Archives for posts with tag: endocrine disruptors

You can link to an illuminating podcast interview, titled “Better Living Through Chemistryfrom the Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), here.

Here is PSR’s brief description of the interview:

We depend on chemicals in consumer products to perform as expected, and to be safe. But our regulatory system is not adequately protecting us from potential hazards in our food cans, diapers, shower curtains, baby bottles, and other consumer products. Listen to Washington State PSR President, Dr. Steven Gilbert, a toxicologist, together with pediatric urologist and Phsicians for Social Responsibility (“PSR”) board member Dr. Rich Grady, discuss chemicals policy in an illuminating radio interview, touching on “chemical trespass,” the precautionary approach to chemical regulation, and the importance of state-level policy change. They also discuss the federal bills, currently before Congress, intended to modernize the Toxic Substances Control Act — including the need to strengthen these bills. The interview was aired on Seattle radio station KEXP on June 19, 2010.

Listen to the interview here (mp3, 10 MB).

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From the Myrtle Beach Sun News: Mutant fish: A puzzle in the water (by Claudia Lauer, September 29):

Longtime Bucksport residents know every curve in the dirt road leading to the Bull Creek boat landing.

* * *

Fishing and wading in the muddy waters is almost second nature for generations of residents who grew up as river folks, but something in the creek is starting to worry some residents.

A U.S. Geological Survey study released in September 2009 reported that 90 percent of the largemouth bass pulled from the creek during the study had male and were developing female reproductive cells. A year after the study was finished, residents still have questions about the effects of the fish on people and whether something in the water — the same water filtered for drinking water for many Horry County residents — is causing what biologists call endocrine disruption, which makes reproduction for the fish more difficult.

The problem is not confined to Bull Creek, but the Pee Dee Basin had the highest incidence of intersex fish in the study. The study looked at river basins all over the country and found that about half of them had some instances of intersex fish. The only river basin examined that didn’t show any problems was Alaska’s Yukon River Basin. In parts of the Mississippi River in Minnesota and the Yampa River in Colorado, 70 percent of the smallmouth bass had female signs. Scientists and residents say more research must be done to determine which of the many possible environmental contaminants to the water may be causing the issue in the fish and whether it’s something being done locally or upstream.

Steve Howell, like many of the lifelong residents, feels some ownership in the creek that he, his family and his friends have fished for generations.

“What about taking baths, drinking the water, cooking and etc. with the water from your tap that is coming straight out of the same river that is highly contaminated that it is screwing the fish up?” Howell said. “Since it is affecting the fish in such drastic ways as this, then what is it going to do to humans over a period of time, and why isn’t anyone or any group doing a study to try and find out?”

* * *

A number of contaminants have been suspected as the cause of the endocrine disruption. Researchers are studying the effects of livestock farming, of industrial chemicals, and of hormones and other chemicals that find their way into waste water. Hormones and birth control pills have become more commonplace and leave the human body in our waste.

* * *

Howell said he plans to continue fishing in the creek, but he’s wary of what the long-term effects could be.

“You want to know what is happening because if the water is doing that to the fish, then what happens to us?” he said. “What happens to women who are pregnant or babies that aren’t born yet? You want to know what they’re doing to make sure we’re safe and whether there’s more happening other than here’s this study and we don’t know why it’s happening or what it means.”

Read the entire article here.

From EurActiv:

Shanna H. Swan, a renowned scientist specialising in reproductive medicine, has warned about the health effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) known as phthalates which can end up in food via pesticides or plastics. In an interview with EurActiv, she calls on regulators to better protect consumers against those “hidden chemicals”.

Shanna H. Swan, PhD is Professor and Vice-Chair for Research and Mentoring Department of Preventive Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Dr Swan is known for her work on the impact of environmental exposures on male and female reproductive health and has served on the National Academy of Science’s Committee on Hormone-Related Toxicants. She was speaking to EurActiv’s editor, Frédéric Simon.

You are a well-known scientist in the field of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs), which you have been researching for many years. What were your main findings?

The major findings I have are that certain EDCs – and I’ve looked specifically at pesticides, phthalates and Bisphenol A – are significantly related to human development, more strongly when exposure is foetal but also some adult exposures.

Has exposure tended to increase over time?

There are some studies of old stored samples. That’s the only way we can know about a person’s exposure. So to put this in context, unlike studies of smoking or pharmaceuticals where you can ask the person what their exposure was, you cannot learn anything – or very little – about a person’s exposure from EDCs by asking them what they do.

These are chemicals that are hidden – I call them stealth chemicals – and for this reason the only way we can know what the exposure was is to measure it in biological samples, either in urine or blood. Urine is usually easier and for various technical reasons preferable for the non-persistent chemicals.

