News digest (Jan 2014): Highlights of recent chemical news & opinion

January 14, 2014 at 3:25 pm | Posted in News and Science Bulletins | Leave a comment

Safer chemicals | A toxic situation: Walmart and Target take on chemical safety. The US continues to permit some chemicals of concern, but these big-box stores are setting stricter policies. Are they shaping de facto industry standards for everyday products? (Guardian)

Flame retardants | Cancer-Linked Flame Retardants Eased Out of US Furniture in 2014. When the clock strikes midnight on December 31 2013, new regulations kick into effect that may help usher in an era of less pervasive flame retardants in our home furnishings. The move caps a years-long campaign to alter regulations inextricably linked with a tobacco industry that sought to elude production of self-extinguishing cigarettes designed to limit couch fires. Deception and intrigue led to a 1970s regulation that prompted the injection of chemicals into home furniture, stemming from a distortion of scientific findings that suggested flame retardants would be more effective at reducing sofa fires than they really are. In reality, retardants provide no meaningful protection, a finding uncovered in a 2012 investigative series by The Chicago Tribune and highlighted in a recent documentary Toxic Hot Seat. (Scientific American)

Chemical regulation | Sweden to call for further EU action on chemicals. Sweden will continue to push for EU action on chemicals in coming years, according to a new strategy released by its environment ministry. The 136-page document sets eight milestones to reduce the risks posed by hazardous chemicals, particularly concerning children. For example, it calls for measures on endocrine disruptors and allergenic substances by 2015. (ENDS)

Pesticides | Landmark legal case will probe the link between Parkinson’s disease and insecticide sprays used on long-haul flights. Long-haul flight attendants who have been forced to spray insecticide through aircraft cabins every time they landed in Australia fear the chemicals may have given them Parkinson’s disease. And experts have warned any frequent international flyer exposed to repeated doses of insecticide within an enclosed aircraft cabin could also face the same risk. (Herald Sun)

Anti-bacterial soaps | US FDA Wants Proof of Anti-Bacterial Soap Claims. The FDA says here are more than 2,200 anti-bacterial hand soaps and body washes currently available for consumers but no scientific evidence showing these products are more effective at preventing illness than washing hands with plain soap and water. Further, the risk of infection in everyday settings is relatively low, while some data suggest that long-term exposure to certain active ingredients used in anti-bacterial products could pose health risks such as bacterial resistance or hormonal effects. (MedPage Today)

Consensus on chemical hazards | Bridging the EDC divide. The gap that separates the opposing sides of the endocrine debate was never going to be bridged in one day. But when she brought them together for a meeting in October, EU chief scientific advisor Anne Glover was hoping to identify areas of scientific consensus and dissent, and in this she succeeded. (Chemical Watch)

Pollutants in breast milk | Breast milk harbors environmental pollutants. It’s advice that doctors impart to mothers over and over: Breast milk is the most nutritious, fortifying food they can feed their babies. But women may not be aware of the strong possibility that their milk is also less than pure, an unintended consequence of living in a developed nation. (San Francisco Chronicle)

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