Archives For author

From CHE Blog (post by Sarah Howard):

The UK nonprofit organization CHEM Trust (Chemicals, Health and Environment Monitoring Trust) just released a report on the links between chemicals and diabetes/obesity. Studies published in recent years provide compelling evidence that human chemical contamination can play a part in both conditions. The report concludes that the chemicals that we accumulate throughout life, via our everyday lifestyles, is likely to contribute to these modern epidemics. This is the same conclusion reached by the National Toxicology Program’s review of the scientific evidence on chemicals and diabetes/obesity, published last month.

The CHEM Trust report, entitled Review of the Science Linking Chemical Exposures to the Human Risk of Obesity and Diabetes, is written by two of the world’s leading experts: Professor Miquel Porta, MD, MPH, PhD, of Spain and Professor Duk-Hee Lee, MD, PhD, of South Korea.

The report focuses on endocrine disrupting chemicals in both obesity and diabetes. Exposures to these chemicals in the womb, at other critical periods of life, and in adulthood may be linked to obesity and disruption of the normal functioning of insulin in later life. Evidence of the role of hormone disrupting chemicals comes from both laboratory studies and studies on human populations.

In one example, the report describes a study from the general US population that found that persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in fatty tissue, even more than the fat itself, plays a critical role in the development of diabetes. People who were obese did not have an increased risk of diabetes if their levels of POPs were low. People who were thin did have a higher risk of diabetes if their POP levels were higher. And those with higher POP levels who were also obese had the highest diabetes risk of all.

The chemicals suspected of increasing weight gain or diabetes in humans include a variety of chemicals, including numerous POPs, arsenic, BPA, phthalates, pesticides (including atrazine, organophosphorous and organochlorine pesticides), brominated flame retardants, metals (including cadmium, mercury, organotins), and more. Many of these are endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), and have the ability to disrupt our natural hormones which control both fat storage and blood sugar regulation, and hence can play a role in obesity and diabetes.

Professor Miquel Porta stated, “The epidemics in obesity and diabetes are extremely worrying. The role of hormone disrupting chemicals in this must be addressed. The number of such chemicals that contaminate humans is considerable. We must encourage new policies that help minimize human exposure to all relevant hormone disruptors, especially women planning pregnancy, as it appears to be the fetus developing in utero that is at greatest risk.

Elizabeth Salter Green, CHEM Trust Director stated, “If exposure to hormone disrupting chemicals is programming us to be fat, it is high time that public health policy takes into account cutting edge science. Obesity and diabetes are examples of the adverse health trends linked with endocrine disruption which need to be urgently addressed. We are talking about prevention, and in this time of financial squeeze, anything that can help with prevention is a good idea. CHEM Trust is calling for the UK Government and the EU to urgently identify hormone disruptors to ensure that chemicals suspected of playing a role in diabetes and obesity are substituted with safer alternatives.”

Summary of the report’s conclusions

  • Studies suggest that exposure to certain chemicals in the environment can play an important role in obesity and diabetes. The chemicals implicated include some to which the general population are exposed on a daily basis.
  • Substantial evidence exists to consider exposure to EDCs with estrogenic activity as a risk factor for the etiology of obesity and obesity-related metabolic dysfunction.
  • Evidence suggesting a relationship between human contamination with environmental chemicals and the risk of diabetes has existed for more than 15 years, with the volume and strength of evidence becoming particularly persuasive since 2006.
  • Obesity is a known risk factor for diabetes, and chemicals that accumulate in body fat (e.g., POPs) may play a role in the causal relationship between obesity and diabetes.
  • Many of the chemicals that can cause weight gain and related metabolic effects have endocrine disrupting properties.
  • Embryonic, fetal, and infantile stages may be especially vulnerable to obesity from relatively low doses of EDCs. Nonetheless, the risk of obesity due to obesogenic pollutants can also increase during adolescence and adulthood.

