report from the international Endocrine Society. This is a problem that won't go away because plastic use is increasing throughout the world, we use plastic products every day, we are surrounded by plastics, and they are now everywhere in our environment.

Chemicals leach out of the plastics and so get into us, wildlife, and the environment. Plastics also degrade into tiny particles called microplastics over time - which is why we find tiny plastic particles in our water, air, house dust, foods, beverages, and even in our bodies and feces.

Plastics can contain endocrine (hormone) disrupting chemicals, which can disturb or disrupt the body’s hormone systems. They can cause cancer, diabetes, reproductive disorders (e.g. fertility problems, lowered sperm count), neurological impairments (e.g. lower IQ) of developing fetuses and children, and death. Fetuses, babies, and young children are especially vulnerable to these chemicals. [More posts on this topic.]

More than a thousand manufactured chemicals that are used nowadays are endocrine disrupting chemicals, also called EDCs. Some examples of common EDCs are bisphenols (e.g.BPA and BPS), phthalates, flame retardants, water and stain-resistant chemicals, and non-stick coatings in cookware. They are found in many household and personal care products, and toys (e.g. vinyl toys).

And no, the US government is doing nothing about this issue. Right now it is up to us individually to try to protect ourselves and to lower our exposures to endocrine disrupting chemicals and other harmful chemicals. List of things you can do: Tips to reduce harmful chemical exposures and levels in your body. [For ex.: Microwave food only in regular dishes. Not in plastic containers or pouches.]

The Endocrine Society (a global society of physicians and scientists) came out with a report documenting the harms of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) in plastics. Their Dec. 10, 2020 announcement: Plastics, EDCs & Health: Authoritative Guide, contains a link to the full report.

The Endocrine Society has a two page really nice summary and explanations of the types of chemicals found in plastics: 7 Harmful Chemical Types in Plastics [They are bisphenols, alkylphenols, phthalates, perfluorinated chemicals, brominated flame retardants, dioxin, and UV stabilizers.]

From Medical Xpress: Plastics pose threat to human health

Plastics contain and leach hazardous chemicals, including endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that threaten human health. An authoritative new report, Plastics, EDCs, & Health, from the Endocrine Society and the IPEN (International Pollutants Elimination Network), presents a summary of international research on the health impacts of EDCs and describes the alarming health effects of widespread contamination from EDCs in plastics.   ...continue reading "New Report On Harms to Human Health From Chemicals In Plastics"