Archives for the month of: March, 2011


Dye in food is causing concern for some Texas parents.

Rachel Gamarra carefully picks her children’s treats: no artificial flavoring, no corn syrup, and no food colorings.

Rachel says her daughter Elise has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. But 6 years ago, Elise changed her diet, and the family noticed foods without dyes made a dramatic difference.
So, how easy is it to find something without dyes in it?

“As long as you stick to the fruits and vegetables, it’s pretty easy from there,” Rachel says.

“The challenge is that a majority of kid foods are very colorful. They contain a lot of preservatives in addition to a lot dyes,” says dietitian Amy Goodson,  with the Texas Health Harris Methodist.

Goodson says the less processed foods –  those without dyes – have more vitamins, minerals and fiber.

“When you look at additives, the body sees it as a chemical or a foreign substance. And so that’s where we see hyperactivity or even allergies,” Goodson says.

For Rachel’s family, going natural is the logical solution.

“There’s no hyperactivity there’s no talking back, and there’s not much aggravation,” she says.

She says she notices it every day with her daughters.

And the FDA will soon decide if it notices the same thing.

More (including video story).


Airline pilots are secretly donning oxygen masks and ­issuing emergency warnings because of poisonous fumes seeping into passenger jets.

Potentially deadly incidents are being reported at the rate of at least one a week.

An official dossier reveals one captain collapsing and pilots feeling dizzy and vomiting.

At least 270 incidents have been reported to the Civil ­Aviation Authority since 2006, but campaigners claim the true ­figure could be 200 times higher because many pilots are too afraid to submit reports.

Air crew are regularly taken to hospital for post-flight checks, the CAA reports show.

Unknown to most passengers, toxic fumes, which leak into the plane’s air systems, frequently become so severe that crew have to wear oxygen masks.

The build-up of toxins in their bodies from constantly flying puts air crew at particular risk.

Full article here.

From Denton Record-Chronicle:

A mother directs her four children about the living room, helping each to comb through an assortment of papers, books, blankets and clothing. One child closes a cardboard box and carries it upstairs to a spare bedroom, already stacked high with boxes and plastic bins filled with shoes, craft supplies and keepsakes. The door to the adjacent room — the library — remains shut, the books since removed from shelves and poured into boxes that fill the room. More boxes spill out into the upstairs hallway.

In one of her rare trips upstairs to her boys’ room, Rebekah Sheffield notices a bottle collection that sits on the shelf. “I thought I told him to pack those up,” she huffs.

Since July, the Sheffields have been packing to leave their home in the country. They look forward to the day the house will be left in the rearview mirror. But outside, no moving truck waits in the driveway. No “For Sale” sign sits in the grass. The family has neither sold their home nor bought another.

They have nowhere to go.

Downstairs, boxes line the kitchen and sit atop shelves encircling the dining room. Nearly every crevice in their home has been filled with moving boxes, each neatly stacked and labeled with its contents.

The Sheffield family is packing up 15 years’ worth of belongings, collecting the items that can be stored away and keeping the necessities out, for now.

They want to be ready. They hope to move far away from Dish, far enough to escape the pollution. . . .

Each day, Dish officials estimate, about 1 billion cubic feet of gas travels through three metering stations, more than 20 major gas gathering pipelines and 11 compression plants that have been shoehorned into the town’s two square miles by energy companies.

The Sheffields are among many residents who have lodged complaints with local, state and federal officials about the noise and odors coming from facilities so loosely regulated that toxic emissions, whether the release is intentional or accidental, go unreported and uncounted.

When the wind blows from the compressor stations to the southeast and emissions are high — leaving a strangely sweet odor hanging in the air — those are the days Rebekah Sheffield and her family feel the worst. Her husband, Warren, frequently checks the readings of a new state air ambient monitor online. When the wind is blowing from the southeast, he often finds that the ambient air levels of the 46 toxic compounds being monitored are higher than normal.

“We know that we just can’t stay — for our health,” Warren Sheffield says. “Every day here we feel worse. Every day we’re a little bit sicker. We’re going to have to do something.”

Full article here.

