Personal care products are possible sources of potentially harmful parabens for babies

Contact: Michael Bernstein m_bernstein@acs.org 202-872-6042 American Chemical Society

Through lotions, shampoos and other personal care products (PCPs), infants and toddlers are likely becoming exposed to potentially harmful substances, called parabens, at an even higher level than adult women in the U.S., researchers have reported. They published their findings on parabens, which have been linked to reproductive and other health issues, in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology. Continue reading “Personal care products are possible sources of potentially harmful parabens for babies”

Health Research Weekly Video Report 30 NOV 2012

Topics:
Potentially Toxic Flame Retardants found in Many U.S. Couches
More Facebook Friends means more Stress, says report
4 Common Antipsychotic Drugs found to lack safety and effectiveness in older adults
Bothered by Negative, Unwanted Thoughts? Just throw them away

New study: Many flame retardants in house dust — unsafe levels: study finds chemicals linked to cancer, learning problems, hormone disruption

Contact: Kathryn Rodgers rodgers@silentspring.org 617-332-4288 x225 Silent Spring Institute

Peer-reviewed study finds chemicals linked to cancer, learning problems, hormone disruption

A peer-reviewed study of the largest number of flame retardants ever tested in homes found that most houses had levels of at least one flame retardant that exceeded a federal health guideline. The journal Environmental Science & Technology will publish the study online on November 28, 12:01am Eastern.

The study led by scientists at Silent Spring Institute tested for 49 flame retardant chemicals in household dust, the main route of exposure for people and especially for children. Forty-four flame retardant chemicals were detected and 36 were found in at least 50% of the samples, sometimes at levels of health concern. The flame retardants found in house dust are in furniture, textiles, electronics, and other products and include hormone disruptors, carcinogens, and chemicals with unknown safety profiles.

The highest concentrations were found for chlorinated organophosphate flame retardants. This chemical group includes TCEP and TDCIPP (or chlorinated “Tris”), which are listed as carcinogens under California’s Proposition 65.

TDBPP (or brominated “Tris”) was banned from children’s pajamas in 1977 due to health concerns but is still allowed in other products, and was present in 75% of homes tested in 2011.

There are no federal rules requiring that flame retardants be safety tested. Among the limited number of flame retardants with EPA health risk guidelines, the study found five at levels higher than those guidelines — BDE 47, BDE 99, TCEP, TDCIPP and BB 153.

“Our study found that people are exposed to toxic flame retardants every day. These hazardous chemicals are in the air we breathe, the dust we touch and the couches we sit on. Many flame retardants raise health concerns, including cancer, hormone disruption, and harmful effects on brain development.  It is troubling to see that a majority of homes have at least one flame retardant at levels beyond what the federal government says is safe. Infants and toddlers who spend much time on the floor are at higher risk for exposure,” said Dr. Robin Dodson, a co-author of the study and a scientist with the Silent Spring Institute.

The study was conducted in California homes, because furniture manufacturers use flame retardants in products sold throughout the U.S. in order to meet California’s stricter flammability standard. Many health experts have called on California Governor Jerry Brown to make good on his promise to amend the requirement, which affects the health of people around the country.

This study complements a separate study, also being published in Environmental Science & Technology today (Nov. 28), that found many potentially problematic flame retardants in couches.  Both studies break new ground by revealing the wide range of flame retardants in use. The Silent Spring Institute study demonstrates that flame retardant chemicals in couches and other products wind up in house dust at levels of health concern.

Two PBDE formulations have been phased out due to health concerns, but other flame retardants with considerable evidence of toxicity, such as chlorinated organophosphates and HBCYD, appear to remain at high or increasing levels of use. Every home tested had HBCYD, which was prioritized by regulators in the US and Europe because of its persistence and concerns about human reproductive, neurological, and developmental effects.

Other flame retardants being used as replacements for PBDEs have unknown health implications.  The study found that levels of chemicals in Firemaster® 550 increased from 2006 to 2011, likely because it is being used as a replacement for PentaPBDE, which was phased out.

“When one toxic flame retardant is phased out, it’s being replaced by another chemical we either know is dangerous or suspect may be.  It’s not comforting to swap one hazardous chemical for its evil cousin. Instead, we should test chemicals before they are allowed on the market,” said Dr. Julia Brody, executive director of the Silent Spring Institute and co-author of the study.

Many of the detected chemicals show evidence of hormone disruption; in particular the PBDEs, HBCYD, and TBBPA affect thyroid hormone, which is important for brain development. The breakdown products of TDBPP (brominated “Tris”) damage DNA and cause mammary tumors in animal studies, raising concern about breast cancer in people.

“The potential harm from fire retardant chemicals used in furniture is very concerning. My research found that the California fire standard provides no meaningful protection against the hazard it addresses – furniture ignited by small flames. In view of the toxicity of substances put into furniture foam to meet the California standard, the rule does more harm than good,” according to Dr. Vytenis Babrauskas, an independent fire safety scientist.

