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

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

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

Phthalates in Fast Food: A Potential Dietary Source of Exposure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ten chemicals suspected or known to harm human health are present in more than 90% of U.S. household dust samples, according to a new study. The research adds to a growing body of evidence showing the dangers posed by exposure to chemicals we are exposed to on a daily basis. The chemicals come from a variety of household goods, including toys, cosmetics, personal care products, furniture, electronics, nonstick cookware, food packaging, floor coverings, some clothing (e.g., stain resistant), building materials, and cleaning products. How do the chemicals get into the dust? The chemicals can leach, migrate, abrade, or off-gas from the products, which winds up in the dust and  results in human exposure. (That's right:  vacuum a lot and wash your hands a lot, and try to avoid or cut  back use of products with these chemicals,)

What was found in the dust? The main chemicals were: phthalates — a group of chemicals that includes DEP, DEHP, DNBP and DIBP (these were present in the highest concentrations),  highly fluorinated chemicals (HFCs), flame retardants (both old and newer replacement ones), synthetic fragrances, and phenols. These chemicals are known to have various adverse health effects, including endocrine disruption, cancer, neurological, immune, and developmental effects. (See posts on endocrine disruptors and flame retardants) Studies typically study one chemical at a time, but household dust contains MIXTURES of these chemicals with effects unknown. How does it get into us? Inhalation, ingestion, and through skin contact. And while the levels we are exposed to may be low, research is showing that even low level exposure can have adverse health effects. From Medical Xpress:

Potentially harmful chemicals widespread in household dust

Household dust exposes people to a wide range of toxic chemicals from everyday products, according to a study led by researchers at Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University. The multi-institutional team conducted a first-of-a-kind meta-analysis, compiling data from dust samples collected throughout the United States to identify the top ten toxic chemicals commonly found in dust. They found that DEHP, a chemical belonging to a hazardous class called phthalates, was number one on that list. In addition, the researchers found that phthalates overall were found at the highest levels in dust followed by phenols and flame retardant chemicals....."The findings suggest that people, and especially children, are exposed on a daily basis to multiple chemicals in dust that are linked to serious health problems." ...continue reading "What’s In Your Household Dust?"

A new report authored by dozens of scientists, health practitioners and children's health advocates is highlighting the (growing annually) evidence that many common and widely available chemicals endanger neurological development in fetuses and children of all ages. The chemicals contribute to such health problems as ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, lowered IQ, behavior disorders, and many other problems. Many of the chemicals have hormonal effects (endocrine disruptors) and interfere with normal hormonal activity. The chemicals of highest concern are all around us and are found in most pregnant women, their fetuses, and in growing children. In fact, in all of us.

Especially worrisome chemicals are:  leadmercury; organophosphate pesticides (used in agriculture and home gardens), phthalates (in medicines, plastics, and personal care products), flame retardants known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (found in upholstered furniture, car seats), air pollutants produced by the combustion of wood and fossil fuels), and polychlorinated biphenyls (once used as coolants and lubricants in electrical equipment, but still pervasive). It is important to note that out of the thousands of chemicals that people are exposed to, that the great majority of chemicals are untested for neurodevelopmental effects.

Especially alarming is that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control found that 90% of pregnant women in the United States have detectable levels of 62 chemicals in their bodies, out of 163 chemicals for which the women were screened. This shows that we are exposed to mixtures of chemicals - not just to one chemical at a time.  Unfortunately the substitutes for problematic chemicals are NO better than the originals, because they tend to be similar chemically. For example, the substitutes for BPA are just as bad, if not worse, than BPA (bisphenol A). And remember, we are exposed to mixtures of chemicals - not just to one chemical at a time.

The report criticizes current regulatory lapses that allow chemicals to be introduced into people's lives with little or no review of their effects on fetal and child health. "For most chemicals, we have no idea what they're doing to children's neurodevelopment," Professor Schantz (one of the signers of the report) said. "They just haven't been studied." So why aren't policymakers doing something? Why is industry dictating what we're exposed to? Why are chemicals innocent until proven guilty, and even then they're allowed to be used? Who is looking out for the ordinary person, and especially developing children?