When older samples are available and have been looked at, they have shown that levels were lower in the past. I can’t unfortunately be more specific but I could point you to some references.

So these go as far back as the 1960s?

There was one study in 1958 called the Collaborative Perinatal Project which had stored urine. There was a Kaiser California study in the early 60s which had stored samples. So these are very rare studies, they are the only ones.

In the most recent years some of the phthalates, for example DEHP, has decreased with the substitution. So we can pick up certain trends in use in these national samples of urinary metabolites.

Do we know precisely what the sources of exposure are?

For that, you have to go chemical by chemical. So if we restrict ourselves to phthalates, you still have to narrow that further because phthalates have different uses. Some phthalates are added to tubing to make it soft, particularly DEHP.

This is in the tubing in hospitals, in the tubing for milking cows, whenever you want a soft, flexible, plastic, you will take DEHP. Whatever is passing through that, particularly if it’s warm, it will absorb that. In this way we get exposure through material that has passed through this.

And also from milk?

It is measurable in milk, yes. So for DEHP, our dominant route of exposure is through food and there’s some in water. But you also get DEHP if you are in a medical department and hooked up to a tube.

Phthalates have been banned in some uses already such as toys, etc. So can we consider the problem solved?

Let me just go back for a second. Phthalate is a chemical class and so it’s important because you ask me if there are many exposures.

If we put cosmetics on our skin, our face – men, women, children, babies – we immediately get another phthalate in our body, which is DEP. And this is very clear. If we put hair spray or put a nail polish, then we inhale that phthalate which is primarily DBP.

So it’s a complicated story because we have many sources and many routes of exposure and also differing toxicity. Now, as for whether the problem is solved – not at all. We’ve only begun to solve the problem.

But there have been bans on some of the uses of phthalates which were of most concern, such as baby bottles…

No, this was Bisphenol A, it’s another chemical class. Think of it this way. Phthalates makes plastic soft, BPA makes plastic hard. So if you have one of these sports water bottles, those were made with BPA. Hard baby bottles, that’s BPA. Lining of tin cans, that’s also BPA. But Phthalates are on the soft side of the equation although they are both plasticisers.

Ok, so why do I say the problem is not solved? The primary elimination of phthalates has been from children’s toys. Certainly this is important but it does not protect the most sensitive organism, and that is the developing foetus.

So a toy is something you play with after birth, the pregnant mother is getting an exposure which is for the foetus much more potent than what the child will get with a toy.

By eliminating these phthalates from children’s toys – I think it is important, excellent, I certainly support it – but I would not do that at the expense of eliminating phthalates in products to which pregnant women are exposed. Because that is the most critical target for phthalates.

There has been a lot of controversy for many years over the health risks of low-dose exposure to chemicals such as phthalates. Looking at the science, is there any evidence to support this?

Let me say three things.

First of all, there is absolutely no doubt that tiny, tiny doses of hormones can permanently alter the development of the foetus – at the right time. You cannot look at the dose alone, you must look at the dose in a particular time window, because otherwise you don’t have the toxicity captured because that’s really a product of two things: Not just the dose but the timing as well.

The next thing is a story that isn’t obviously about chemicals but just to point out that we know from some human and many animal studies that when a rodent is in utero  (in the mother’s womb), each one of those is hooked up in the uterine horn and they will be located between two other pups.

So if you look at a male between two males, and a male between two females, you can measure how much testosterone is in those two males. And the difference is significant and measurable and very, very small. It’s about a drop in an Olympic-size swimming pool. That’s how small it is. It’s an extremely low dose, one part per trillion.

And what is the consequence of exposure to this?

The consequence is that the rodent that is a male between two males grows to be more aggressive, more masculine in behaviour and in his general development. He will have a stronger sperm count; he will be more fertile. And there’s no question about that, it has been shown in a number of species. And there are a number of supporting human studies. I only mention this as proof of principle that a very small amount of hormonal substance at the right time alters development.

Now let’s just go to the human situation. When people say, ‘Well the doses are too low,’ I say two things. One is, ‘Maybe so, but we are seeing effects’. So whatever dose it is, it seems to be doing something. There are probably close to 30 studies that find associations between phthalates and a variety of human health end points.

The counter-argument could be that these effects could be coming from something completely different.

Exactly. Not the counter argument, but a relevant, additional point is that, we are never exposed to one chemical. In fact a recent study found 200 chemicals on average in babies at birth.

That means that in utero the babies had 200 chemicals circulating in their bodies affecting their development, on average. The maximum in that study sample of ten was 287. So we are unquestionably exposed, and the foetuses as well.