Summary of the report’s recommendations

  • Action to reduce exposures to such chemicals is warranted on a precautionary basis, and is likely to be cost-effective.
  • National governments and the EU need to urgently put forward mechanisms to identify EDCs to ensure that currently used chemicals suspected of playing a role in obesity and diabetes are substituted with safer alternatives.
  • Health professionals, citizens’ organisations, companies, authorities and society at large need to be better informed of the role that chemical exposures may play in causing diabetes and obesity.
  • Individuals, industry, the agricultural sector, dieticians and the medical professions all have roles to play in reducing exposures both in the home and in occupational settings.
  • Personal changes in lifestyle are certainly important for the prevention of obesity and diabetes, but this should not obscure the need for government policies within and outside the health sector to decrease human exposure to obesogenic and diabetogenic environmental compounds.
  • As many of the chemicals implicated widely contaminate the animal and human food chains and some are also released from some food containers, dietary interventions ignoring the presence of contaminants in food may hamper the expected beneficial effects of dietary recommendations.
  • In order to protect fetuses and newborn babies, specific advice is needed for pregnant women and midwives regarding EDCs in the diet and in consumer products used by pregnant women and/or babies.
  • Public health policies, including those seeking to reduce exposure to suspect chemicals, need to be implemented swiftly. To preserve quality of life, prevention in both cases is vastly preferable to treatment.
  • Evidence for the association between exposure to EDCs and obesity should lead to a paradigm shift in how to tackle obesity. The focus should be broadened from one based on individual lifestyle, diagnosis and treatment to one that includes population prevention measures.
  • Population-based biomonitoring must be strengthened to provide a better understanding of the extent of human contamination by environmental obesogens and diabetogens in the general population.
  • Progress is also needed in identifying the sources of exposure (e.g., which food products, which consumer products). Further research is particularly warranted on the role that food additives, contaminants in animal feed and human food, and packaging may play in obesity and diabetes.
  • Screens and tests to identify chemicals that can impact on obesity and diabetes should be developed, and certain chemicals should be required to undergo such testing.
  • More attention should be given to protecting populations in the developing world from exposure to environmental pollutants, including that arising from electronic waste, food contamination, air pollution and the erroneous use of certain pesticides.

CHEM Trust’s goal is to protect humans and wildlife from harmful chemicals. They have published previous reports on chemicals and the developing brain, breast cancer, reproductive health, and more.

This report as well as others are available at the CHEM Trust website.

Visit the CHE Blog.

From Environmental Health News:

A study raises concern about children’s exposure to mercury through fish eating, tying it for the first time to hormone changes that increase chronic stress and associated immune system dysfunction.

The mercury levels measured in the children were well below the levels considered a health risk by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

This new study from Oswego County, New York, finds that higher mercury levels measured in the children’s blood are significantly associated with lower cortisol levels. The hormone cortisol is released in response to stress and is important for metabolism, immune responses and blood pressure. Its levels naturally fluctuate during the day – levels are higher in the morning and lower in the afternoon.

Even lower cortisol levels and responses can result in chronic stress even though stress increases the hormone’s level. The study’s results suggest that mercury exposure at levels commonly seen in fish eating populations may do this. It may act as a chronic stressor and disrupt the stress response. Chronic stress means the body doesn’t relax – cells continually function in high gear and do not return to a normal state. Long-term stress can have many negative health effects such as increased heart disease, more metabolic disorders and lowered immunity.

The findings are in line with prior studies in people and fish. The toxic metal increased inflammation in miners exposed to mercury. Animal studies find reduced cortisol levels in mercury-contaminated fish after capture stress.

Fish consumption is a major source both of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids and toxic mercury. Omega-3s benefit health by protecting against heart disease. Mercury is potentially harmful because it affects the brain and nervous system in children. Although there are fish advisories in many states, it is still uncertain whether the benefit of eating fish outweighs the potential harm in children.