From the journal Environmental Health Perspectives: Project TENDR: Targeting Environmental Neuro-Developmental Risks. The TENDR Consensus Statement

Children in America today are at an unacceptably high risk of developing neurodevelopmental disorders that affect the brain and nervous system including autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, intellectual disabilities, and other learning and behavioral disabilities. These are complex disorders with multiple causes—genetic, social, and environmental. The contribution of toxic chemicals to these disorders can be prevented. 

Leading scientific and medical experts, along with children’s health advocates, came together in 2015 under the auspices of Project TENDR: Targeting Environmental Neuro-Developmental Risks to issue a call to action to reduce widespread exposures to chemicals that interfere with fetal and children’s brain development. Based on the available scientific evidence, the TENDR authors have identified prime examples of toxic chemicals and pollutants that increase children’s risks for neurodevelopmental disorders. These include chemicals that are used extensively in consumer products and that have become widespread in the environment. Some are chemicals to which children and pregnant women are regularly exposed, and they are detected in the bodies of virtually all Americans in national surveys conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The vast majority of chemicals in industrial and consumer products undergo almost no testing for developmental neurotoxicity or other health effects.

Based on these findings, we assert that the current system in the United States for evaluating scientific evidence and making health-based decisions about environmental chemicals is fundamentally broken. To help reduce the unacceptably high prevalence of neurodevelopmental disorders in our children, we must eliminate or significantly reduce exposures to chemicals that contribute to these conditions. We must adopt a new framework for assessing chemicals that have the potential to disrupt brain development and prevent the use of those that may pose a risk. This consensus statement lays the foundation for developing recommendations to monitor, assess, and reduce exposures to neurotoxic chemicals. 

The TENDR Consensus Statement is a call to action to reduce exposures to toxic chemicals that can contribute to the prevalence of neurodevelopmental disabilities in America’s children. The TENDR authors agree that widespread exposures to toxic chemicals in our air, water, food, soil, and consumer products can increase the risks for cognitive, behavioral, or social impairment, as well as specific neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) (Di Renzo et al. 2015; Gore et al. 2015; Lanphear 2015; Council on Environmental Health 2011). This preventable threat results from a failure of our industrial and consumer markets and regulatory systems to protect the developing brain from toxic chemicals. To lower children’s risks for developing neurodevelopmental disorders, policies and actions are urgently needed to eliminate or significantly reduce exposures to these chemicals.

We are witnessing an alarming increase in learning and behavioral problems in children. Parents report that 1 in 6 children in the United States, 17% more than a decade ago, have a developmental disability, including learning disabilities, ADHD, autism, and other developmental delays (Boyle et al. 2011). As of 2012, 1 in 10 (> 5.9 million) children in the United States are estimated to have ADHD (Bloom et al. 2013). As of 2014, 1 in 68 children in the United States has an autism spectrum disorder (based on 2010 reporting data) (CDC 2014).

Many toxic chemicals can interfere with healthy brain development, some at extremely low levels of exposure. Research in the neurosciences has identified “critical windows of vulnerability” during embryonic and fetal development, infancy, early childhood and adolescence (Lanphear 2015; Lyall et al. 2014; Rice and Barone 2000). During these windows of development, toxic chemical exposures may cause lasting harm to the brain that interferes with a child’s ability to reach his or her full potential.

The developing fetus is continuously exposed to a mixture of environmental chemicals (Mitro et al. 2015). A 2011 analysis of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) biomonitoring data found that 90% of pregnant women in the United States have detectable levels of 62 chemicals in their bodies, out of 163 chemicals for which the women were screened (Woodruff et al. 2011). Among the chemicals found in the vast majority of pregnant women are PBDEs, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHS), phthalates, perfluorinated compounds, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), perchlorate, lead and mercury (Woodruff et al. 2011). Many of these chemicals can cross the placenta during pregnancy and are routinely detected in cord blood or other fetal tissues.