So yes, there are many chemicals and statistically you can ask what are the associations with just DEHP metabolites, just DBP metabolites. But it’s not the most efficient way to do it. Better is to ask what about co-exposure to all of those? What about the cocktail effect?

Now, we cannot reasonably, with the sample sizes we have available, yet look at the 200 all together. But we could look at and do look at multiple exposures. So the fact that they may be quite low individually, we know that these doses add up, and so if you have several of these, you already add up to a much higher dose.

Do we know specific combinations that are particularly harmful?

Yes, among the DEHP metabolites, there are many of them, we currently look at four or five of them and can assess the sum of them. That’s one example but there are others.

This sounds quite scary. How should consumers behave or react? If my wife was pregnant what should I be telling her?

I get this question all the time. It’s a frustrating question because I can only give you a partial answer. On a simple side, I would tell her she could limit her exposure to harmful personal care products.

And the reason we can give this advice is that they have been looked at quite carefully by a number of NGOs, and specifically I point you to the Environmental Working Group website called ‘Not Too Pretty’, where they actually go through product by product and talk about the chemicals in them. That’s a nice tool for consumers.

You can also say, just a blanket precaution: Do not use air fresheners, do not spray things in your house, products and so on.

Where it gets more problematic is that even when we tell people all these things, only in rare situations can we remove these chemicals from their body. And one of the major reasons is that they are so deeply hidden, you can check the label on the lotion but you can’t check the label on your spaghetti sauce or on your bottle of milk and so on.

So we need to give consumers the tools to make informed choices. And at this point we don’t have those tools.

You mean labelling?

Labelling, yes, and also advice about behaviour – for example not to store in plastic, not to microwave in plastic.

What I tell people if you want to do the best you can, buy local produce, buy it unprocessed, buy it organic. There is a population in New York that does this, and that is the Old Order Mennonites [an anti-technology religious group similar to the Amish]. They’re quite severe, they grow everything themselves, they don’t drive in cars, they don’t use sprays… and they have very low levels of environmental chemicals.

And that has been scientifically measured?

Yes, we measured how many phthalates and phenols were in their urine and they had almost none. And it’s interesting because a couple of women did have peaks. One was a woman who used a hairspray. And you could see this because we asked what did you do before you came here and gave your urine? And this woman said, ‘Well, I was not supposed to but I used hairspray because I was going out.’ And there we see the peak for MBP in her urine.

And then another woman rode in a car even though they don’t do this normally and you see another peak. So in an extreme situation – which to most consumers is quite radical action – you can eliminate.

Another population was given regular food and then they fasted. Their urine was tested under the normal diet and after 48 hours of fasting and they had no DEHP in their urine at all.

Of course we can’t all fast! So I think we have to make it much easier for consumers to avoid these products.

In terms of chemical presence in food, there have been measures taken at EU level to reduce the use of pesticides. In France for example there is an objective of halving the use of pesticides by 2018, and there have been bans on aerial spraying and things like that. Are these steps sufficient to reduce the risk of contamination in food?

Well, removing pesticides certainly removes one source of exposure to EDCs – and a very important one, and I think this is great.

By the way, aside from phthalates, we found a number of pesticides and herbicides in the Midwest where they were associated with a lower sperm count. So these are acting as well. Also I should point out that phthalates are actually in pesticides – they are put in there to increase absorption.

So these measures to reduce pesticide use are certainly a good thing to do but it won’t do the whole job. As long as the food is processed in contact with phthalates or Bisphenol A, canned, shipped in plastic, stored in plastic or cooked in Teflon, there are just a lot of occasions along the way to pick endocrine-disrupting chemicals.

And pesticide removal is certainly a very important first step but then we have to worry about what happens to the food after it is picked and along the rest of the chain from farm to fork.

In Europe, we have minimum residue levels for pesticides in food below which ingestion is not considered to pose any risk for human health. Are you saying these should be lowered further?

I cannot comment on permissible level of pesticides. But I can comment on the question of a threshold. We have many examples in environmental science – the best I think is lead – that no matter how we keep dropping the permissible level, we see adverse effects still at a lower level.

And I think that what we have to keep in mind is that to some particular sensitive populations and particularly sensitive periods, perhaps the level has to be reduced further. But there will have to be some practical level – obviously we can’t remove everything entirely.

You may be aware that in Europe we have this REACH regulation on chemicals which is undergoing a review this year. Are you encouraging policymakers to tighten REACH even further?

For me the most important thing about REACH it that it alters the burden of proof. Of the 80,000 chemicals in commerce in the world, 62,000 were just blessed and assumed to be safe in the United States.

