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The EPA has many serious problems, from protecting corporations and not consumers, to ignoring studies that find health problems with products or chemicals. Dr. Jennifer Liss Ohayon, a research scientist at Silent Spring Institute and Northeastern University, pointed out in a recent article that the EPA keeps approving pesticides linked to breast cancer.

These pesticides act as endocrine disruptors on the breast, with effects occurring at low doses. Many are commonly used (e.g., malathion, atrazine), which means women are exposed to in food, water, the workplace, and at home (yes - home, garden, and lawn chemicals!).

Why be concerned? Young women are experiencing earlier breast development, difficulty in breastfeeding, and increasing rates of breast cancer. Many studies link this in women (and in animals) with chemical exposures, especially endocrine disrupting chemicals (this is because they screw with hormones, and so have an effect on breast development and breast tissue).

But... the EPA is dismissing or ignoring relevant studies and pooh poohing the idea that chemicals can have harmful endocrine disrupting effects. Effects on the breast (mammary gland) are NOT required to be part of the EPA's chemical risk assessment (which determines whether a pesticide will be approved). The studies the EPA relies on are almost all financed by the manufacturers (hmmm...of course they'll say the pesticide is safe).

Note that the European Union bans many of the worrisome pesticides - they are not ignoring the science, and in doing so protect people.

From a piece by Dr Jennifer Liss Ohayon at Environmental Health News (EHN): Why is the EPA still exposing women to pesticides linked to breast cancer?

This fall marks the 60th anniversary of writer and scientist Rachel Carson’s 1962 book “Silent Spring.” The book was seminal in that it sparked the modern environmental movement, a U.S. ban of DDT, and the founding of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). However, despite decades passing since Carson first warned us about the dangers of pesticides, EPA continues to approve pesticides linked to breast cancer. ...continue reading "The EPA Is Still Approving Pesticides Linked To Breast Cancer"

Human male sperm Credit: Wikipedia

Oh no... Back in 2017 a large study found that male sperm counts had dropped over 50% since the 1970s in North America, Europe, and Australia. Declining every year, year after year, for over 40 years. This has serious implications for fertility - if sperm counts drop too low, it's very difficult to conceive a baby.

Now those same researchers have published data from 53 countries showing that the sperm count decline is also occurring in Asia, South America, and Africa. And that the decline in male sperm counts is actually accelerating in North America and Europe. Yikes!

Note that this is in men who weren't being screened for fertility problems issues. In other words, random healthy men. Some had already fathered a baby.

Globally, the decline was about 1.16% per year from 1973 to 2018 (resulting in a 52% decline). When the researchers reexamined the data and looked at many more studies, they realized that since 2000 the decline accelerated at 2.64% per year.

Average global sperm concentration was 49 million per milliliter of semen in 2018. The researcher Dr. Swan pointed out that when sperm count drops below roughly 45 million per milliliter, the ability to cause a pregnancy begins to plummet dramatically, and at 40 million and lower the chances of conception are very low without reproductive assistance (e.g., IVF).

Interestingly, sperm counts are not just a male fertility issue, but also an indicator of men's health. Low levels of sperm are associated with increased risk of chronic disease, testicular cancer, and a shorter lifespan. With a decline in sperm numbers there is also a decline in testosterone and male genital anomalies - thus a decline in male reproductive health.

Why is this happening? Several possibilities are probably contributing: mainly lifestyle and also all the chemicals and plastics in our lives (environmental chemical exposure). Endocrine disruptors, phthalates, pesticides! Yes, they are all around us - in the air, the water, consumer products, and our bodies.

Some examples: pesticides, flame retardants, stain and water resistant products. Plastics leach and outgas and we get them into us various ways (skin, inhale them, ingest them in our foods and water). List of ways to reduce exposure to harmful chemicals.

THINGS YOU CAN DO TO IMPROVE SPERM COUNT AND HEALTH:

Lifestyle: Don't smoke. Don't drink or drink very little. Don't do drugs. Don't sit in hot tubs or saunas. Get exercise or physical activity. Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, seeds, nuts. Avoid canned foods, minimize fast food take-out. Eat as much organic as possible. Lose weight, if needed.

Chemical exposure: We can't totally avoid all the chemicals, but we can minimize our exposure. For starters, stop using non-stick cookware, avoid pesticides in the home and yard (look for nontoxic alternatives and view weeds as wildflowers), don't use dryer sheets, buy unscented products (and avoid fragrances). List of ways to reduce exposure to harmful chemicals.

From Science Daily: Significant decline in sperm counts globally, including Latin America, Asia and Africa, follow-up study shows

An international team led by Professor Hagai Levine of Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Hadassah Braun School of Public Health, with Prof. Shanna Swan at the Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai, New York, along with researchers in Denmark, Brazil, Spain, Israel and the USA, published the first meta-analysis to demonstrate declining sperm counts among men from South and Central America, Asia and Africa. ...continue reading "Sperm Counts Are Still Dropping Throughout the World"

Male sperm Credit: Wikipedia

Currently there is incredible concern over what the group of toxic chemicals called PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are doing to humans. PFAS are commonly known as "forever chemicals" because of their persistence in our bodies and environment. They are all around us (e.g., in personal care products, cosmetics, food packaging, nonstick cookware, textiles, carpets), and as a consequence almost all of us have them in our bodies.

Why be concerned over PFAS chemicals? They are endocrine (hormone) disruptors and have numerous harmful health effects, including all sorts of reproductive effects (e.g., decreases in sperm numbers, increased rates of infertility), decreases in testosterone, increased risk of cancer, and immune effects. Studies also find that they cross the placenta and accumulate in the fetus.

Now another worrisome large study (864 young men, 18.9 to 21.2 years old) has been published. Danish researchers found that those men who had been exposed to higher levels of PFAS during pregnancy had lower levels of sperm (both sperm concentration and sperm count), and a higher proportion of not swimming correctly and nonmoving sperm in the adult sons. This means that prenatal exposure has an effect on both quantity and quality of sperm in adulthood.

The PFAS levels were first measured during pregnancy (in the mother's plasma) during the first trimester, when the male reproductive system is developing. Sperm counts have been dropping rapidly in the past 40 years throughout the developed world, and these chemicals may be one of the reasons.

Bottom line: We can't totally avoid these chemicals, but the good news is that we can lower by a lot how much we are exposed to. And your levels can go down within weeks.

PFAS are commonly used because they have water, dirt, stain, and oil repellent properties. For example, they are used in water-resistant and long-lasting cosmetics, and in rugs and upholstery with added stain-resistance. This means that there are many simple ways to lower your exposure, mainly by some lifestyle changes (e.g., by using regular stainless steel pots and not non-stick pots).

A good list of ways to lower your exposure to PFAS and other harmful chemicals, especially if you are pregnant or thinking of pregnancy, or have children. Can also go to ewg.org for lists of personal care products that are PFAS and toxin free.

Nice, short article from The Guardian: Study links in utero ‘forever chemical’ exposure to low sperm count and mobility

A new peer-reviewed Danish study finds that a mother’s exposure to toxic PFAS “forever chemicals” during early pregnancy can lead to lower sperm count and quality later in her child’s life.  ...continue reading "Study Finds “Forever Chemical” Exposure Early in Life Has Effects On Sperm In Adulthood"

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"