Archives for category: Sandra Steingraber

While we’re lucky that we no longer make PCBs, there are so many other chemicals in our lives, and we don’t really know what their cancer-causing potential is.

upstream riverLiving Downstream, by Sandra Steingraber

“There seemed to be a disconnect between the evidence that medical researchers had compiled about the environmental origins of bladder cancer and what patients heard about the evidence” (xiii)

“the chance of an adopted person dying of cancer is more closely related to whether or not her adoptive parents had died of cancer and far less related to whether or not her biological parents had met such a fate.” (xiv)

“For every finding of a positive association, another showed no association or yielded a complicated picture.” (12) The power of complications/haziness for chemical corporations. [my emphasis]

“this study showed a fivefold increase in breast cancer risk among women who had experienced high exposures to DDT before puberty but not in woman so exposed after their breasts had already developed.” (13)

“One researcher pointed out in disgust that DDT was abolished on the basis of less evidence than we now had for atrazine.” (15)

“I think it is reasonable to ask–nearly half a century after Silent Spring alerted us to a possible problem–why so much silence still surrounds questions about cancer’s connection to the environment and why so much scientific inquiry into the issue is still considered ‘preliminary'” (15)

“‘Knowing what I do, there would be no future peace for me if I kept silent.’ Having documented a cavalcade of problems attributable to pesticides–from blindness in fish to blood disorders in humans–she could find no magazine or periodical willing to publish her work.” (19)

“she questioned the cozy relations between scientific societies and for-profit enterprises, such as chemical companies.” (20)


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

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“I was concerned before I heard all this,” said one resident at the end of the meeting. “Now I am terrified….” She had heard local scientist and world renowned author Sandra Steingraber explain that 40% to 70% water used in the hydrofracking process never sees the light of day again. “When you brush your teeth leaving tap water running, you are not “wasting” water in the sense that it goes into the sewage system and eventually enters a stream, a river, a lake or the ocean, evaporates, turns into rain and and falls to earth to facilitate life once again.” But the water frackers poison and then inject into the earth is gone…forever.” Steingraber, a biologist who has written extensively about environmental toxins, also expressed grave concerns about the level of carbon emissions and methane leakage which inevitably accompany large-scale industrial hydrofracking operations.

From Ithaca Journal:

Scientists from Cornell University and Ithaca College briefed congressional aides Friday on what they say is a lack of research on the health and environmental impacts of a natural gas drilling process called hydraulic fracturing.

”Fracking is surrounded by metaphors rather than data,” said Sandra Steingraber, a biologist and scholar in residence at Ithaca College. “Many of the chemicals used in fracking are carcinogens.”

Federal energy officials announced Thursday they will create a working group to study hydraulic fracturing. Energy Secretary Steven Chu wants the panel of scientists, environmentalists and industry representatives to report within 90 days on ”immediate steps that can be taken to improve the safety and environmental performance of fracking.”

Panel members will issue a second report within 180 days, providing advice also to the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department.

But a leading House Republican doesn’t want more studies.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., issued a statement Thursday saying the panel violates the administration’s pledge to reduce government waste, since the EPA and Interior officials already have studies underway.

“While it might take numerous government agencies to smoke a salmon, there are also too many cooks in the kitchen when it comes to the regulation of our nation’s energy supplies,” Upton said.

The Interior Department is examining whether new leases for drilling on federal land should require drillers to disclose the chemicals they add to water and sand to crack open shale deposits of natural gas.

And EPA has a yearlong study underway on whether federal drinking water laws should apply to hydraulic fracturing.

The three scientists who spoke at Friday’s briefing — two from Cornell and one from Ithaca — said the hydraulic fracturing procedure is 60 years old, but its use in shale formations was developed over the last 10 years.

Cornell Engineering Professor Anthony Ingraffea said the technology has been used to drill only about 20,000 wells into shale formations.

”This is not your grandmother’s gas well,” Ingraffea said.

He said hydraulic fracturing in shale formations uses more water and sand, and produces more waste than conventional natural gas wells.

Robert Howarth, who teaches ecology and environmental biology at Cornell, recently released a study showing that hydraulic fracturing contributes more to global warming than burning coal does, in large part because the process creates methane leaks.

Those leaks increase as wells age, but new technologies can reduce it as much as 90 percent, Howarth said. He said methane leaks also are a problem with natural gas transmission lines. About half the nation’s 3.1 million miles of lines are more than 50 years old.

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From USA Today:

Claudia and Joe’s baby girl has been racing to grow up, almost from the moment she was born. Laila sat up on her own at 5 months old and began talking at 7 months and walking by 8½ months.

“All of our friends told us to cherish every moment,” Claudia says. “When I started planning her first birthday party, I remember crying and wondering where the time had gone.”

Even so, Laila’s parents never expected their baby to hit puberty at age 6.

They first noticed something different when Laila was 3, and she began to produce the sort of body odor normally associated with adults. Three years later, she grew pubic hair. By age 7, Laila was developing breasts.

