5&5: News and science highlights from March 2013

April 8, 2013 at 6:16 pm | Posted in News and Science Bulletins | Leave a comment


EPA to review flame retardants amid growing safety concerns. The US EPA’s investigation comes after recent studies linked flame retardants – found in many household items – to serious health risks. (UK Guardian)

It’s the EU against the UK Government in a day of judgment for air pollution. Geoffrey Lean: Almost no one seems to have noticed, but one of the most important court cases so far this century will be heard next week. It will not just decide whether four fifths of our environmental legislation can be effectively enforced, but crucially affect our relationship with the EU. For if the judgment goes as ministers want, it will pose arguably the greatest challenge to Brussels’s writ since Britain first joined the Common Market. (UK Telegraph)

The complete, tagged and fully-searchable CPES news archive is stored on Pinboard. Visit it here.

EFSA paves way for regulating endocrine disruptors in food. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has endorsed the World Health Organization’s (WHO) definition of endocrine disruptors, paving the way for the European Commission to regulate those chemicals in food. Neither NGOs nor the pesticide industry were happy with the result. (Euractiv)

EFSA muddies the waters on EDCs. EFSA has confused the definition of EDCs and leaves it up to individual expert judgement when an effect is adverse enough to warrant classifying a compound as an EDC, saying it can offer no robust criteria for distinguishing an endocrine disrupting chemical from one which is merely “endocrine active”. (Le Monde, in French). See also: Swedish minister wants tougher EU limits on chemicals and This Man Wants You to Believe That BPA-Laced Plastic Is Harmless (about how the many comforting media reports about the possibly innocuous nature of BPA neglected to mention the root research has not been published).

From Great Grandma to You. A very good article explaining epigenetics, the study of changes in gene expression caused by factors other than changes in DNA itself. For example, while exposure to sex hormones or a high-fat diet in the womb doesn’t directly change or damage DNA, it can add instructional scribbles in the genome’s margins that can also be passed down to offspring. (Science News)


Estimating European historical production, consumption and atmospheric emissions of decabromodiphenyl ether. Consumption of deca-BDE peaked in the late 1990s at approximately 9000 tonnes/year, leaving a substantial reservoir of the compound in the environment. The waste management phase of the BDE-209 life cycle is responsible for the majority of atmospheric emissions. Use of sewage sludge from wastewater treatment works as an agricultural fertiliser is the most important pathway of BDE-209 to soil.

Transgenerational inheritance of increased fat depot size, stem cell reprogramming, and hepatic steatosis elicited by prenatal exposure to the obesogen tributyltin in mice. Only F1 mice were exposed to TBT as fetuses; nonetheless, F3 animals exhibited signs characteristic of exposure, making this the first study to show that prenatal exposure to low, environmentally relevant concentrations of an obesogen led to transgenerational effects on white fat volume and changes in fat metabolism. Synopsis here: Tributyltin promotes obesity in mice generations.

Fetal growth and prenatal exposure to bisphenol a: the generation R study. Bisphenol A at levels commonly found in people may slow fetal growth, according to a Dutch study. Babies whose mothers had higher levels of BPA had smaller heads and weighed 20 percent less at birth compared with babies born to women with the lowest BPA levels.

Mixtures of xenoestrogens disrupt estradiol-induced non-genomic signaling and downstream functions in pituitary cells. This study concludes that in mixtures expected to be found in contaminated environments, xenoestrogens can have dramatic disrupting effects on hormonal mechanisms of cell regulation and their downstream functional responses, altering cellular responses to physiologic estrogens.

Environmental impact of medical prescriptions: assessing the risks and hazards of persistence, bioaccumulation and toxicity of pharmaceuticals. Stockholm County Council has developed a simple classification system covering both environmental risks and hazards of pharmaceuticals according to their persistence, bioaccumulation and toxicity. This classification, which is easy to understand and well accepted among Swedish medical doctors, could be a model for other countries and useful to general medical doctors wishing to be environmentally conscious in their prescribing.

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