That is actually the default assumption still in the United States: That until a chemical is proven harmful it is assumed to be safe. This of course places the burden of proof on the consumer, to prove harm, which is not where the burden should be in my opinion. So generally shifting the burden of proof I think is extremely important and should be implemented in US policies as well.

The US must actually follow REACH if they are going to export to Europe. What has been the impact on the US industry the way you see it?

I can’t tell you that. I do know that that is not the default assumption in regulation. So whether they do something different to send things to Europe, I’m sure they have to, and I’m sure they do, but it is not what they accept as their burden to prove safety before a product is marketed.

As far as whether the regulation should be tightened, that is a very broad question. And what I have an opinion about is that I feel that endocrine disruption is a category deserving its own regulation. It’s different enough from reproductive toxicity and carcinogenicity. The risk assessment for endocrine disruption is different. The scientific issues are different enough that it would protect public health much further if we could deal with this as a class of chemicals. So that’s where I see maybe tightening up.

For you as a scientist, the link between endocrine-disrupting chemicals, the ones you have been studying, and lower fertility has been proven and is scientifically watertight? Can it be argued against?

Watertight? This is never the case, of course. There are still people here who argue cigarettes don’t cause lung cancer. Of course it will always be argued against.

I think we have now a lot of data that environmental chemicals can and do lower sperm count, impact time to conception, increase foetal loss in early pregnancy, affect pregnancy outcomes. Do we need more studies? Of course we do. But do we have enough information to act on these studies that we have? I say that we do.

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From The DailyMail (quoting Upstream Expert Dr. Ana Soto):

Cancer fears have grown over a chemical widely used in plastic packaging and food-can linings after new research showed that it affected the development of monkey breasts.

Various studies have linked Bisphenol A (BPA) to breast cancer – and now teams at Washington State University and Tufts University have added weight to these findings.

They found that foetal exposure to the plastic additive alters mammary gland development in primates.

Lead author Patricia Hunt said: ‘Previous studies in mice have demonstrated that low doses of BPA alter the developing mammary gland and that these subtle changes increase the risk of cancer in the adult.

‘Some have questioned the relevance of these findings in mice to humans. But finding the same thing in a primate model really hits uncomfortably close to home.’

For the research the structure of newborn mammary glands from BPA-exposed and unexposed female rhesus macaques were compared.

Pregnant monkeys were fed a piece of fruit containing a small amount of BPA each day during the gestational period corresponding to the human third trimester of pregnancy, resulting in blood levels of BPA comparable to those of many humans today.

The researchers found that, at birth, the density of mammary buds was significantly increased in BPA-exposed monkeys, and the overall development of the mammary gland was more advanced compared to unexposed monkeys.

Previous studies have shown that exposing rodents to tiny amounts of BPA can alter mammary gland development, leading to pre-cancerous and cancerous lesions when the animals exposed in utero reach adult age.

The researchers said the primate research makes them confident that the rodent mammary gland is a reliable model to study developmental exposures to chemicals like BPA that disrupt a mammal’s estrogen activity.

Tufts University School of Medicine researcher Ana Soto said: ‘This study buttresses previous findings showing that foetal exposure to low xenoestrogen levels causes developmental alterations that in turn increase the risk of mammary cancer later in life.

‘Because BPA is chemically related to diethylstilbestrol, an estrogen that increased the risk of breast cancer in both rodents and women exposed in the womb, the sum of all these findings strongly suggests that BPA is a breast carcinogen in humans and human exposure to BPA should be curtailed.’

The research appears in the latest Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences.

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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.

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From USA Today:

“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. There’s no evidence that boys are maturing any earlier, says Paul Kaplowitz, author of Early Puberty in Girls.

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From Portland Tribune:

In late-October, Multnomah County enacted Oregon’s first restrictions against products containing bisphenol A, a widely used chemical compound often called BPA. The ban on BPA-laced baby bottles, sippy cups, and reusable water bottles will have little impact on what’s sold in the county, because retailers have largely stopped selling them.

But county commissioners’ unanimous decision gives momentum to broader campaigns against BPA and other toxic chemicals in our environment, especially in the food supply.

It’s only a “baby step” in the right direction, says Maye Thompson, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility’s environmental health program director. However, she says, “I think it’s going to make people ask, ‘What’s next?’ ”

There are rumblings that other counties may follow Multnomah County’s lead and adopt local BPA bans, says Renee Hackenmiller-Paradis, Oregon Environmental Council’s environmental health program director, and a leader of the statewide anti-BPA campaign. Those could put more pressure on the Legislature to act, as businesses often dislike facing a patchwork of local regulations.

When the Legislature returns to Salem for a brief session in February, it’s unlikely that anti-BPA forces will push the same bill that passed in the Senate this year but was blocked in the House, says state Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer, D-Portland. House Republicans still have a 30-30 tie with Democrats and could, as in the 2011 session, prevent a House floor vote on the bill.