Without medical treatment, doctors warned, Laila could begin menstruating by age 8 — an age when many kids are still trying to master a two-wheeler. Laila’s parents, from the Los Angeles area, asked USA TODAY not to publish their last name to protect their daughter’s privacy.

Doctors say Laila’s story is increasingly familiar at a time when girls are maturing faster than ever and, for reasons doctors don’t completely understand, hitting puberty younger than any generation in history.

About 15% of American girls now begin puberty by age 7, according to a study of 1,239 girls published last year in Pediatrics. One in 10 white girls begin developing breasts by that age — twice the rate seen in a 1997 study. Among black girls, such as Laila, 23% hit puberty by age 7.

“Over the last 30 years, we’ve shortened the childhood of girls by about a year and a half,” says Sandra Steingraber, author of a 2007 report on early puberty for the Breast Cancer Fund, an advocacy group. “That’s not good.”

Girls are being catapulted into adolescence long before their brains are ready for the change — a phenomenon that poses serious risks to their health, says Marcia Herman-Giddens, an adjunct professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

“This is an issue facing the new generation,” says Laila’s doctor, Pisit “Duke” Pitukcheewanont, a pediatric endocrinologist at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, who treats girls with early puberty. “Many parents don’t know what is going on.”

Researchers don’t completely understand why the age of puberty is falling, Herman-Giddens says. Most agree that several forces are at work, from obesity to hormone-like environmental chemicals.

* * *

Why is this happening?

Like Laila’s parents, many people wonder: Why is this happening?

While much about early puberty remains a mystery, researchers say that suspects include:

•Obesity. The clearest influence on the age of puberty seems to be obesity, Steingraber says. In general, obese girls are much more likely to develop early than thin ones. And the number of heavy girls is growing, with 30% of children overweight or obese, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

Obesity raises the levels of key hormones, such as insulin, which helps regulate blood sugar, and leptin, a hormone made in fat cells that helps regulate appetite, Steingraber says. While leptin may not trigger puberty by itself, research suggests that puberty can’t start without it.

Scientists aren’t yet sure whether insulin — or the body’s problems processing it — is a factor in early puberty, Steingraber says.

•Prematurity. Rising rates of prematurity — which have increased 18% since 1990 — may contribute to early puberty, as well.

Babies born early or very small for their gestational age tend to experience “catch-up growth” that can lead them to become overweight, Steingraber says. Children who undergo rapid weight gain tend to become less sensitive to the hormone insulin, putting them at greater risk for diabetes, Steingraber says.

•Genetics. Studies consistently show that black girls in the USA go into puberty earlier than whites, suggesting a possible genetic difference. Yet Steingraber notes that, 100 years ago, black girls actually matured later than whites. And she notes that black girls in Africa enter puberty much later than those in the USA, even when their nutrition and family incomes are comparable.

Kaplowitz notes that black girls in the USA tend to have higher levels of insulin and leptin. He notes that researchers are trying to figure out how problems in the body’s response to insulin, which are more common among American blacks, might also affect the start of puberty.

•Environmental chemicals. A variety of chemicals — found in everything from pesticides to flame retardants and perfume — can interfere with the hormone system, Herman-Giddens says. For example, chemicals used to soften plastic, called phthalates, can act like hormones. In a small study of 76 girls in Puerto Rico, researchers found that 68% of girls who went through early puberty had been highly exposed to phthalates, compared with only 3% of girls developing normally.

Steingraber is also concerned about an estrogen-like chemical, called BPA, or bisphenol A, that is found in hard plastics, the linings of metal cans and many other consumer products. Although BPA can cause early puberty in animals, its role in humans isn’t as clear. But studies by the CDC show that more than 90% of Americans have BPA in their bodies.

The National Institutes of Health is funding research to answer questions about environmental causes of early puberty and hormonal changes, says Frank Biro, director of adolescent medicine at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Biro and colleagues are testing more than 1,200 girls for their exposure to chemicals such as BPA, phthalates, pesticides and chemical flame retardants. The National Children’s Study, also funded by the federal government, will study 100,000 children, from before birth through age 21, looking at a variety of environmental exposures.

•Screen time. There’s no evidence that watching sexy TV images can trigger puberty, but spending too much time in front of the screen can harm kids in other ways, such as causing them to gain weight, Steingraber says.

Preliminary research also suggests that screen time may hasten puberty by lowering levels of a critical hormone called melatonin, whose production is regulated by the daily cycles of light and dark, and which appears to keep puberty at bay, Steingraber says.

•Family stress. Family relationships also may play a role in the start of puberty. Preliminary research suggests that girls may be more likely to develop early if they experience more family stress, or if they don’t live with their biological fathers, says Julianna Deardorff, a clinical psychologist at the University of California-Berkeley‘s school of public health.

More.

The close linkage between environmental pollution and cancer is discussed by biologist Dr. Sandra Steingraber (author of Living Downstream: An Ecologist Looks at Cancer and the Environment) and Ellen Crowley.

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