From PR Newswire:

Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP), a peer-reviewed journal published by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, published a major scientific article from researchers at PlastiPure, CertiChem, and Georgetown University, focused on quantifying and addressing the potential health issue of estrogenic activity (EA) in plastic products. The results of this study indicate that the large majority of commercially available BPA-free plastic materials and products readily leach chemicals having EA. Leaching increases when products are subjected to common-use stresses such as dishwashing, microwaving and sunlight.There is currently great scientific concern about the effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). Chemicals with EA are believed to constitute the largest group of EDCs and have been linked to adverse health effects such as birth defects, reproductive cancers, and behavioral and learning disorders. While the estrogenic chemical BPA is widely known by the public, it is less well known that thousands of other chemicals are suspected to have EA. The EHP paper is groundbreaking in its quantification of levels of EA across multiple BPA-free materials and consumer plastic products, which until PlastiPure’s research have been suspected, but largely unmeasured.

“Almost all commercially available plastic products we sampled, independent of the type of base material, product, or retail source, leached chemicals having reliably detectable EA, including those advertised as BPA-free,” said Mike Usey, CEO of PlastiPure. “In some cases, BPA-free products released chemicals having more EA than BPA-containing products.”

Full article here.

From Science News:

Power-talkers with cell phones glued to their ears may be getting more than conversation. A 50-minute call boosts activity in brain regions near the ear where a phone is located, a brain-scanning study published February 22 in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows.

“This is the first paper that really shows there are changes in the brain,” says bioengineer Henry Lai of the University of Washington in Seattle, who coauthored an editorial published in the same issue of JAMA. Talking on a cell phone pressed to the ear, he says, “is not really safe.”

In the study, researchers measured the brain activity of 47 participants who had pairs of Samsung cell phones strapped to their heads, one on each side. The phone on the left ear was turned off, while the one on the right received a 50-minute recorded message. This phone was kept muted so that the subject didn’t know which phone was on, and also to prevent stimulation of the brain’s hearing center.

A few minutes after the call, a PET scan revealed that brain regions next to the working phone had higher levels of glucose metabolism. The left side of the brain and other areas, even those quite close to the phone, showed no changes. Since active brain cells require glucose, the increase suggests that cell phone radiation is boosting brain activity.


From :

Act to stop gas drilling (hydrofracking) in New York until we are sure it can be done safely without threatening drinking water.

From Charleston Gazette:

Women exposed to higher levels of the toxic chemical C8 were more likely to have experienced menopause,according to a new West Virginia University study that offers some of the strongest evidence to date that such chemicals disrupt the human body’s natural hormone system.

The study found an association between chemicals called perfluorocarbons, or PFCs, in women’s blood and the onset of menopause. It also found that higher levels of the chemicals appeared related to lower levels of estrogen.

“I think this is major,” said Sarah Knox, lead author of the study and a professor at the WVU School of Medicine’s Department of Community Medicine. “It shows that early menopause is associated with PFC exposure.”

The study, published last week by the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, looked at data for nearly 26,000 to compare their menopausal status with the concentration of PFCs and estrogen in their blood. The women were all within the ages of 42 and 64, the typical period when women experience menopause.

It is the largest study ever done on effects of these chemicals on the hormone systems of human women.

After controlling for age and other factors, Knox and her colleagues found that women within the group studied were more likely to have experienced menopause if they had higher levels of PFCs in their blood than women with lower concentrations of the chemicals.

Premature menopause has been found to be linked to a variety of health problems for women, including death associated with cardiovascular disease. Women who experience early menopause have also been found to experience a decline in fertility before the age of 32.


From Investigate West:

Living along the Duwamish River can erode years from your life.

The more than 38,000 people tucked into South Park, Georgetown and Beacon Hill neighborhoods along the river’s Superfund site suffer more illness – including asthma, diabetes and colorectal cancer – than elsewhere in King County. Babies born to families along the river are more likely to die and those who survive can expect a shorter life span than people born and raised just a few miles away.

Their obstacles are many. They are often poor. They are frequently overweight. Access to a supermarket, or to health care, can be tough.

But people here also carry the added burden of the river, a toxic stretch that is the legacy of Seattle’s industrial past. And Seattle’s industrial future continues to foul the air that residents breathe.