To address the pros and cons of fish eating in children, the researchers examined 100 children from 9 to 11 years old in New York State. Parents reported children’s fish consumption, which was categorized as eating or not in the analysis. Blood mercury levels, blood lipids, cortisol in saliva and inflammation markers were measured. Blood lipids indicate future heart disease risk; cortisol reflects changes of stress response; and inflammation markers indicate immune response differences.

Fish eaters had higher HDL – or so called good cholesterol – related to lower heart disease risk, than non-fish eaters. However, the fish eaters also had much higher – almost three times higher – mercury levels than non-fish eaters (1.1 and 0.4 microgram per liter, respectively).

More.

<p>Peggy Shepard</p>

Peggy M. Shepard, executive director and co-founder of WE ACT For Environmental Justice (WE ACT), gives the annual MLK Lecture on Environmental Justice. The title of her talk is “Advancing Environmental Health & Justice: A Community Perspective.”

Shepard has successfully combined grassroots organizing, environmental advocacy and environmental health research to becomea national leader in advancing the perspective of environmental justice in urban communities to ensure that the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment extends to all. Shepard was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Science from Smith College last May for two decades of leadership in environmental justice and urban sustainability.

From Charleston Gazette:

Jury selection in the class-action lawsuit against Monsanto will begin next week after no settlement was reached during about eight hours of mediation Tuesday, the lead plaintiffs’ attorney confirmed.

Residents allege in a class-action case, filed in 2004, that Monsanto unsafely burned dioxin wastes and spread contaminated soot and dust across Nitro, polluting homes with unsafe levels of the chemical.

The lawsuit set to begin next week will seek medical monitoring for at least 5,000 – and perhaps as many as 80,000 – current and former Nitro residents.

Before Putnam Circuit Judge O.C. Spaulding recused himself from hearing the case after being diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, he ruled that residents could not sue collectively to seek remediation of homes they allege are contaminated with dioxin.

On Tuesday, several hundred plaintiffs gathered at the Marriott hotel in Charleston for a court-ordered mediation. Circuit Judges Booker Stephens of McDowell County and Alan D. Moats of Taylor County attempted to resolve the case to avoid trial.

A mediation held in October also failed to produce a settlement.

Stuart Calwell, the lead plaintiffs’ attorney, said he plans to call 18 experts to testify during the trial.

“This is an extraordinarily important case,” Calwell said. “[Plaintiffs] want their town back. What they’re interested in is having a safe home to live in — I don’t think that’s too much to ask.”

Monsanto’s lead attorney, Charles Love of Charleston, would not comment on the upcoming trial.

For more than 50 years, the former Monsanto plant churned out herbicides, rubber products and other chemicals. The plant’s production of Agent Orange created dioxin as a toxic chemical byproduct.

More.

Image from USNews.

* * *

* * *

* * *

* * *

* * *

Click here for printable list (pdf).

From MSNBC.com:

An ExxonMobil pipeline that runs under the Yellowstone River near Billings in south-central Montana ruptured and dumped up to 1,000 barrels of oil, fouling the riverbank and forcing water intakes downstream to be closed.

Company spokeswoman Pam Malek said the pipe broke about 11:30 p.m. Friday and leaked for about a half-hour.

The cause of the rupture in the pipe carrying crude oil from Belfry, Mont., to the company’s refinery in Billings wasn’t known. But Duane Winslow, disaster and emergency services coordinator for Yellowstone County, told NBC station KULR8 that erosion from high water this spring likely played a role.

Brent Peters, the fire chief for the city of Laurel about 12 miles east of Billings, said the break in the 12-inch diameter pipe occurred about a mile south of Laurel. Crews shut down the pipeline about half an hour later.

Peters said about 140 people were evacuated starting about 12:15 a.m. Saturday due to concerns about possible explosions and the overpowering fumes. All were allowed to return after instruments showed fumes had decreased. He said more evacuations occurred farther downstream outside his district.