The following list provides prime examples of toxic chemicals that can contribute to learning, behavioral, or intellectual impairment, as well as specific neurodevelopmental disorders such as ADHD or autism spectrum disorder: Organophosphate (OP) pesticides, PBDE flame retardants, combustion-related air pollutants, which generally include PAHs, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter, and other air pollutants for which nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter are markers, lead, mercuryPCBs .

The United States has restricted some of the production, use and environmental releases of these particular chemicals, but those measures have tended to be too little and too late. We face a crisis from both legacy and ongoing exposures to toxic chemicals.....The examples of developmental neurotoxic chemicals that we list here likely represent the tip of the iceberg....Only a minority of chemicals has been evaluated for neurotoxic effects in adults. Even fewer have been evaluated for potential effects on brain development in children (Grandjean and Landrigan 2006, 2014). Further, toxicological studies and regulatory evaluation seldom address combined effects of chemical mixtures, despite evidence that all people are exposed to dozens of chemicals at any given time.

Some chemicals, like those that disrupt the endocrine system, present a concern because they interfere with the activity of endogenous hormones that are essential for healthy brain development. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) include many pesticides, flame retardants, fuels, and plasticizers. One class of EDCs that is ubiquitous in consumer products are the phthalates. These are an emerging concern for interference with brain development and therefore demand attention.

Under our current system, when a toxic chemical or category of chemicals is finally removed from the market, chemical manufacturers often substitute similar chemicals that may pose similar concerns or be virtually untested for toxicity. This practice can result in “regrettable substitution” whereby the cycle of exposures and adverse effects starts all over again. The following list provides examples of this cycle: When the federal government banned some uses of OP pesticides, manufacturers responded by expanding the use of neonicotinoid and pyrethroid pesticides. Evidence is emerging that these widely used classes of pesticides pose a threat to the developing brain (Kara et al. 2015; Richardson et al. 2015; Shelton et al. 2014). 

When the U.S. Government reached a voluntary agreement with flame retardant manufacturers to stop making PBDEs, the manufacturers substituted other halogenated and organophosphate flame retardant chemicals. Many of these replacement flame retardants are similar in structure to other neurotoxic chemicals but have not undergone adequate assessment of their effects on developing brains. When the federal government banned some phthalates in children’s products, the chemical industry responded by replacing the banned chemicals with structurally similar new phthalates. These replacements are now under investigation for disrupting the endocrine system.

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.

We're surrounded by hormone disrupting chemicals (endocrine disruptors) in daily life - in plastics, personal care products, pesticides, food containers, plastic toys, etc. A recent study done in the European Union (EU) reports on a growing body of evidence suggesting that exposures to endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), particularly phthalates and diphenyldichloroethene (DDE), contribute to the development of common reproductive disorders in women: endometriosis and uterine fibroids. A group of global EDC experts estimated the economic costs of these female reproductive disorders attributable to endocrine disrupting chemical exposures at nearly €1.5 billion ($158 billion) annually.

EDCs (like DDT and phthalates) are believed to contribute to health problems by mimicking, blocking, or otherwise interfering with the function of hormones by disrupting the signaling system the body uses to determine how cells develop and grow.  A number of studies suggest a byproduct of the pesticide DDT, a chemical known as DDE, can raise the risk of developing uterine fibroids, and that another group of chemicals called phthalates, which are found in plastic products and cosmetics, have been linked to a growing risk of endometriosis. Keep in mind that several other chemicals, such as PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, and BPA have also been linked with female reproductive health problems. From Science Daily:

Chemical exposure linked to 1.4 billion euros in women's health care costs, study suggests

Endocrine-disrupting chemicals may contribute to reproductive health problems experienced by hundreds of thousands of women, costing European Union an estimated 1.4 billion Euros ($1.5 billion) a year in health care expenditures and lost earning potential, according to a new study. The study examined rates of uterine fibroids -- benign tumors on the uterus that can contribute to infertility and other health problems -- and an often painful condition called endometriosis where the tissue that normally lines the uterus develops elsewhere in the body. The two conditions are common, with as many as 70 percent of women affected by at least one of the disorders.