Instead, Keny-Guyer and other environmental-minded lawmakers may pursue a broader toxics bill modeled after those passed by Washington and other states.

“It’s kind of ridiculous to go through the Legislature to pick off chemical by chemical that is harmful to kids,” Keny-Guyer says.

Washington’s 2009 law requires authorities to create a laundry list of toxic chemicals that are of greatest health concern. Once the list is fashioned, the law will require manufacturers to disclose the presence of those substances in children’s products.

“I believe Oregon should be looking to pass similar policies,” says state Sen. Jackie Dingfelder, D-Portland, who led the campaign against BPA in the Legislature and chairs the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee.

Other products targeted

The anti-BPA campaign is rapidly spreading to other products where there’s substantial human exposure to the substance, such as cash register receipts and canned foods and beverages.

Bisphenol A helps make plastic products durable and shatter-resistent, and has been widely used in bottles, computers, CD cases, bicycle helmets, baby pacifiers and other items.

BPA also is used in canned food and drink linings to prevent corrosion, contamination and spoilage. It has proved highly effective at warding off bacterial infections such as botulism.

However, BPA is an endocrine disrupter that mimics the effects of estrogen in the human body. Though there are disputes among scientists — largely between independent and industry-funded researchers — scores of studies have shown potential health hazards from exposure to BPA, including breast and prostate cancer, heart disease and obesity.

Canned food battle looms

Canned food is shaping up as the next major battlefield. “We need to get it out of the food supply,” Thompson says.

But bisphenol A has safeguarded the canned food supply for four or five decades, so it’s “no light matter” trying to find a reliable substitute, says Peter Truitt, president of Salem’s Truitt Brothers Inc. “We’re not going to run the risk of making someone ill,” he says, referring to BPA’s role in preventing food-borne bacteria. “We know that risk. It brings you to your knees overnight.”

However, studies show BPA in canned goods leaches into the food and beverages, particularly in foods that are fatty and highly acidic, such as tomato products.

A 2011 research project by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration detected BPA in 71 of 78 canned foods it tested. “It is well established that residual BPA . . . migrates into can contents during processing and storage,” the FDA reported.

A 2011 report by the Breast Cancer Fund tested canned foods and found widely varying amounts of BPA, even in health foods. It was detected in Spaghettios, Chef Boyardee pasta and meatballs, Earth’s Best Organic Noodlemania Soup and Anni’s Homegrown Cheesy Ravioli.

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Image from Flickr.

From The Mail:

Growing up in a remote community on the west coast of Scotland in the Fifties, there was little opportunity for a boy with an embarrassing problem to discuss it with anyone.

‘You can imagine how people would have reacted,’ says Wilf Stevenson, 64, now Lord Stevenson of Balmacara. ‘It is not a subject easy to raise even now.’

Lord Stevenson, opposition whip and former special adviser to Gordon Brown, was born with hypospadias, a condition where the urethra, which delivers urine and sperm, comes out on the shaft of the penis rather than the tip. It does not necessarily affect urinary or sexual function, but it can make urinating difficult.

As Lord Stevenson explains, with some understatement: ‘Although the condition is as common as hare lip or cleft palate, it simply wasn’t talked about, and isn’t now. I just had to deal with it, and it wasn’t easy.’

He is among the one in 50 people (around 1.2 million Britons) thought to have been born with some kind of disorder of sexual development (DSD) as a result of errors in their genetic code.

These cause abnormalities while a baby is growing in the womb, and range from mild genital abnormalities to ‘intersex’ conditions such as congenital adrenal hyperplasia — where the baby has female and male physical characteristics such as a womb and a penis.

Overall, DSDs causing ‘ambiguous’ genitalia affect an estimated one in 1,000 people.

However, Lord Stevenson’s condition is more common — and it may be becoming increasingly so, as a result of ‘gender-bending’ chemicals used in plastics and hormones excreted by women taking the Pill or similar drugs used in animal rearing.

Although the use of growth promoting hormones is illegal in the EU and other countries, there may still be a risk in imported meat. Traces of these hormones have also been found in drinking-water supplies in studies by the Environment Agency and Medical Research Council.

‘There is no doubt that male reproductive disorders are increasing, but for some reason it is hard to get people to recognise the fact,’ says Professor Richard Sharpe of the Medical Research Council’s Centre for Reproductive Health at Edinburgh University, who runs a research group looking specifically at men.

‘It is an issue which ought to attract a great deal more attention,’ he says.
Professor Ieuan Hughes of Cambridge University, whose research focuses on abnormal sexual development in humans, says studies show a rise in the problem of undescended testes, where the organs remain within the body cavity of male babies, creating a risk of future infertility.