Gov. Brian Schweitzer and Sen. Max Baucus called for a swift cleanup.

In a statement Saturday, ExxonMobil said it was sending its North American Regional Response Team to the area to help with cleanup work, and that state and federal authorities had been alerted to the spill from the pipe belonging to the ExxonMobil Pipeline Company.

The company “deeply regrets this release and is working hard with local emergency authorities to mitigate the impacts of this release on the surrounding communities and to the environment,” the statement said.

More.

From Slate:

The last quarter of a century has taught science some newfangled things about breasts. For one thing, they appear to be showing up earlier in young girls, with possible consequences for breast cancer later on. For another, the way they grow and develop varies from woman to woman, and—if lab animals are any indication—normal exposures to commercial chemicals can alter that process. The growing human breast is also more vulnerable than we thought. Data from atomic-bomb survivors in Japan show that it was adolescents—not grown women—near the explosions who were most likely to develop breast cancer in later years. Since then, there’s been similar data for girls who were exposed to medical X-rays or radiation therapy, as well as research showing that the pesticide DDT, now banned but pervasive in the 1950s and 1960s, is associated with a higher risk of breast cancer in women exposed as girls.

So it may come as a surprise that the federal agencies responsible for public health don’t routinely take childhood exposures into account when testing whether commercial chemicals cause mammary tumors. In fact, in many lab-animal tests, they don’t bother to look at the mammary gland at all. Breast cancer may be the No. 1 killer of middle-aged women in the United States, but as a new set of reports makes clear, the breast is a major blind spot in federal chemical-safety policy. “They just throw the mammary glands in the trash can,” says Ruthann Rudel, research director with the nonprofit Silent Spring Institute and lead author of one of the papers, a review of the latest science on mammary gland development and toxic exposures.

The reports, published last week in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, grew out of a 2009 workshop on mammary gland risk assessment, which involved scientists from federal and international agencies as well as independent groups. Breast cancer is just one of the areas federal agencies neglect, the reports show, along with health issues surrounding lactation and the timing of breast development in puberty. “Few chemicals coming into the marketplace are evaluated for these effects,” state Rudel and her co-authors.

But blowing off these tests is a big mistake. The mammary gland—the breast’s intricate milk-making structure—is uniquely sensitive to toxic chemicals, says Suzanne Fenton, a reproductive endocrinologist with the National Toxicology Program of the National Institutes of Health, and a co-author of the science review. In both rodents and humans, it starts to develop in the fetus, undergoes a colossal growth spurt at puberty, and doesn’t fully develop until late pregnancy. During these times, its cells appear particularly vulnerable to carcinogens and other organ-altering substances. While lab rats and mice aren’t perfect proxies for humans, their mammary glands undergo similar development patterns under similar hormonal influences, says Fenton.

More.

From Scientific American:

The French parliament voted on June 30 to ban the controversial technique for extracting natural gas from shale rock deposits known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the web sites of Le Monde and other French media reported.

The bill had already passed the National Assembly, the country’s lower chamber, on June 21, and on June 30 a Senate vote of 176 to 151 made France the first country to enact such a ban, just as New York State is preparing to lift a moratorium on the same method.

The vote was divided along party lines, with the majority conservative party voting in favor and the opposition voting against the bill, according to Le Monde. The Socialist Party, in particular, opposed the bill because it did not go far enough. The bill’s critics said that it left open possible loopholes and that in particular it does not prevent the exploitation of oil shale deposits by techniques other than fracking. An earlier version of the bill, which the Socialists had supported, would have banned any kind of development of the deposits, Le Monde reported.

Companies that currently own permits for drilling in oil shale deposits on French land will have two months to notify the state what extraction technique they use. If they declare to be using fracking, or if they fail to respond, their permits will be automatically revoked.