Research has linked the development of uterine fibroids and endometriosis to chemicals found in pesticides, cosmetics, toys and food containers. Past studies suggest a byproduct of the pesticide DDT, a chemical known as DDE, can raise the risk of developing uterine fibroids. Another group of chemicals called phthalates, which are found in plastic products and cosmetics, have been tied to growing risk of endometriosis.....DDT and phthalates are known endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs)

"Although these two gynecological conditions affect millions of women worldwide, we recognize that this analysis only reflects the tip of the iceberg," Trasande said. "A growing body of evidence suggests EDC exposure is linked to a broader range of female reproductive problems, including polycystic ovary syndrome, infertility and pregnancy complications. These disorders also place a significant cost burden on women, their families and society as a whole.

A news story added some extra details and background to this story. From CNN:

Common chemicals linked to endometriosis, fibroids -- and healthcare costs

Hormone-disrupting chemicals are everywhere -- in plastics, pesticides and makeup -- and two of them, phthalates and DDE, have been particularly strongly linked with common female reproductive conditions, such as fibroids. In a new study, researchers estimate that the problems caused by these two chemicals alone could cost the European Union at least 1.41 billion euros a year, the U.S. equivalent of about $1.58 billion.

DDE is a breakdown product of the insecticide DDT that, although banned in the United States in 1972 and in Europe starting in the 1970s, still lingers in the environment and enters our body through food. The main exposure to phthalates is through eating food and drink stored in plastic containers that have phthalates.....In a similar way, they relied on a study that linked higher phthalate levels in women who had been diagnosed with endometriosis compared to healthy women.

The current study is important because it focused on chemicals that have not been restricted, and in the case of DDE -- which persists in the environment -- are not able to be restricted, Birnbaum said. However, she said she was surprised the researchers did not include an analysis of chemicals such as BPA, which has also been linked to endometriosis risk."This study is kind of a wake-up to say endocrine disruptors impact the female reproductive system, and we have some evidence they are associated with an increase in endometriosis and fibroids and it costs a lot of money," Birnbaum said.

Even with all the questions that remain, and few regulations in place, "there are safe and simple steps that families and women can take to reduce exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals," Trasande said. "They can eat organic, reduce canned food consumption, which reduces exposure to BPA, and avoid packaged or highly processed food, which is a major route for phthalates to enter food. They can also open windows to allow chemical dust, which accumulates on the carpet and electronics, to circulate out of homes."

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Did you ever wonder about all the consumer products that have fragrances in them and whether they are safe to use? Think of all the fragrances in personal care products and perfumes, in air fresheners, scented soaps, cleaning products, scented candles, even laundry detergents, and scented dryer sheets.

Fragrances are made up of many synthetic chemicals - with the "fragrance" in a product typically being a mixture of 50 to 300 chemicals. They are considered an important source of indoor air pollution and can have negative health effects on humans, especially developing fetuses and children. Fragrances are added to products to achieve a desired scent or mask other scents in the product. Air fresheners do not clean or freshen the air, but actually add chemicals to the air to mask other odors. Manufacturers are NOT required to disclose all the ingredients or chemicals in the products, and don't have to disclose any ingredients in any chemical mixture called "fragrance".

The few studies looking at health effects have found negative health effects, including on the lungs, respiratory effects, asthma, allergies, headaches, skin irritation, sensory irritation, hormonal effects, central nervous system effects, and inflammation. But more negative health effects are possible, especially because many of the chemicals are carcinogenic (cancer causing). We inhale the chemicals or absorb them through the skin, and from there they travel throughout the body - which is why they can be measured in the blood or urine.

