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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 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 evidence linking endocrine disrupting chemicals such as butyl paraben, triclocarbon, propyl paraben. with negative health effects (here linked to effects on the pregnancy and baby). It is especially important to try to lower exposure to endocrine disruptors during pregnancy. So read labels on all personal care products and avoid all parabens, phthalates, triclocarban, bisphenol-A (BPA), and triclosan - because what you use on your body will get into your body, From Medical Xpress:

Use of personal care products during pregnancy linked to adverse effects in newborns

A study led by SUNY Downstate Medical Center's School of Public Health presents evidence linking personal care products used during pregnancy to adverse reproductive effects in newborns."The study found a link between women with higher levels of butyl paraben, which is commonly used as a preservative in cosmetics, and the following birth outcomes: shorter gestational age at birth, decreased birth weight, and increased odds of preterm birth," says Laura Geer, PhD, MHS, associate professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences in the School of Public Health at SUNY Downstate.

The antimicrobial compound, triclocarban, mainly added to soaps, was associated with shorter gestational age at birth. Another common chemical added to lotions and creams, propyl paraben, was associated with decreased body length at birth. The long-term consequences of this are not clear, and, Geer adds, "Findings must be reproduced in larger studies."

Dr. Geer says, "Our latest study adds to the growing body of evidence showing that endocrine-disrupting compounds can lead to developmental and reproductive problems in animals and in humans. Effects observed in previous studies mainly came from animal models only." This study presents evidence of potentially adverse impacts in humans. 

Regulations requiring removal of triclosan from various consumer care products have been in place since 2015 in the European Union, but broader regulatory action by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has not ensued.

More on this same story from Environmental Health News:  Soap, makeup additives linked to preterm births, smaller babies

Pregnant women in Brooklyn with high levels of certain compounds used in makeup and soaps were more likely to have preterm births and babies that weighed less, according to a new study. The study, published online last week in the Journal of Hazardous Materials, provides the first evidence that germ-killing and preservative chemicals used in cosmetics and soaps might impact newborns’ health. It also bolsters suspicions that chemicals in soaps and lotions disrupt people’s endocrine systems, which are crucial for reproduction and babies’ development.

From 2007 to 2009, Geer and colleagues tested 185 mothers’ third trimester urine, as well as the umbilical cord blood of 34 of them, for a suite of different parabens, used mostly in cosmetics, and triclosan and triclocarban, which are used as antimicrobials in soaps. The mothers were from the University Hospital of Brooklyn’s Prenatal Clinic.

The chemicals, especially the parabens, are common: According to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database, butylparaben is used in 2,245 personal care products, propylparaben is used in 7,212, and triclocarban is used in 21.

The results don’t prove that the chemicals are behind the birth problems. While scientists know the chemicals have some biological activity, the amount of exposure that could cause problems remains unclear.  Animals exposed to the chemicals have had some reproductive impacts. In rats, triclocarban impacted male sex organ development in a 2008 studyParaben exposure decreased male rat sperm counts and efficiency in a 2002 study. One of the most studied endocrine disrupting chemicals, bisphenol-A or BPA, has been linked to multiple birth defects....Except for some color additives, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not regulate cosmetic ingredients.

 Yes, the chemicals in personal care products and cosmetics you use absolutely get into your body, have effects, and can be measured in the urine. Of especially big concern are the endocrine (hormone) disrupting chemicals such as phthalates, parabens, triclosan, and oxybenzone (BP-3). This study shows that even taking a 3 day break from these chemicals lowers their levels in your body. The researchers found that : "The adolescent girls in this study experienced an average within girl decline of 27-45% in urinary concentrations of certain phthalates, certain parabens, triclosan, and oxybenzone after three days of abstaining from conventional personal care products and using replacement products with labels indicating they did not contain these chemicals."