‘The latest research shows 7 to 8 per cent of babies are affected, and it was half that in the Sixties,’ he says.

More.

From NBC News (11/22/2011):

From :

A report released by the Breast Cancer Fund documents the presence of the toxic chemical bisphenol A (BPA) in canned foods marketed to children. Every food sample tested positive for the chemical, with Campbell’s Disney Princess and Toy Story soups testing the highest.

Exposure to BPA, used to make the epoxy-resin linings of metal food cans, has been linked in lab studies to breast and prostate cancer, infertility, early puberty in girls, type-2 diabetes, obesity and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Childhood exposure is of concern because this endocrine-disrupting chemical can affect children’s hormonal systems during development and set the stage for later‐life diseases.

“There should be no place for toxic chemicals linked to breast cancer and other serious health problems in our children’s food,” said Jeanne Rizzo, president and CEO of the Breast Cancer Fund. “We hope this report will shine a spotlight on this issue and encourage companies to seek safer alternatives.”

From The Atlantic:

The latest skirmish in the battle over bisphenol A (BPA) — the synthetic chemical used to make polycarbonate plastics, to make the epoxy resins that line food and beverage cans, and as developers in thermal receipt papers — came last week when the Breast Cancer Fund, an Oakland-based non-profit, released the results of its testing for BPA in canned food marketed to children (PDF). The report found BPA in Campbell’s Disney Princess Cool Shapes, Toy Story Fun Shapes Pasta in chicken broth, Spaghettios With Meatballs, Earth’s Best Organic Elmo Noodlemania Soup, Chef Boyardee Whole Grain Pasta Mini ABCs &123s With Meatballs, and Annie’s Homegrown Organic Cheesy Ravioli at levels that ranged between 13 and 114 parts per billion, levels that have been shown to be biologically active, meaning they’re high enough to interact with and affect our cells.

In response, the North American Metal Packaging Alliance (NAMPA), a trade association representing the food-and-beverage metal-packaging industry, fired off a press release citing a study ostensibly showing that there’s no health risk from BPA exposure through canned food.

“This comprehensive, first-of-its-kind clinical exposure study, funded entirely by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), offers definitive evidence that even the highest exposure levels of BPA from canned foods and beverages did not lead to detectable amounts in the human blood stream,” said NAMPA. “The EPA-funded study emphatically showed there is not a health risk from BPA exposure in canned foods because of how the body processes and eliminates the compound from the body, in children as well as adults,” said NAMPA chairman Dr. John M. Rost in the press release.

Trouble is, this study — by Teeguarden et al. — which was indeed funded by the EPA and conducted by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and published in the September issue of Toxicological Sciences, shows nothing of the kind. No children were included in the study, and researchers did not measure how much BPA was in the food the subjects ate so there’s no way to tell if the BPA in their systems came from that food. But why should we care?

BPA, which has long been identified as an endocrine-disrupting chemical, has been linked in numerous studies to health effects that include adverse impacts on developmental, metabolic, reproductive, neurological, cardiovascular, and other systems. Childhood exposure is a particular concern because early life exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals can set the stage for later life health disorders, including diabetes, obesity, and certain cancers.

Concern over these effects have led ten U.S. states and several local governments to bar BPA from children’s reusable food and beverage containers, and prompted major manufacturers of baby bottles and toddlers’ sippy-cups to switch to alternate materials. Canada has added BPA to its list of toxic substances, Japan took BPA out of can linings and receipt papers in the 1990s, and China and Malaysia have now instituted bans on BPA in baby bottles, but the U.S. federal government does not bar the use of BPA in such products. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) policies have been inching in that direction, though.

In 2010, after having been sent back to the drawing board by its science advisory board in 2008, the FDA issued a policy statement that supports a shift toward stronger regulation of BPA and that supports efforts to find safe alternatives to BPA for infant formula and other food and beverage can liners. Meanwhile, the EPA has issued an “action plan” for BPA that could lead to more oversight on its use.

The chemical industry, NAMPA, and other industry groups have consistently defended the safety of BPA — and lobbied extensively against its regulation. But that such a flawed study would be published and its findings so misrepresented has outraged prominent members of the scientific community. “Its conclusions are preposterous,” says Fred vom Saal, professor of biological sciences at the University of Missouri-Columbia whose research on endocrine hormones dates back to the 1970s. “How could a federal agency be associated with this? It is profoundly bad.”

More.