Reading the studies that look at the chemicals emitted from scented products that people use every day can be overwhelming. Many of the studies specifically look at VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that the products emit, because these can affect air quality and human health. A big difficulty is that humans are exposed to mixtures of chemicals daily from many products, and the effects may take years to manifest themselves (such as cancer)

Bottom line: avoid, avoid, avoid fragranced or scented products if possible. Do not use scented detergent or dryer sheets (not necessary), do not use air fresheners (either in the home, workplace, or car), do not use incense or scented candles (post on scented candles). Read labels. Opening windows is the best way to air out a house or apartment. Studies find that fragrances labeled "organic", "natural", "green", or "with essential oils" basically emit the same toxic chemicals into the air (view such labels as marketing or "greenwashing") - therefore avoid those also.

Air fresheners are consumer products used in homes or in restrooms that typically emit fragrances,  including incense, scented candles, aerosol liquid wick and electric diffusers, and gels. Depending on which air freshener is used (and including those labeled "all natural"), they emit varying levels of allergens and toxic air pollutants (and which can also combine to produce other pollutants - "secondary pollutants"): acetone, aldehydes, benzene, toluene, formaldehyde, terpenes, styrene, esters, phthalates (which are hormone disrupting chemicals), limonene, and also ultrafine particles. None of these toxic chemicals are listed on the product labels. Typically, a fragrance is listed simply as “fragrance,” even though each fragrance can contain hundreds of individual chemicals. Only this past year has one company (Glade) started posting online (but not on the packages) some of the many chemicals used in its scented products.  ...continue reading "Health Reasons to Avoid Fragrances, Air Fresheners, Dryer Sheets"

There is increasing concern over phthalates and BPA and their effects on human health. It turns out that a big source of phthalates (which are known endocrine disruptors) in humans may be fast food. A new study looked at fast food consumption by  8877 people and found that those who reported eating more of it in the past 24 hours had urinary phthalate levels as much as 40 percent higher than those who had eaten no fast food in the 24 hours before testing. In fact, it was dose-response relationship between fast food intake and exposure to phthalates - the more fast food, the higher the level of phthalates.

The researchers did not find an association between total fast food consumption and BPA. However, they did find an  association between fast food meat intake and BPA,  which corresponds to the small but growing evidence from other studies suggesting that hamburgers may be a source of BPA exposure.

These findings are of concern to all of us because phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA) are widely used industrial chemicals that may adversely impact human health. Studies detect phthalates in 98% of the US population. They are found in a wide variety of products (including plastics and personal care products), and can enter the human body via ingestion, inhalation, and absorption through the skin. How are we exposed to them in fast food? Phthalates and BPA are typically found in food packaging and some leaches out into food. Some can also leach into food from dairy product tubing, in lid gaskets, food preparation gloves, conveyor belts, etc. Thus we ingest phthalates and BPA when we consume processed or packaged food. Fast food may be an especially important source of exposure to phthalates and BPA because it is highly processed, packaged, and handled.

Studies have demonstrated that the phthalates DEHP and DiNP are endocrine (hormone) disruptors, and that human exposure has been associated with adverse reproductive, neurobehavioral, and respiratory health effects. BPA is also an endocrine disruptor. We are all being exposed numerous ways, but the lower the levels, the better. The good news is that once in the body, phthalates and BPA are quickly metabolized and excreted in urine, with elimination half-lives of less than 24 hours. Thus you can quickly reduce the levels in your body. And you should try. From Science Daily:

Fast food may expose consumers to harmful chemicals called phthalates

People who reported consuming more fast food in a national survey were exposed to higher levels of potentially harmful chemicals known as phthalates, according to a study published by researchers at Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH) at the George Washington University.

"People who ate the most fast food had phthalate levels that were as much as 40 percent higher," says lead author Ami Zota, ScD, MS, an assistant professor of environmental and occupational health at Milken Institute SPH. "Our findings raise concerns because phthalates have been linked to a number of serious health problems in children and adults."Phthalates belong to a class of industrial chemicals used to make food packaging materials, tubing for dairy products, and other items used in the production of fast food. Other research suggests these chemicals can leach out of plastic food packaging and can contaminate highly processed food.