Bottom line; Read the ingredient lists of all personal care products and try to avoid those with phthalates, parabens, triclosan, and oxybenzone (BP-3). Try to buy "unscented" or "fragrance-free" products.The site ewg.org also has lists of personal care products to avoid, and rates many products. From Science Daily:

Teen girls see big drop in chemical exposure with switch in cosmetics

A new study led by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, and Clinica de Salud del Valle de Salinas demonstrates how even a short break from certain kinds of makeup, shampoos and lotions can lead to a significant drop in levels of hormone-disrupting chemicals in the body. The results, published Monday, March 7, 2016 in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, came from a study of 100 Latina teenagers participating in the Health and Environmental Research on Makeup of Salinas Adolescents (HERMOSA) study.

Researchers provided teen study participants with personal care products labeled free of chemicals such as phthalates, parabens, triclosan and oxybenzone. Such chemicals are widely used in personal care products, including cosmetics, fragrance, hair products, soaps and sunscreens, and have been shown in animal studies to interfere with the body's endocrine system.

"Because women are the primary consumers of many personal care products, they may be disproportionately exposed to these chemicals," said study lead author Kim Harley, associate director of the UC Berkeley Center for Environmental Research and Children's Health. "Teen girls may be at particular risk since it's a time of rapid reproductive development, and research has suggested that they use more personal care products per day than the average adult woman."

Analysis of urine samples before and after a three-day trial in which the participants used the lower- chemical products found significant drops in levels of these chemicals in the body. Metabolites of diethyl phthalate, commonly used in fragrances, decreased 27 percent by the end of the trial period. Methyl and propyl parabens, used as preservatives in cosmetics, dropped 44 and 45 percent respectively. Both triclosan, found in antibacterial soaps and some brands of toothpaste, and benzophenone-3 (BP-3), found in some sunscreens under the name oxybenzone, fell 36 percent. Surprisingly, there was a small increase in concentrations in two less common parabens. Those levels were small and could have been caused by accidental contamination or a substitution not listed on the labels, the study authors said.

The researchers noted that cosmetics and personal care products are not well-regulated in this country, and that getting data about health effects from exposure, particularly long-term ones, is difficult. But they say there is growing evidence linking endocrine-disrupting chemicals to neurobehavioral problems, obesity and cancer cell growth. (Original study.)

Even though many, many personal care products contain parabens, the evidence is accumulating that parabens have negative health effects. And now research suggesting that perhaps they may be a factor in developing breast cancer. This latest study was done "in vitro" - meaning looking at the effects of chemicals on human breast cells (in culture dishes), but the results absolutely should make someone think twice about all the parabens in products, and how they accumulate in us. Research has already found parabens in the human breast, but many thought that the levels were too low to promote cancer.

Parabens are common ingredients in cosmetics, shampoos, body lotions and sunscreens, where they are used to prevent microbial growth and prolong shelf life.  Common names of parabens are: methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben. Detectable levels of multiple parabens are present in human urine and breast tissue. Bottom line: Parabens are endocrine disrupting chemicals that mimic estrogens and may have effects at very low doses to stimulate breast cancer cell growth. So read labels of personal care products and avoid those with parabens. From Futurity:

New Tests Suggest Parabens Carry Cancer Risk

A group of chemicals called parabens—common ingredients in personal care products—may interact with growth factors in the body to increase the risk of breast cancer, according to new research. Parabens are preservatives widely used in everything from shampoos and cosmetics to body lotions and sunscreens. The chemicals have generated increasing health concerns, however, because they mimic estrogens, which have been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer and reproductive problems.

“Although parabens are known to mimic the growth effects of estrogens on breast cancer cells, some consider their effect too weak to cause harm,” says lead investigator Dale Leitman, a gynecologist and molecular biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, and an adjunct associate professor of nutritional sciences and toxicology. “But this might not be true when parabens are combined with other agents that regulate cell growth.”

Existing chemical safety tests, which measure the effects of chemicals on human cells, look only at parabens in isolation, he says. They fail to take into account that parabens could interact with other types of signaling molecules in the cells to increase breast cancer risk.

To better reflect what goes on in real life, Leitman and his colleagues looked at breast cancer cells expressing two types of receptors: estrogen receptors and HER2. Approximately 25 percent of breast cancers produce an abundance of HER2, or human epidermal growth factor receptor 2. HER2-positive tumors tend to grow and spread more aggressively than other types of breast cancer.

