5&5: News and science highlights from December 2012

January 9, 2013 at 12:07 pm | Posted in News and Science Bulletins | Leave a comment


Multiple environmental chemical exposures to lead, mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls among childbearing-aged women (NHANES 1999-2004): Body burden and risk factors.  This study finds that nearly 23 percent of American women of childbearing age meet or exceed median blood levels for lead, mercury, and PCBs. Women who breastfed at least one child for at least a month sometime in their lives had about half the risk of exceeding the median blood level for two or more pollutants, suggesting that these pollutants are passed to nursing infants.

Designing endocrine disruption out of the next generation of chemicals. Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are commonly used in consumer products and can mimic hormones, contributing to a host of modern day health epidemics including cancers, learning disabilities and immune system disorders. Growing public awareness of EDC health risks has stimulated market demand for products without EDCs, for example, ‘BPA-free’ and ‘phthalate-free.’ Because the toxicological properties of replacement chemicals are rarely well-understood, the authors, a team of 23 biologists and chemists, developed TiPED to help companies respond proactively to growing consumer demand for inherently safer materials. Also see news coverage of the research in Plastics World (“Guide aims to help companies…”) and Chemistry World (“Stopping Endocrine Disruptors in Their Tracks”).

Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs) in Breast Milk and Neuropsychological Development in Infants. Suggestion of an association between increasing PBDE concentrations in colostrum and a worse infant mental development, particularly for BDE-209, but require confirmation in larger studies. The association, if causal, may be due to unmeasured BDE-209 metabolites, including OH-PBDEs (hydroxylated PBDEs), which are more toxic, more stable, and more likely to cross the placenta and to easily reach the brain than BDE-209.

More flame retardant news and science from December. The mounting evidence against PBDEs has not stopped fierce industry opposition from delaying new US EPA rules restricting their use, with reported use of flawed studies to justify continued use of toxic compounds; nonetheless, there is new research evidence suggesting that PBDEs are being replaced with alternative compounds, and Deca-BDE has been added to the EU REACH list of Substances of Very High Concern. Unfortunately, substitutes may not be safe enough either, with TBPH showing thyro- and hepatotoxicity.

Fetal Liver Bisphenol A Concentrations and Biotransformation Gene Expression Reveal Variable Exposure and Altered Capacity for Metabolism in Humans. This study shows that the developing fetus is generally exposed to much higher levels of free (unconjugated) BPA than to conjugated BPA. In 78% of the samples, the ratio of free to conjugated BPA was greater than 1 with a mean of 6.91. This adds to the growing evidence that the fetus is regularly exposed to free (active) BPA; that the chemical is not rapidly inactivated and excreted as in adults.

Bisphenol A and Metabolic Syndrome: Results from NHANES. In this cross-sectional study, urinary BPA levels were positively associated with metabolic syndrome (MetS), in a representative sample of US adults and independent of traditional risk factors for MetS.


Shifting market for repellency chemicals. To please the EPA, the textile industry is changing a key ingredient in water- and oil-repellent treatments from a toxic long-chain fluorinated compound to a shorter one. But Greenpeace is shaking up this happy cooperation by questioning the use of all fluorinated chemicals, long and short.

Organic Food Conclusions Don’t Tell the Whole Story. A widely reported Stanford University study concluding there is little difference in the healthfulness and safety of conventional and organic foods has been criticized by experts in the environmental health sciences for overlooking the growing body of evidence on the adverse effects of pesticides. Critics take to task the authors’ omission of relevant studies and overinterpretation of the data.

Visit our full archive of over 2,000 news stories and scientific studies relating to the effects of chemicals on health: https://pinboard.in/u:cpes-archive

More options for doctors to warn pregnant patients about environmental risks. A new nationwide survey of 2,600 obstetricians and gynecologists found that most do not warn their pregnant patients about chemicals in food, consumer products or the environment that could endanger their fetuses. More than half said they don’t warn about mercury, and hardly any of them give advice about lead, pesticides, air pollution or chemicals in plastics or cosmetics. Many doctors say their priority is to protect pregnant women from more immediate dangers, and that warning them about environmental risks may create undue anxiety. Some say they don’t feel confident in their ability to discuss the topics.

Pesticides: Now More Than EverAfter the publication of “Silent Spring,” 50 years ago, we (scientists, environmental and health advocates, birdwatchers, citizens) managed to curb the use of pesticides[1] and our exposure to them — only to see their application grow and grow to the point where American agriculture uses more of them than ever before.

France bans contested chemical BPA in food packaging. The French parliament has voted to ban from 2015 the use of bisphenol A, a chemical thought to have a toxic effect on the brain and nervous system, in baby food packaging next year and all food containers.

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