Zota and her colleagues looked at data on 8,877 participants who had answered detailed questions about their diet in the past 24 hours, including consumption of fast food. These participants also had provided researchers with a urinary sample that could be tested for the breakdown products of two specific phthalates--DEHP and DiNP.

Zota and her colleagues found that the more fast food participants in the study ate the higher the exposure to phthalates. People in the study with the highest consumption of fast food had 23.8 percent higher levels of the breakdown product for DEHP in their urine sample. And those same fast food lovers had nearly 40 percent higher levels of DiNP metabolites in their urine compared to people who reported no fast food in the 24 hours prior to the testing. The researchers also discovered that grain and meat items were the most significant contributors to phthalate exposure. Zota says the grain category contained a wide variety of items including bread, cake, pizza, burritos, rice dishes and noodles.

In addition, the researchers also looked for exposure to another chemical found in plastic food packaging--Bisphenol A or BPA. Researchers also believe exposure to BPA can lead to health and behavior problems, especially for young children. This study found no association between total fast food intake and BPA. However, Zota and her colleagues found that people who ate fast food meat products had higher levels of BPA than people who reported no fast food consumption.

Some more bad news about BPA and other endocrine disruptors (hormone disruptors) such as the phthalate DEHP. Bottom line: Avoid plastics, BPA, BPS and other BPA substitutes (they're chemically similar and seem to have similar health effects) as much as possible. Most canned food has BPA or BPA substitutes in the can linings. Use glass and stainless steel to store food, microwave food in dishes (not in plastic containers or packages). Go to the Environmental Working Group site for more information on product information, what to avoid, and what to look for and get instead.

From Science daily: BPA substitute can trigger fat cell formation: Chemical used in BPA-free products exhibits similar endocrine-disrupting effects

Exposure to a substitute chemical often used to replace bisphenol A in plastics can encourage the formation of fat cells, according to a new study. The replacement chemical, bisphenol S, has a slightly different chemical structure than bisphenol A (BPA), a known endocrine disruptor. As of 2014, nearly 100 epidemiological studies have been published tying BPA to health problems, according to the Introductory Guide to Endocrine-disrupting Chemicals published by the Society and IPEN, a global network that supports sound chemicals management.

Concerns about BPA's health effects have encouraged some consumers to purchase food containers labeled "BPA-free." BPA-free products often contain bisphenol S (BPS)or other substitutes, but researchers have raised concerns that these replacements also interfere with the body's hormones and may pose similar threats to public health."Our research indicates BPS and BPA have comparable effects on fat cells and their metabolism," said the study's senior author, Ella Atlas, PhD, of Health Canada, the federal department responsible for helping Canadians maintain and improve their health. 

A report (a collaborative effort of 5 organizations) that looked for the presence of BPA and BPA substitutes in the linings of food cans from major food companies. And yes, they found BPA in most cans (67%). From the group Toxic Food Cans: Buyer Beware: Toxic BPA and regrettable substitutes found in the linings of canned food

This study set out to analyze the interior coatings and lids of nearly 200 canned foods collected in 19 states and one Canadian province to determine whether the use of bisphenol A (BPA) continues to be widespread among major national brands and retailers of canned foods. We also wanted to determine what replacement materials for BPA-based epoxy are being used by retailers and manufacturers and the extent to which those companies have studied the safety of those materials.

Our findings were alarming: This report validates our concerns that, despite consumer demand for BPA-free cans, 67 percent (129 of 192) of the cans we tested contained BPA-based epoxy in the body and/or the lid. Our investigation also found, for the first time, that some retailers and brands have replaced BPA with PVC, made from vinyl chloride, a carcinogen.

BPA is a hormonally active chemical. The scientific evidence linking BPA exposure to harm in humans is compelling and growing: More than 300 animal and human studies have linked exquisitely small amounts of BPA exposure, measured in parts per billion and even parts per trillion, to a staggering number of health problems, including breast and prostate cancer, asthma, obesity, behavioral changes (including attention deficit disorder), altered development of the brain and immune system, low birth weight and lowered sperm counts.