The researchers activated the HER2 receptors in breast cancer cells with a growth factor called heregulin that is naturally made in breast cells, while exposing the cells to parabens. Not only did the parabens trigger the estrogen receptors by turning on genes that caused the cells to proliferate, but also the effect was significant. The parabens in the HER2-activated cells were able to stimulate breast cancer cell growth at concentrations 100 times lower than in cells that were deprived of heregulin.

The study demonstrates that parabens may be more potent at lower doses than previous studies have suggested, which may spur scientists and regulators to rethink the potential impacts of parabens on the development of breast cancer, particularly on HER2 and estrogen receptor positive breast cells. The findings also raise questions about current safety testing methods that may not predict the true potency of parabens and their effects on human health.

  More and more studies are finding negative health effects from hormone disrupting chemicals (which we are exposed to every single day, and subsequently which are in all of us), such as parabens, phthalates, Bisphenol-A (BPA), and chemical substitutes for BPA such as Bisphenol-S (BPS) and BPF.  The last post had some recent studies that looked at health effects of hormone disrupting chemicals. The following article points out some of the many difficulties in developing packaging that is safe and doesn't leach endocrine disrupting chemicals or even other chemicals.

We generally focus on hormone disrupting chemicals in plastic bottles or metal cans (which their epoxy liners), but other parts of packaging may (or may not) also leach chemicals. Some leaching may occur with the adhesives used to seal foil pouches, and the polypropylene inner layers also may leach stabilizers. Glass jars are OK, but jar lids may be equipped with BPA-based epoxy liners and/or gaskets that leach plasticizers. Greaseproof wrappers may leach poly- and perfluorinated compounds used to make some packaging greaseproof (may occur if packaging is from India and China - because it is legal to import into USA and use).  Some ceramic kitchenware - the glazes used in artisanal pottery and older mass produced ceramics may leach toxic metals, especially lead. There can even be "offset migration" which occurs when the printed outer surface of food packaging transfers chemicals to the inner food-contact surface.  Whew...

Bottom line: Even BPA alternatives (labeled BPA-free) should be viewed as the same as BPA (as endocrine disruptors) - in other words, currently there are no good BPA substitutes. Read labels and try to minimize plastics in personal care products (e.g., lotion, fragrances) and your food if possible (e.g., choose glass, stainless steel, wax paper, aluminum foil). This is especially important during pregnancy.  Don't microwave food in a plastic dish or container, or covered with plastic wrap. Eat fresh foods and try to avoid soda cans and other packaged, processed foods, especially in plastic containers or metal cans. From Environmental Health Perspectives: A Hard Nut to Crack: Reducing Chemical Migration in Food-Contact Materials

When we buy food, we’re often buying packaging, too. From cherries to Cheez-It® crackers, modern foods are processed, transported, stored, and sold in specialized materials that account, on average, for half the cost of the item, according to Joseph Hotchkiss, a professor in Michigan State University’s School of Packaging. Consumer-level food packaging serves a wide range of functions, such as providing product information, preventing spoilage, and protecting food during the journey from production to retail to pantry, fridge, or freezer. That’s why food producers lavish so much time and money on it.

But what happens when these valuable and painstakingly engineered containers leach chemicals and other compounds into the food and drink they’re designed to protect? Such contamination is nearly ubiquitous; it happens every day, everywhere packaged food is found, with all common types of packaging, including glass, metal, paper, and plastic. Even as awareness of the issue grows, large-scale solutions that are scientifically and financially viable remain out of reach. The challenges in reaching them are many.

People around the world are familiar with bisphenol A (BPA) and concerns about its migration into food and drink from plastic bottles, metal cans, and other consumer products. ....In recent years U.S. manufacturers voluntarily abandoned the use of BPA in baby bottles, sippy cups, and infant-formula packaging, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) formally ended its authorizations of these uses thereafter. Beyond our borders, several other countries have banned BPA from some infant products, including Canada, the European Union, South Africa, China, Malaysia, Argentina, Brazil, and Ecuador. France went even further with its recently implemented ban of BPA from all packaging, containers, and utensils that come into contact with food.