An InvestigateWest examination of county health records show that residents along the Superfund site have the highest hospitalization rates for asthma for children and adultsin the county. People in the neighborhood are more likely to say their health is poor than elsewhere in the county.

More of their babies are born at lower weights than most other children in the county.

Most stark of all is that the life expectancy of people who live along this five-mile stretch of river is significantly lower than for many other parts of the county.

This little-known public health data could help shape a massive, potentially billion dollar decision coming down the pike about how best to clean up the Superfund mega-site that squats in the middle of these residential communities.

Data collected by Public Health – Seattle & King County show that the expected life span of kids growing up in South Park/ Georgetown/Beacon Hill is 79.5 years. Not far away in Ballard or northeast Seattle, life expectancy is 85 years, comparable to the highest averages around the world.

The difference is “very significant,” says Ali Mokdad, professor of Global Health in the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. He notes that life expectancy in the U.S.  has been increasing steadily, rising by more than seven years for men, and more than six for women between 1960 and 2000.

History leans hard on Seattle’s river neighborhoods.

Three miles up from the West Seattle Bridge, the condemned shell of Boeing’s old B-52 plant (known as Plant 2) hulks along the banks that divide South Park on one side of the river from Georgetown on the other. The factory that gave the nation “Rosie the Riveter,” once stood for the muscle and pride of Seattle’s working class. Now it serves as one of the most visible landmarks in one of the nation’s nastiest messes.

Over the decades, manufacturing plants, truck depots, and scrap yards metastasized through the tidy, blue-collar neighborhoods of Georgetown and South Park. Freeways ensnarled them. Three flight paths took shape overhead.

The fertile river valley once grew much of the produce that fed the Pike Place Market. Today a Superfund runs through it.

“They’ve been seen as the dumping ground because they’re so convenient to freeways and railways,” said Morgan Barry, a health education consultant for Public Health – Seattle & King County, who works with the Duwamish communities. According to the latest Census numbers, there are 38,465 people living in those neighborhoods.

While there’s been exhaustive analysis of the environmental impacto f historical polluters on the river and the health of creatures that live in it, as well as theoretical risk assessments of individual pollutants on human health, relatively little attention has been paid to the actual health status of residents living within the 32-square-mile Superfund site. Nor has there been consideration of the cumulative impact of the many health hazards they face.


From Discovery Magazine:

“There is no place called away.” It is a statement worthy of 
Gertrude Stein, but University of Washington atmospheric chemist Dan Jaffe says it with conviction: None of the contamination we pump into the air just disappears. It might get diluted, blended, or chemically transformed, but it has to go somewhere. And when it comes to pollutants produced by the booming economies of East Asia, that somewhere often means right here, the mainland of the United States.

Jaffe and a new breed of global air detectives are delivering a sobering message to policy makers everywhere: Carbon dioxide, the predominant driver of global warming, is not the only industrial by-product whose effects can be felt around the world. Prevailing winds across the Pacific are pushing thousands of tons of other contaminants—including mercury, sulfates, ozone, black carbon, and desert dust—over the ocean each year. Some of this atmospheric junk settles into the cold waters of the North Pacific, but much of it eventually merges 
with the global air pollution pool that circumnavigates the planet.

These contaminants are implicated in a long list of health problems, including neurodegenerative disease, cancer, emphysema, and perhaps even pandemics like avian flu. And when wind and weather conditions are right, they reach North America within days. Dust, ozone, and carbon can accumulate in valleys and basins, and mercury can be pulled to earth through atmospheric sinks that deposit it across large swaths of land.


From Burlington FreePress:

When six Vermonters agreed to be tested for the presence of industrial chemicals in their bodies, they weren’t sure what to expect. The results proved eye-opening for environmentalists – 40 chemicals tested for, on average, were found in each of the testees – but especially surprising for the participants themselves.

David Zuckerman, an organic farmer, was struck by his high showing for Bisphenol A (BPA), a synthetic endocrine disrupter used in the manufacture of plastic containers. It has been linked to reproductive and other health problems and in laboratory animals, among other health effects. Zuckerman’s BPA level registered at “six to eight times the national average,” he recalled recently.

“We thought hard about it,” he said, and decided the culprit probably was the plastic water bottles that he’d been drinking from as he worked in the fields over the years.