This study looked at plasticizers called phthalates (which are commonly found in medical tubes), and which also have endocrine disrupting effects. From Medical Xpress:  Attention deficit after kids' critical illness linked to plasticizers in medical tubes

Children who are often hospitalized in intensive care units are more likely to have attention deficit disorders later, and new research finds a possible culprit: a high level of plastic-softening chemicals called phthalates circulating in the blood. The researchers.....suggest these chemicals, which are added to indwelling medical devices such as plastic tubes and catheters, seep into the child's bloodstream.

"Phthalates have been banned from children's toys because of their potential toxic and hormone-disrupting effects, but they are still used to soften medical devices," said lead researcher Sören Verstraete, MD, a PhD student at KU (Katholieke Universiteit) Leuven in Leuven, Belgium. "We found a clear match between previously hospitalized children's long-term neurocognitive test results and their individual exposure to the phthalate DEHP during intensive care."

Di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate, or DEHP, is the most commonly used plastic softener in medical devices made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Verstraete called the use of medical devices containing this phthalate "potentially harmful" for the brain development and function of critically ill children.

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.)

More and more negative news about phthalates: men with greater exposure to DEHP (a phthalate) have lower sperm motility (how the sperm move or their ability to swim), and pregnant women with higher levels of phthalates have a higher rate of pregnancy loss (miscarriages - mainly between 5 and 13 weeks of pregnancy). Phthalates are found in many plastics, are thought to be endocrine disruptors, and can be measured in urineFrom Medical Xpress: Lower sperm motility in men exposed to common chemical

Men with higher exposure to the substance DEHP, a so-called phthalate, have lower sperm motility and may therefore experience more difficulties conceiving children, according to a Lund University study. Phthalates is an umbrella term for a group of substances based on phthalic acid, some of which are suspected to be endocrine disruptors. Many phthalates are found in soft plastics in our daily surroundings.... Since phthalate molecules leak out of plastics, we are exposed to it daily and absorb the chemicals through food, drink, skin contact and inhalation. 

"We have studied metabolite levels of the phthalate DEHP (diethylhexyl phthalate) in urine as an indicator of exposure, as well as the semen quality of 300 men between the ages of 18 and 20. The results show that the higher metabolite levels the men had, the lower their sperm motility was", says Jonatan Axelsson, researcher at the Department of Laboratory Medicine, Lund University. For the one quarter of the men with the lowest levels of exposure, 57 per cent of the sperm cells were moving forward, compared to 46 per cent for the quarter of the men with the highest levels of exposure.

As previous research has reported that there is a linear connection also between sperm motility and chances of becoming pregnant, the findings could indicate that the more exposed one is to DEHP, the smaller the chances are of having children.

From Medical Xpress:  Exposure to phthalates could be linked to pregnancy loss

A new study of more than 300 women suggests that exposure to certain phthalates—substances commonly used in food packaging, personal-care and other everyday products—could be associated with miscarriage, mostly between 5 and 13 weeks of pregnancy

Out of concern over the potential health effects of phthalates, the U.S. has banned six of these substances from use in certain products made for young children. But many are still included as ingredients in paints, medical tubes, vinyl flooring, soaps, shampoos and other items. Research on phthalates has shown that long-term exposure to low levels of the some of these compounds harms lab animals' health and can increase their risk for pregnancy loss. Additionally, at least one study found that female factory workers exposed to high levels of phthalates through their work were at a higher risk for miscarriage.

The researchers tested urine samples from 132 women who had miscarriages and 172 healthy pregnant women in China. They found pregnancy loss was associated with higher levels of urinary phthalate metabolites from diethyl phthalate (DEP), di-isobutyl phthalate (DiBP) and di-n-butyl phthalate (DnBP). Although this doesn't prove that phthalates cause pregnancy loss, the study suggests an association exists that the researchers say should be studied further.