BPA is just one of many known or suspected endocrine disruptors commonly found in food packaging that can migrate into food and drink. Furthermore, endocrine disruptors from plastics are far from the only class of potentially harmful chemicals that can leach into food or drink from food packaging; depending on factors including temperature, storage time, and physicochemical properties, a wide variety of compounds—including components of coatings and films, adhesives and glues, and inks and pigments—can migrate from packaging materials.

Sure enough, in some applications BPA was replaced with other bisphenols, including BPS and BPF, which laboratory experiments indicate have estrogenic effects at least as pronounced as those of BPA. In others, including baby bottles, polycarbonates were replaced by alternative plastics with migration issues of their own. Chemists are now on the hunt for effective alternatives to BPA. To date no one has identified any drop-in fixes that will work in all the same applications, for the same or a lesser cost, with an established lack of estrogenic activity (now known in the marketplace as “EA-free”).

But full-scale solutions remain at least a few iterations away, says John Warner of the Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry. “Something like reinventing plastic isn’t going to happen in a day, a month, or a year,” he says.... Much of Warner’s personal research centers on developing biobased plastics (i.e., derived from renewable biomass sources) that are safer, cheaper, and as effective as traditional fossil-fuel plastics for food packaging. However, plant-based plastics still may contain some of the same harmful additives and manufacturing by-products (known as non-intentionally added substances) that can migrate into food and drink.

While it’s clear that a number of packaging manufacturers are eager to switch to alternative packaging whether required to or not, progress to date has been incremental at best

Some nongovernmental organizations are taking steps to get specific chemicals removed from food packaging. Within the last year the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has teamed with citizens’ groups in petitioning the FDA to withdraw its decades old approvals of a handful of chemicals, including perchlorate, an endocrine disruptor used to produce rubber gaskets and to reduce static charge in plastic dry-food packaging, and long-chain perfluorocarboxylates, used to greaseproof paper and paperboard. The latter have been largely abandoned by U.S. manufacturers but increasingly are employed in India and China and are still legal to import and use, says Tom Neltner, an independent consultant.

Maricel Maffini, a consultant and former senior scientist with the NRDC, is concerned that the development of safer alternatives is being hampered by a lack of regulatory incentives and oversight. “There is no regulatory pressure for innovation,” she says. “And when [manufacturers] do take the initiative to go for an alternative, we don’t know the safety profile of that alternative, we don’t know the exposure, we don’t know if it gets metabolized when it gets into the environment. So there are still a lot of systemic improvements that we need.”

  A report released this week by the Endocrine Society states that the list of health problems that scientists can confidently link to exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals has grown to include: diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, reproductive and developmental problems, thyroid impairment, certain reproductive cancers, and neurodevelopmental problems such as decreased IQ. This statement (report) is based on the summaries of 1300 studies on endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), and it also adds support to the idea that even minute doses of these chemicals can interfere with the activity of natural hormones, which play a major role in regulating physiology and behavior. The statement also stated that most industrial chemicals released into the environment—numbering in the tens of thousands—have never been tested for endocrine-disrupting potential. EDCs include such common chemicals as bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates, parabens, some pesticides (e.g., atrazine), flame retardants, some persistent organic pollutants, and dioxins.

Where are endocrine disruptors found? People are exposed to chemicals with estrogenic effects in their everyday life, because endocrine disrupting chemicals are found in low doses in thousands of products. Many plastic products, including those advertised as "BPA free", have been found to leach endocrine-disrupting chemicals (the substitute chemicals are no better than BPA, and may be worse). Examples: plastic food containers which then leach into foods, linings of metal beverage, formula, and food cans, soft plastic toys, dental sealants, consumer goods, receipts, personal care products that contain parabens or phthalates (e.g., found in lotions,sunscreens, fragrances), household products (such as cleaning products, vinyl shower curtains) , cars (that new car smell in car interiors), etc. Americans love plastics, but there is a serious human health cost. (NOTE: To minimize EDC exposure - try to avoid plastic food and beverage containers. Instead try to use glass, stainless steel, or ceramics. Eat as many unprocessed and fresh foods as possible. Use cloth shower curtains. Read labels and avoid BPA, phthalates, parabens. Avoid fragrances. Don't use or buy non-stick pans, stain and water-resistant coatings on clothing, furniture and carpets. When buying new furniture, check that it doesn't have added fire retardants.)