Fracking requires the injection of vast quantities of water and potentially hazardous chemicals into the ground to force the release of natural gas. The U.S. government is investigating the environmental impact of the technique, which critics say produces toxic waste and pollutes water wells.

From :

Investor Environmental Health Network presents this educational video on chemicals in products and green chemistry opportunities.

From :

Christopher Gavigan, author and CEO of Healthy Child Healthy World talks about experiences he made with children with learning or other behavioral disabilities and realized that what we bring in our homes is affecting our children. Even today the science has shown us, that there has been a clear direct link between chemicals and handmade toxins and the rise in illnesses and diseases. By taking those chemicals out of homes, immediately positive change could be seen in those children. Healthy Child Healthy World exist to give you information on how you can create healthier environments for children. Actions we take today will affect our future generations.

From :

In April 1991 Nancy and Jim Chuda establish the Colette Chuda Environmental Fund (CCEF) after their daughter, Colette, dies of a non-genetic cancer. CCEF begins funding new research to identify the causes of childhood cancers.

In June 1992 Childrens Health Environmental Coalition (now Healthy Child Healthy World) is created. Healthy Child’s mission is to inform parents about the preventable childhood health and developmental problems cause by exposures to toxic substances and to educate them on risk reduction in their homes, schools, and community.

From Chemical & Engineering News:

.The dust has yet to settle on whether bisphenol A (BPA) harms humans, but now people may start worrying about BPA’s chemical offspring. Researchers report that certain bacteria convert BPA into compounds more deadly to fish than BPA itself

Industry produces millions of tons of BPA each year, mostly for making plastics. People ingest BPA or absorb it through their skin, ending up with levels that are detectable in serum and breast milk. The chemical structure of BPA is similar to estrogen, raising concerns that it could mimic the hormone and wreak havoc in the body, particularly in early life.

Max Häggblom of Rutgers University knew that a significant amount of BPA ends up in the environment, where bacteria could transform it to compounds with unknown properties and health effects. So Häggblom and colleagues added BPA to four species of Mycobacterium, a common genus of microbe that the researchers knew could chemically transform related compounds. When they monitored the products with gas-chromatography/mass spectrometry, they discovered that all four species could add one or two methyl groups to BPA.

The researchers then added these compounds in varying concentrations, all higher than BPA’s usual levels in nature, to vials of water containing zebrafish . . .  embryos and watched the fish develop. They found that it took ten times as much BPA as methylated BPA to kill half the zebrafish over five days.

More.

From Associated Press:

Nearly two-thirds of deaths in the world are caused by noncommunicable diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart and lung disease which are rapidly increasing at a cost to the global economy of trillions of dollars, according to U.N. estimates and preliminary results of a new study.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a report circulated Monday that while the international community has focused on communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, the four main noncommunicable diseases “have emerged relatively unnoticed in the developing world and are now becoming a global epidemic.”

According to the report, 36 million people died from noncommunicable diseases in 2008, representing 63 percent of the 57 million global deaths that year. Nearly 80 percent of deaths from these diseases were in the developing world, and 9 million deaths were of men and women under the age of 60, it said.

In 2030, the report said, these diseases are projected to claim the lives of 52 million people.

Ban said the rapidly increasing magnitude of noncommunicable diseases is fueled by rising risk factors including tobacco use, unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, obesity and harmful alcohol use — and is driven in part by an aging population, the negative impact of urbanization, and the globalization of trade and marketing.

At a press conference Monday to preview a U.N. summit in September that will spotlight the need to tackle these diseases, John Seffrin, CEO of the American Cancer Society, said that by 2030 noncommunicable diseases are expected to cause five times as many deaths as communicable diseases worldwide.

“No health problem in the history of the world has ever gone so hidden, misunderstood and under-recorded,” Seffrin said.

Seffrin said “it is the poorest people that suffer the most” because they can’t afford early detection and quality care and must deal with overburdened and poorly equipped health care systems.

