5&5: News and science highlights from April 2011

May 11, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Posted in News and Science Bulletins | Leave a comment

House Fire - Image Kpahor, WikimediaNews

Fears Of Toxic Plastics And Household Items: Excellent article assessing whether or not the contemporary fear of plastics and other “household menaces” can be justified, with an even-handed look at scares and the problems driving current concerns.

Is the Environment Poisoning Our Children?: The weak title to one side, this is a powerful and accessible piece of writing about the limitations of current chemicals regulation. Although US-focused it is helpful for understanding why the EU implemented REACH in 2006.

Beyond BPA: Could ‘BPA-Free’ Products Be Just as Unsafe? A number of prominent retailers in the U.S. and elsewhere have switched to “BPA-free” materials. So the question arises: What are these BPA-free materials, and who’s making sure they’re safe?

Foam Alone: Do Furniture Flame Retardants Save Enough Lives to Justify Their Environmental Damage? An obscure California law effectively sets flammability standards for foam in the nation’s furniture, but proposed new legislation claims flame retardants don’t prevent fires and could have negative health impacts.

Pediatricians: better chemical laws needed: Toxic chemicals are endangering children, and the government isn’t doing enough to protect them—that’s the gist of a policy statement released Monday by the American Academy of Pediatrics. (Read the full statement here.)


Endocrine-disrupting chemicals and obesity development in humans: A review. Studies investigating prenatal exposure indicate that exposure in utero may cause permanent physiological changes predisposing an individual to later weight gain. Some endocrine disruptors may play a role in the obesity epidemic, in addition to the more commonly-accepted contributors.

Endocrine disruptors in the etiology of type 2 diabetes mellitus: Review in Nature, concluding that: “Although more experimental work is necessary, evidence already exists to consider exposure to EDCs as a risk factor in the etiology of type 2 diabetes mellitus and other diseases related to insulin resistance.”

Prostate Cancer and Ambient Pesticide Exposure in Agriculturally Intensive Areas in California: Study providing evidence of an association between prostate cancer and ambient pesticide exposures in and around homes in intensely agricultural areas. The associations appear specific to compounds with a plausible biologic role in prostate carcinogenesis, potentially making this a strong confirmatory study, and (crucially) the study is not just of farmworkers, but the general population.

Comparison of PBDE Serum Concentrations in Mexican and Mexican-American Children Living in California: Study suggesting that house dust is a major route of exposure to BFRs, while tighter flammability regulations can massively increase exposure to BFRs. Important in the context of potential for increased use of flame retardants in the EU.

Prenatal Exposure to Organophosphates, Paraoxonase 1, and Cognitive Development in Childhood: Study whose findings suggest that prenatal exposure to organophosphates negatively impacts cognitive development, particularly perceptual reasoning, with evidence of effects beginning at 12 months and continuing through early childhood.

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