Of course any public discussion of the harms from endocrine disrupting chemicals, as well as the newly released Endocrine Society report, is drawing sharp criticisms from the chemical industry (especially the American Chemistry Council, the largest trade group for the chemicals industry). Of course. We all know that the lobbying efforts by the chemical industry to suppress and deny the evidence of harm to humans from EDCs has been and will continue to be massive. Sadly, but at this point EDCs are found in almost everyone on earth. More about the report, from Science Daily:

Chemical exposure linked to rising diabetes, obesity risk

Emerging evidence ties endocrine-disrupting chemical (EDC) exposure to two of the biggest public health threats facing society -- diabetes and obesity. EDCs contribute to health problems by mimicking, blocking or otherwise interfering with the body's natural hormones. By hijacking the body's chemical messengers, EDCs can alter the way cells develop and grow. Known EDCs include bisphenol A (BPA) found in food can linings and cash register receipts, phthalates found in plastics and cosmetics, flame retardants and pesticides. The chemicals are so common that nearly every person on Earth has been exposed to one or more.

"The evidence is more definitive than ever before -- EDCs disrupt hormones in a manner that harms human health," said Andrea C. Gore, Professor and Vacek Chair of Pharmacology at the University of Texas at Austin and chair of the task force that developed the statement. "Hundreds of studies are pointing to the same conclusion, whether they are long-term epidemiological studies in human, basic research in animals and cells, or research into groups of people with known occupational exposure to specific chemicals."

The threat is particularly great when unborn children are exposed to EDCs. Animal studies found that exposure to even tiny amounts of EDCs during the prenatal period can trigger obesity later in life. Similarly, animal studies found that some EDCs directly target beta and alpha cells in the pancreas, fat cells, and liver cells. This can lead to insulin resistance and an overabundance of the hormone insulin in the body -- risk factors for Type 2 diabetes.

"It is clear we need to take action to minimize further exposure," Gore said. "With more chemicals being introduced into the marketplace all the time, better safety testing is needed to identify new EDCs and ensure they are kept out of household goods."

In the statement, the Society calls for: Additional research to more directly infer cause-and-effect relationships between EDC exposure and health conditions. Regulation to ensure that chemicals are tested for endocrine activity, including at low doses, prior to being permitted for use. - Calling upon "green chemists" and other industrial partners to create products that test for and eliminate potential EDCs. Education for the public and policymakers on ways to keep EDCs out of food, water and the air, as well as ways to protect unborn children from exposure.

The statement also addresses the need to recognize EDCs as an international problem..... "Exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals during early development can have long-lasting, even permanent consequences," said Bourguignon. "The science is clear and it's time for policymakers to take this wealth of evidence into account as they develop legislation."

Finding endocrine disrupting chemicals in 2 out of 10 baby teethers, which are supposedly safe products for babies is disturbing. Unfortunately the study did not give the manufacturers names. There was even a 11th teether made of natural rubber that was found to leach compounds that were "cytotoxic"(toxic to living cells), but the manufacturer recalled the product before the study results were published. One of the teethers leaching parabens was made of EVA plastic filled with a cooling gel, and the researchers thought the parabens came from the gel used. Note that this study occurred in Europe where the regulations regarding endocrine disrupting chemicals are stricter than in the USA. The researchers themselves suggest that manufacturers should use "green chemistry" when manufacturing products - that is, design products without using problem ingredients right from the start. Problem solved.From Science Daily:

Endocrine disrupting chemicals in baby teethers

In laboratory tests, two out of ten teethers, plastic toys used to sooth babies' teething ache, release endocrine disrupting chemicals. One product contains parabens, which are normally used as preservatives in cosmetics, while the second contains six so-far unidentified endocrine disruptors

"The good news is that most of the teethers we analyzed did not contain any endocrine disrupting chemicals. However, the presence of parabens in one of the products is striking because these additives are normally not used in plastic toys," says Dr. Martin Wagner, of the Department Aquatic Ecotoxicology at the Goethe University. The substances detected -- methyl, ethyl and propyl parabens -- can act like natural oestrogen in the body and, in addition, inhibit the effects of androgens such as testosterone. The EU Commission recently banned two parabens in certain baby cosmetics, because of concerns over their health effects.