He called for urgent action to start solving “what will be the 21st century’s greatest health challenge, namely noncommunicable diseases.”

Professor David Bloom of the Harvard School of Public Health, who is leading a project to estimate the global economic burden of noncommunicable diseases, said preliminary results indicate that the substantial economic burden caused by these diseases today “will evolve into a staggering economic burden over the next two decades” that could have a huge impact on economic development and fighting poverty.

The project, which is sponsored by the World Economic Forum, is estimating the global costs of newly diagnosed cancer cases at “more than $300 billion in 2010″ and of “chronic obstructive pulmonary disease on the order of $400 billion in 2010,” he said.

More.


From The Morning Call:

* * *

For years, New Jersey has struggled to get Pennsylvania to consider its neighbor’s air in enforcing emission standards, a situation that has allowed some coal-powered plants to operate without scrubbers for decades.

And for just as long, New Jersey officials and activists say, Pennsylvania has thumbed its nose at its neighbor, who has labored mightily to meet federal standards for sulfur dioxide and other pollutants.

Federal records show Pennsylvania has more than 80 fossil-fuel power plants, several of which produce prodigious amounts of sulfur dioxide, a pollutant shown to aggravate asthma.

Yet westerly winds blow a sizable portion of the contaminant over the Delaware River into New Jersey, leaving Pennsylvania’s skies and the consciences of its lawmakers clear.

As a result, Pennsylvania regulators have been slow to push upgrades of outmoded power plants, officials and activists say — including the Portland Generating Station in Northampton County, now the subject of a federal review.

“States and state legislators are often very parochial in their outlook: ‘It’s not affecting our state, so it’s not a big deal,’” said Frank Kuserk, a professor of biological sciences at Moravian College. “That’s why you need regional and national cooperation.”

Sulfur dioxide is a jack-of-all-trades pollutant. Inhaled, it aggravates asthma and can cause respiratory diseases like emphysema and bronchitis. Combined with other contaminants and water vapor, it falls from the sky as acid rain. Over long distances, it often clumps together with other pollutants, forming tiny particles that can cause breathing problems.

It’s also easily controlled using scrubber systems, though not necessarily cheaply. Federal officials recommend two basic techniques, featuring components like mist eliminators and vacuum filters.

But the 53-year-old Portland plant doesn’t have any such controls. Neither do a number of other Pennsylvania plants, lawsuits contend. When pressed, Portland plant owner GenOn Energy always says the same thing: The state never told us to upgrade.

GenOn officials wrote in 2010 annual financial filings that installing scrubbers at older coal plants is economically unfeasible. Cost estimates to bring Portland into compliance have run as high as $300 million.

But when Maryland enforced stricter sulfur dioxide rules in 2009, GenOn agreed to install pollution control at three plants in that state, reducing emissions by more than 80 percent, according to the filings. Pennsylvania hasn’t enforced similar rules.

That riles New Jersey, which has failed to meet federal air quality standards for sulfur dioxide in one county and for certain particulates in more than 10. Warren County has failed to meet both ozone and sulfur dioxide standards for eight years straight.

Fed up — and with federal rules growing ever stricter — the Garden State filed a complaint with the EPA last year under a “good neighbor” clause of the federal Clean Air Act, written to protect eastern states from pollution blown cross-country from the Midwest.

In this case, officials say the coal-fired plant just south of Portland along the Delaware River produces more sulfur dioxide than all of New Jersey’s coal plants combined, befouling the air in four counties.

Earlier this year, the EPA agreed to consider a petition to enforce stricter sulfur dioxide standards against the plant. Public comment ended June 13, with a federal decision coming this fall.

* * *

New Jersey says it has no choice but to take the matter to court.

“If we have to be a bit tough toward our neighbor, we will be,” New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Larry Ragonese said. “The plants we are now litigating against, we wish they would have already been through state rules and regulations and have had pollution controls in place.”

* * *

More.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.