Katy Farber, a teacher and mother of two young children, was stunned by the relatively high level of Deca, a flame retardant used in furniture and electronics, in her blood. Deca, too, has been tied to reproductive disorders, cancer and other health problems in animal studies. Her Deca reading was the highest of the six participants’, “jaw-droppingly higher than the rest,” Farber said.

“My mind skipped to my old laptop that I spend hours on, sometimes eating at the same time. Dust. My old furniture …”


From Chemical and Engineering News:

Decades after spawning a health care revolution, antibiotics are now common pollutants. Scientists’ biggest concern about these emerging contaminants is that they promote the spread of resistance. But new research suggests they also harm the microbes that cleanse groundwater of dangerous compounds, particularly nitrates . . . .

High nitrate levels in drinking water can cause methemoglobinemia, a disease that decreases the blood’s oxygen carrying capacity. Naturally-occurring bacteria in groundwater, such as Pseudomonas putida, can remove nitrates by reducing them to nitrogen gas.

In Cape Cod, Mass., very high nitrate levels co-occur in groundwater with one of the most common antibiotics in the clinical arsenal: sulfamethoxazole (SMX). For nearly a decade, microbiologist Ronald Harvey and colleagues from the U.S. Geological Survey have tracked SMX and other groundwater pollutants at an aquifer that originates at the Otis Air National Guard Base, a heavily polluted site on Cape Cod. Other researchers had shown that high doses of SMX can interfere with bacterial nitrate reduction. But no one knew if a similar response might occur at environmentally-relevant concentrations.

To answer that question, Harvey’s team first cultured bacteria from a non-contaminated portion of the aquifer. Next, they added nitrate to the cultures at levels measured in the environment, along with SMX at doses ranging from 0.005 to 2,000 µM. Bacterial growth rates dropped at all doses. At the environmentally relevant concentration of 0.005 µM SMX, the amount of total nitrate that the bacteria removed from the culture fell by nearly half. “We’re demonstrating a clear biological effect,” Harvey says. “And we’re showing that in the same bacteria that live in this particular aquifer.”

More (including links).

From People’s World:

More than 160 scientists from major universities across Michigan this week urged support for the Environmental Protection Agency, calling the federal agency’s role essential to protecting the public health.

In a letter addressed the state’s congressional delegation, the scientists called on elected officials to “reject any measure that would block or delay the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from protecting the people of Michigan from air pollution and human caused climate change, both of which put public health, agriculture, the environment and our economy at risk.”

“For more than 40 years, the EPA has protected public health and safety by holding polluters accountable – and it should be allowed to continue doing its job,” Knute Nadelhoffer, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Michigan, told reporters on a conference call Wednesday, March 9.

“Scientists across Michigan stand united with scientists at the EPA and across the nation,” he said. “Science, not politics, must drive our fight against dangerous pollution.”

Full article here.

From Unnatural Causes:

Job loss doesn’t just affect individuals. It impacts families and even whole communities. Stress, uncertainty, and lost income affect children in various ways.

This video is a Web-exclusive supplement to “Not Just a Paycheck,” Episode 7 of “UNNATURAL CAUSES: Is Inequality Making Us Sick?” This ground-breaking documentary series looks at how the social, economic and physical environments in which we are born, live, and work profoundly affect our longevity and health.

From Living On Earth (portions of Bruce Gellerman interview of Professor Patricia Hunt, a reproductive biologist at The Washington State University School of Molecular Biosciences, about her letter to the Journal on Science calling for more stringent regulations of chemicals):

GELLERMAN: Did I get that right – there are actually 12,000 new substances registered daily?

HUNT: Yeah, that’s correct. It doesn’t mean that all of those chemicals go into production and enter our lives. And what we’re really concerned about is those that act like hormones in our body. And, of course, the ones that are also of most concern are the ones that are high-volume chemicals, the ones that are produced and are in our lives on a daily basis.

GELLERMAN: But they’re currently being tested, right?

HUNT: If they are added to our food, or to the drugs that we take, the pharmaceutical drugs, we test the living daylights out of them.

GELLERMAN: That would be the EPA, the FDA.