From The Altantic:

Bisphenol A (BPA)—the once-obscure chemical building block of polycarbonate plastics, the epoxy resins that line many food and beverage cans, and of the coatings that make inks appear in most cash register receipts—is now almost a household word. But familiarity with the chemical has grown not because BPA is used in countless everyday products, but because of its potential adverse health effects, in particular its ability to act as an endocrine-disrupting chemical.

As a result, many major manufacturers of baby bottles, toddlers’ drinking cups, and reusable water bottles—among other products—have switched to “BPA-free” materials. A number of prominent retailers in the U.S. and abroad are doing the same. So the question arises: What are these BPA-free materials, and who’s making sure they’re safe?

As scientific evidence of BPA’s biological activity grows, the search for alternatives becomes more imperative. While the polymers BPA creates are strong, they easily release the substance, which can get into our bodies not only through contact with BPA-laden products themselves but also through food, dust, and air. Potential adverse effects—which can occur at very low levels of exposure—include disrupted genetic signaling and hormone activity that can lead to diabetes; obesity; impaired reproductive, developmental, neurological, immune, and cardiovascular system function; and certain cancers. Of particular concern are the effects of BPA on infants and children. BPA eventually does break down, but the chemical is in so many products that it is virtually ubiquitous. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found BPA in more than 90 percent of the Americans it has tested.

* * *
While there are currently no federal restrictions on BPA use, both the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which has labeled BPA “a chemical of concern,” and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have issued statements of support for the use of BPA alternatives.

* * *
Under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the U.S. law that regulates chemicals in commerce, it’s entirely permissible to launch a new material into high-volume production without disclosing its precise chemical identity or any information about its toxicity. This makes it impossible for the public to assess product safety independently of manufacturer claims. And currently, despite EPA and FDA policies that support “safe” alternatives to a chemical of concern like BPA, neither federal agency conducts safety testing of new materials destined for consumer products before they come on the market.

* * *

What all this means is that while U.S. federal policy supports alternatives to BPA—and we’re using products containing these new materials at increasing volume—we actually know very little about them and lack a system that would provide independent assessment of new materials before they’re in our homes. With demand growing for safe plastics, it’s clear that we need a better and more proactive way of ensuring their safety—and ours.

More.

From The New Republicc:

What I’ve discovered will come as no surprise to anyone who has been paying serious attention to research on consumer products, but, since that description had not previously applied to me, or to most people I know, I’ll report my finding: The United States deals with potentially toxic household products in a manner that is so cavalier that it would, in a saner world, be called negligence. To my husband, I explain that the world has not grown qualitatively more toxic than in the bad old preenvironmentalist days. What has changed is that the scientific understanding of how these things are poisonous has undergone a conceptual revolution, with the result that we mothers who fail to throw out our no. 7 plastics risk looking as complacent as Betty Draper, if not quite as culpable as those 1950s doctors who let themselves appear in ads for cigarettes.

When I first began my crash course on this subject, I assumed the reason quasi-eco-moms like me have spent the last half-decade fretting neurotically about the stuff our bodies come into contact with, rather than about the environment writ large—about what’s in our homes rather than in rivers and lakes and soil and air—is that we’re typical selfabsorbed bourgeois parents. Now I know the real reason is that we can see inside our bodies better than ever before, and what we find there horrifies us. Toxicologists used to test the environment and conduct surveys to discover the degree to which people might have been exposed to poisonous stuff; their conclusions were largely guesswork. Now, an increasingly common technology called biomonitoring lets them measure the effects of toxic exposure in blood, urine, breast milk, semen, and all the other parts of us where chemicals tend not to flush out. Biomonitoring brings home the truth in the saying that we are what we eat—not to mention drink, breathe, wear, sit on, rub up against, and chew on distractedly.

Since 1999, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has tested Americans every two years in order to build a database of what are called “body burdens,” thereby helping toxicologists set new standards for exposure and definitively link chemicals to illness, or else decouple them. The CDC started with 27 worrisome chemicals and is now up to 219. This process has revealed a surprising new form of egalitarianism at work on our continent: No matter how puritanical or hedonistic your lifestyle, whether you’re rich or poor, elderly or fetal, a resident of Portland or New York City, you almost certainly have BPA in your bloodstream, along with other toxins that have entered the food chain and water system or have become ubiquitous in building materials and food-packaging. In its most recent report on these body burdens, in 2009, the CDC stated that nearly everyone it tested had detectable amounts of BPA; of polybrominated diphenylethers, flame retardants that can thwart a fetus’s neurological development; of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), the really bad stuff in non-stick cookware that has also been shown to thwart the proper development of young animals; of perchlorate, a chemical used in making rockets and fireworks, which can keep the thyroid from making necessary hormones; of a gasoline additive now banned in most states, methyl tert-butyl ether.