"Our study shows that plastic toys are a source of undesirable chemicals. Manufacturers, regulatory agencies and scientists should investigate the chemical exposure from plastic toys more thoroughly," Wagner concludes from the study. The additives have only limited benefits for the quality of the product, but can represent a potential health issue. This is especially true for babies and infants, whose development is orchestrated by a delicately balanced hormonal control and who are more susceptible to chemicals exposures than adults.

The bottom line is to read the ingredients list on products, and avoid all products labeled "antimicrobial" or "antibacterial" (because those are the ones typically containing triclosan and triclorocarban). Over 2000 products contain antibacterial compounds. I've even seen them in pillows, pillow protectors, mattress pads, dish racks, toys, and blankets! As we know from the latest microbiology research, we need to cultivate a healthy microbiome, and not throw it out of whack by continuously trying to kill off all bacteria. From The Atlantic:

It's Probably Best to Avoid Antibacterial Soaps

Antimicrobial chemicals are so ubiquitous that a recent study found them in pregnant mothers' urine and newborns' cord blood. Research shows that their risks may outweigh their benefits.

Antimicrobial chemicals, intended to kill bacteria and other microorganisms, are commonly found in not just soaps, but all kinds of products—toothpaste, cosmetics, and plastics among them. There is evidence that the chemicals aren’t always effective, and may even be harmful, and their ubiquity means people are often continually exposed to them. One such chemical, triclosan, has previously been found in many human bodily fluids. New research found traces of triclosan, triclocarban, and butyl paraben in the urine of pregnant women, and the cord blood of newborn infants. 

The research looked at the same population of 180 expectant mothers living in Brooklyn, New York, most of Puerto Rican descent. In a study published last week in Environmental Science and Technology, researchers from Arizona State University and State University of New York’s Downstate School of Public Health found triclosan in 100 percent of the women’s urine samples, and triclocarban in 87 percent of the samples. Of the 33 cord blood samples they looked at, 46 percent contained triclosan and 23 percent contained triclocarban.

In another, still-unpublished study, the researchers found that all of the cord blood samples contained “at least one paraben,” according to Dr. Rolf Halden, director of ASU’s Center for Environmental Security. 

Triclosan and triclocarban are endocrine disruptors, Halden explains. The risk there is that the chemicals can mimic thyroid hormones, potentially disrupting the metabolism and causing weight gain or weight loss. Previous research has also shown a connection between higher levels of triclosan in urine, and allergy diagnoses in children.

In the study looking at butyl paraben, the researchers found an association between higher exposure to the chemical, and a smaller head circumference and length of babies after they were born. Butyl paraben is used as a preservative, so it’s found in a wider breadth of products, according to Halden.

From Science News: Pregnant women, fetuses exposed to antibacterial compounds face potential health risks 


As the Food and Drug Administration mulls over whether to rein in the use of common antibacterial compounds that are causing growing concern among environmental health experts, scientists are reporting that many pregnant women and their fetuses are being exposed to these substances. The compounds are used in more than 2,000 everyday products marketed as antimicrobial, including toothpastes, soaps, detergents, carpets, paints, school supplies and toys, the researchers say.

The problem with this, explains Pycke, a research scientist at Arizona State University (ASU), is that there is a growing body of evidence showing that the compounds can lead to developmental and reproductive problems in animals and potentially in humans. Also, some research suggests that the additives could contribute to antibiotic resistance, a growing public health problem.

Although the human body is efficient at flushing out triclosan and triclocarban, a person's exposure to them can potentially be constant. "If you cut off the source of exposure, eventually triclosan and triclocarban would quickly be diluted out, but the truth is that we have universal use of these chemicals, and therefore also universal exposure," says Rolf Halden, Ph.D., the lead investigator of the study at ASU.