HUNT: Right. But much less testing is done of those chemicals that are used for other purposes, and so a lot of those get into our lives and we learn later that they perhaps are not so safe.

GELLERMAN: Well don’t these agencies test for these possible hormonal properties?

HUNT: Therein lies a problem: because traditionally, the way toxicologists have test[ed] – to gauge the toxicity of a chemical – is a standard set of guidelines for testing. And those guidelines, it turns out, don’t work very well for chemicals that mimic the actions of hormones.

These chemicals sort of defy the standard toxicology thought process, which is: the dose makes the poison. In other words, if a little bit of a chemical is harmful to you, more should be even worse, and even more should elicit an even stronger effect. And these chemicals that act like hormones or interfere with hormones don’t quite behave like that.

So they pose a real problem, and the federal regulatory agencies have realized that it’s a problem and that we need new testing guidelines, but getting these new guidelines is a slow process.

GELLERMAN: So, how do these agencies review chemicals now?

HUNT: They put together review panels to look at specific chemicals. The one on most people’s minds right now is bisphenol A, or BPA, because it’s received so much attention in the press. And what they’ll do is review all of the research that’s been published and decide whether or not our current estimates of safe levels of human exposure are adequate, or whether they should be readdressed.

GELLERMAN: So what are you proposing?

HUNT: The field of toxicology testing has actually moved beyond toxicologists and we need a broader expertise. What we’re offering is the expertise of different scientific societies: reproductive biologists, developmental biologists, endocrinologists – people who actually work on hormones – and geneticists. And we’ve asked that these regulatory agencies seek the advice or the council of these societies when they constitute panels to review chemicals.

GELLERMAN: Do we have the ability to test differently? Not the expertise, but the science?

HUNT: Okay, now you’re getting at what, to me, is the heart of the problem. Right now, when these panels sit down to review a chemical like bisphenol A, they’re faced with a really daunting task. There are hundreds of studies looking at the effects of bisphenol A – most of them using experimental animals. And when the regulatory panels sit down and look at them, quite frankly, they don’t know what to do with a lot of the research.

The studies that have been done using the standard toxicology testing guidelines are easy – they know how to deal with those, so those studies are always included. A lot of the academic studies, like some of the work that we’ve done in our laboratory, are a bit more puzzling, and frequently those studies just get set aside.
And this is where a wider expertise on some of these panels would be helpful, because some of these studies use very sensitive end points, newer technology, and really give us a very good look at exactly what these chemicals can do in bodies. Even though they’re rat bodies or mouse bodies, they’re actually very good model systems for what they would do in the human body.

GELLERMAN: So are there human studies that have found these effects, or all they all laboratory studies?

HUNT: It’s really hard to study humans directly. There have been some human studies asking things like: are bisphenol A levels correlated with miscarriages? But that’s a really difficult study to do because these are looking at correlations and trying to make conclusions. You know, it’s hard to establish cause and effect in humans.
I mean, we know this from smoking. We had a lot of data from animals, but actually establishing cause and effect in humans took many, many years. And the problem with these chemicals is, there are so many of them and some of them are present in our daily lives at pretty significant levels. And so, if these are having effects, and if they’re having effects on our developing babies and infants, it may take us a couple of generations to actually get that proof – that definitive proof – in humans.

GELLERMAN: So, in effect, we are actually doing these human tests – we’re doing them on us!

HUNT: Yeah, that’s one way to look at it isn’t it? (Laughs). And you know, in the case of something like bisphenol A, we have essentially run this experiment in humans before, because the whole diethylstilbestrol, or DES exposure, was exactly that – an experiment in humans.

It was given to women in the hope that it would prevent miscarriage. And as a result, there are thousands of DES-exposed sons and daughters. And we can in fact see some of these changes. There are some fertility effects, some increased cancer rates, some behavioral changes in these humans that were exposed to DES. And so we have every reason to suspect that some of these same effects would be seen from chemicals like bispehnol A, the phthalates, other endocrine disrupting chemicals.

GELLERMAN: And we’ll only see those generations later.

HUNT: Exactly. So that makes us dependent on those rodent studies. And in fact, in the case of DES, those rodent studies were terrific. They came after the human studies, and it turned out that human was a really good model for the mouse.

* * *


Read the letter.

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