But is all this actually dangerous? Well, the answer depends on how you define “dangerous,” and, to know how to do that, you have to know about a paradigm shift in our understanding of toxicity that cuts so deep, it should thoroughly undermine your sense of what is safe and what isn’t.

The transformation started with something called the “endocrine-disruption hypothesis.” Its discovery in the late ’80s involves one of those heroic scientific narratives that make people like me— people who instinctively discount their own opinions when faced with the gnomic wisdom of credentialed experts—feel both emboldened and depressed. Its heroine is Theo Colborn, a rancher and mother of four who went back to school at the age of 51, eventually getting a Ph.D. in zoology. Soon after graduating, she landed a job reviewing other scientists’ data at the Conservation Foundation in Washington. She noticed that biologists investigating the effects of presumably carcinogenic chemicals on predators in and around the Great Lakes (fish, birds, reptiles, and mammals) were reporting odd phenomena. Whole communities of minks were failing to reproduce; startling numbers of herring gulls were being born dead, their eyes missing, their bills misshapen; and the testicles of young male gulls were exhibiting female characteristics. Colborn correlated this data with the presence in the water of organochlorine compounds such as PCBs, DDT, and dieldrin, some of which have hormone-mimicking effects and build up in fatty tissue. Often, the offspring of creatures exposed to chemicals were worse off than the animals themselves. Colborn concluded that nearly all the symptoms could be traced to things going awry in the endocrine system, the network of glands that orchestrates development by secreting hormones such as testosterone, estrogen, and growth hormone into the body at set times.

More.

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.

* * *

More.

Read the letter.

From NPR’s All Things Considered:

Most plastic products, from sippy cups to food wraps, can release chemicals that act like the sex hormone estrogen, according to a study in Environmental Health Perspectives.

The study found these chemicals even in products that didn’t contain BPA, a compound in certain plastics that’s been widely criticized because it mimics estrogen.

Many plastic products are now marketed as BPA-free, and manufacturers have begun substituting other chemicals whose effects aren’t as well known.

But it’s still unclear whether people are being harmed by BPA or any other so-called estrogenic chemicals in plastics. Most studies of health effects have been done in mice and rats.

The new study doesn’t look at health risks. It simply asks whether common plastic products release estrogen-like chemicals other than BPA.

The researchers bought more than 450 plastic items from stores including Walmart and Whole Foods. They chose products designed to come in contact with food — things like baby bottles, deli packaging and flexible bags, says George Bittner, one of the study’s authors and a professor of biology at the University of Texas, Austin.

Then CertiChem, a testing company founded by Bittner, chopped up pieces of each product and soaked them in either saltwater or alcohol to see what came out.

The testing showed that more than 70 percent of the products released chemicals that acted like estrogen. And that was before they exposed the stuff to real-world conditions: simulated sunlight, dishwashing and microwaving, Bittner says.

“Then, you greatly increase the probability that you’re going to get chemicals having estrogenic activity released,” he says, adding that more than 95 percent of the products tested positive after undergoing this sort of stress.

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Read or listen to the full story here.

From Scientific American:

Many agricultural pesticides – including some previously untested and commonly found in food  – disrupt male hormones, according to new tests conducted by British scientists.

The scientists strongly recommended that all pesticides in use today be screened to check if they block testosterone and other androgens, the hormones critical to a healthy reproductive system for men and boys.

“Our results indicate that systematic testing for anti-androgenic activity of currently used pesticides is urgently required,” wrote the scientists from University of London’s Centre for Toxicology, led by Professor Andreas Kortenkamp.

Thirty out of 37 widely used pesticides tested by the group blocked or mimicked male hormones. Sixteen of the 30 had no known hormonal activity until now, while there was some previous evidence for the other 14, according to the study, published online last Thursday in the scientific journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Most of the newly discovered hormone disruptors are fungicides applied to fruit and vegetable crops, including strawberries and lettuce. Traces of the chemicals remain in foods.

“This study indicates that, not surprisingly, there are many other endocrine disruptors that we have not yet identified or know very little about,” said Emily Barrett, a University of Rochester assistant professor in obstetrics and gynecology who was not involved in the study.

“This underlines the glaring problem that many of the chemicals that are most widely used today, including pesticides, are simply not adequately tested and may have serious long-term impacts on health and development,” said Barrett, who studies how environmental chemicals affect human reproduction.

The findings come as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency faces opposition from the pesticide industry after expanding its Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program, which requires testing of about 200 chemicals found in food and drinking water to see if they interfere with estrogen, androgens or thyroid hormones.

None of the 16 pesticides with the newly discovered hormonal activity is included in the EPA’s program, which means they are not currently screened and there are no plans to do so. . . .

Full article here.

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