News Digest (Nov 2013): Recent news and comment about chemical toxicity and regulation

November 19, 2013 at 12:36 pm | Posted in News and Science Bulletins | Leave a comment

When scientists attack. Spend extended time reading the science press, and it’s easy to think that science is a one-note story about the amazing discoveries that happen in test tubes and laboratories. In reality, there’s a plethora of under-covered science angles, most notably the politics of research funding and science policy. See also: Scientists who attacked EU chemicals policy had industry ties; Scientist with extensive industry ties quits EU advisory panel; Scientists’ Ties to Food Industry Raise Questions in Europe.

Stronger laws steer innovation on the right path. Correspondence. Sir, Your article “Government in danger of stifling bright ideas” (Innovation and the Economy, Special Report, October 17) unfortunately quotes self-interested assertions by 12 large corporations regarding their position on precaution, without adequate discussion of opposing views from businesses or civil society.

California law may cut use of flame retardants in buildings. Officials will have to consider whether flame retardants are necessary for fire safety in light of studies that show that some of the most commonly used compounds have dangerous or unknown health effects.

Chemical Safety Legislation Backed by ANA, Physicians. ANA has long advocated for more tightly regulating toxic chemicals in the health care workplace and the environment. ANA has supported previous legislative efforts to reform the toxic substance approval, monitoring and restriction process, including reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act.

Getting Real About Chemical Risks. Many people assume that the chemicals in their detergents, floor cleaners, and other household products have undergone rigorous safety testing. But little is known about the potential risks associated with most of the estimated 80,000 chemicals in commerce today. While industry tries to dispel links to illnesses that go beyond what science can prove, the public is skeptical because companies have a financial stake in showing their products are safe. This leads both sides to look to the federal government for help.

Health fears over rise in pesticides on fruit. A new report shows that the amount of pesiticides applied by soft-fruit growers centred in Angus, Scotland, leapt by 38 per cent per hectare between 2010 and 2012. This included a 36 per cent rise in the use of chlorpyrifos, an organophosphate insecticide that has been linked to ill health in agricultural workers.

This Is Your Brain on Toxins. So what are the lessons from the human catastrophe of lead poisoning over so many decades? To Nicholas Krystof, today’s version of the lead industry is the chemical industry — companies like Exxon Mobil, DuPont, BASF and Dow Chemical — over the years churning out endocrine-disruptor chemicals that mimic the body’s hormones. Endocrine disruptors are found in everything from plastics to pesticides, toys to cosmetics, and there are growing concerns about their safety.

Firms act on problem chemicals. Three major U.S. companies took steps recently to replace problematic chemicals with safer ones in consumer products. Environmental and health advocates are cheering, predicting that the changes will ripple outward and help reshape the market, potentially transforming thousands of cleaning, personal care, and baby products. See also: Shoppers move Target to address toxic chemicals.

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