Archives for posts with tag: plastics

From the Maine Public Broadcasting Network:

Maine is among just a handful of states that require manufacturers to report the use of certain chemicals in their products. It also has the earliest deadine for companies to report. This week the results are in, and more than 650 products are on the list. Business representatives and state regulators say the reported presence of the chemicals does not indicate there’s a risk present. But health advocates say the list will help consumers protect their health from chemicals that leach out of products.

Listen to the four minute story here.

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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

Dr. Landrigan discusses why the Children’s Environmental Health Center (CEHC) was created at Mount Sinai. Scientific evidence is strong and continuing to build that hazardous exposures in the modern environment are important causes of these diseases. Indoor and outdoor air pollution are now established as causes of asthma. Childhood cancer is linked to solvents, pesticides, and radiation. Furthermore, the National Academy of Sciences has determined that environmental factors contribute to 28% of developmental disorders in children.

The Mission of the CEHC is to address this challenge — to protect children from toxic chemicals in their air, their water, and their food by spearheading efforts to track the root environmental causes of disease. The Center’s research builds on over three decades of work by its director Dr. Philip Landrigan, a renowned pediatrician and epidemiologist who has devoted his career to protecting children against environmental threats to health.

To view Mount Sinai’s Children’s Health Campaign containing tips, facts, videos, articles and more on important children’s health issues such as diabetes, autism, asthma, allergies and nutrition, click here.

To view the Children’s Environmental Health Center, click here.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 TedTalks:

Van Jones lays out a case against plastic pollution from the perspective of social justice. Because plastic trash, he shows us, hits poor people and poor countries “first and worst,” with consequences we all share no matter where we live and what we earn. At TEDxGPGP, he offers a few powerful ideas to help us reclaim our throwaway planet.

From the Vancouver Sun:

The federal government is making good on a promise to ban a toxic chemical additive in soft plastic toys and other children’s products.

The new regulations, to be implemented in June, take aim at six phthalates, a family a chemicals known to cause reproductive harm and commonly used to make vinyl plastic soft and flexible. The additive will no longer be permitted to be used in a slew of items that are designed or are likely to be put in the mouths of children under four. These include bath toys, squeeze or inflatable toys, teethers, rattles and vinyl bibs.

Additionally, the use of three of the six phthalates, known as DEEP, DBP and BBP, will be restricted in all children’s toys and childcare items, even if designed for and used by older kids.

Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq, who is slated to make the official announcement Tuesday, is taking the step after Health Canada’s own market survey in 2008 found the widespread presence of phthalates in soft plastic toys and other items for young children to help with feeding, sleeping or relaxation and made out of polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Health Canada found the widespread presence of phthalates in these children’s items, despite a decade-long voluntary ban in North America.

More . . .

Dr. John Peterson Myers is founder, CEO and Chief Scientist of Environmental Health Sciences, where he publishes the well-respected, daily Environmental Health News which aims to advance the publics understanding of environmental health issues by providing access to worldwide news about a variety of subjects related to the health of humans, wildlife and ecosystems.

In this video, Dr. Myers discusses the current problem of toxic chemicals in toys and other children’s products, what parents can do, and what changes are necessary in the regulatory system.

 

In my recent interview of Drs. Carlos Sonnenschein and Ana Soto, I asked them about Bisphenol A (BPA). Below is the clip from that portion of the interview.

Drs. Sonnenschein and Soto respond to the following prompts:

  1. Describe why you changed your focus to BPA. 00:40
  2. What was the original purpose of BPA? 03:15
  3. Where do humans come into contact with these BPA-laden plastics? 04:30
  4. Do you think the public fully appreciates the magnitude of this problem? 06:35

In their responses, they discuss how they discovered several estrogenic chemicals and why BPA became the primary focus of their research in the 1990s.  They explain the origins of BPA, including the fact that it was originally synthesized to be an estrogen, though it was ultimately used in the synthesis of plastics.  They also describe the ubiquity of BPA in our products — including in plastic water bottles, dispersants in inks, and sealants in teeth.

The full, edited interview is now available on the Upstream Website.

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