Bird flu virus remains infectious up to 600 days in municipal landfills H5N1

2009 study posted for filing

 

Environmental Science & Technology

 

Amid concerns about a pandemic of swine flu, researchers from Nebraska report for the first time that poultry carcasses infected with another threat — the “bird flu” virus — can remain infectious in municipal landfills for almost 2 years. Their report is scheduled for the June 15 issue of ACS’ semi-monthly journal Environmental Science & Technology.

 

Shannon L. Bartelt-Hunt and colleagues note that avian influenza, specifically the H5N1 strain, is an ongoing public health concern. Hundreds of millions of chickens and ducks infected with the virus have died or been culled from flocks worldwide in efforts to control the disease. More than 4 million poultry died or were culled in a 2002 outbreak in Virginia, and the carcasses were disposed of in municipal landfills. Until now, few studies have directly assessed the safety of landfill disposal.

 

“The objectives of this study were to assess the survival of avian influenza in landfill leachate and the influence of environmental factors,” says the report. The data showed that the virus survived in landfill leachate — liquid that drains or “leaches” from a landfill — for at least 30 days and up to 600 days. The two factors that most reduced influenza survival times were elevated temperature and acidic or alkaline pH. “Data obtained from this study indicate that landfilling is an appropriate method for disposal of carcasses infected with avian influenza,” says the study, noting that landfills are designed to hold material for much longer periods of time.

Prions are not degraded by conventional sewage treatment processes

Re-Posted  for filing 2008
Contact: Michael Woods
m_woods@acs.org
202-872-4400
American Chemical Society

Persistence of Pathogenic Prion Protein during Simulated Wastewater Treatment Processes

IMAGE:Wastewater treatment plants do not reduce harmful proteins called prions that cause incurable brain infections, such as Mad Cow disease, scientists report.

Click here for more information. 

 
Environmental Science & Technology

Scientists in Wisconsin are reporting in a paper scheduled for the July 1 issue of ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology that typical wastewater treatment processes do not degrade prions. Prions, rogue proteins that cause incurable brain infections such as Mad Cow disease and its human equivalent, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, are difficult to inactivate, resisting extreme heat, chemical disinfectants, and irradiation. Until now, scientists did not know whether prions entering sewers and septic tanks from slaughterhouses, meatpacking facilities, or private game dressing, could survive and pass through conventional sewage treatment plants.

Joel Pedersen and colleagues used laboratory experiments with simulated wastewater treatment to show that prions can be recovered from wastewater sludge after 20 days, remaining in the “biosolids,” a byproduct of sewage treatment sometimes used to fertilize farm fields.

Although emphasizing that prions have never been reported in wastewater treatment plant water or biosolids, the researchers note that existing tests are not sufficiently sensitive to detect the extremely low levels of prions possible in those materials. — AD

ARTICLE #1 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE “Persistence of Pathogenic Prion Protein during Simulated Wastewater Treatment Processes”

DOWNLOAD FULL TEXT ARTICLEhttp://dx.doi.org/10.1021/es703186e

CONTACT:
Joel A. Pedersen, Ph.D.
University of Wisconsin
Madison, Wisconsin
Phone: (608) 263-4971
Fax: (608) 265-2595
Email: japedersen@soils.wisc.edu

New analysis of drinking water-related gastrointestinal illness: May Cause up to cause of up to 1.1 million annual cases of acute gastrointestinal illness

Contact: Michael Bernstein m_bernstein@acs.org 202-872-6042 American Chemical Society

The distribution system piping in U.S. public water systems that rely on non-disinfected well water or “ground water” may be a largely unrecognized cause of up to 1.1 million annual cases of acute gastrointestinal illness (AGI), involving nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, scientists are reporting. Their study in ACS’ journal Environmental Science & Technology concludes that such illnesses may become more of a problem as much of the nation’s drinking water supply system continues to age and deteriorate.

Frank J. Loge, Mark A. Borchardt and colleagues explain that more than 100 million people in the U.S. rely on water piped into homes, schools and businesses from public water systems that get their water from wells, rather than lakes, rivers and other above-ground sources. Much of that water either is not disinfected at all or is not adequately disinfected to kill disease-causing viruses.

Their new analysis of the risk of AGI from these well-based water supply systems concluded that contamination of distribution system piping may be responsible for 470,000 to 1.1 million cases of AGI every year. They also warn that the incidence of AGI from public water systems is likely to rise in coming years: “So far insufficient financial investments have been made to improve water infrastructure, and small systems are particularly at risk for lack of funds and personnel. As most of the national water distribution infrastructure is reaching the end of its design life in the coming decades, the frequency and health impacts of distribution system deficiencies will likely worsen.”

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The authors acknowledge support from U.S. EPA STAR.

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 164,000 members, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

To automatically receive news releases from the American Chemical Society, contact newsroom@acs.org.

New study links fate of personal care products to environmental pollution and human health concerns: Triclosan

Contact: Joe Caspermeyer
joseph.caspermeyer@asu.edu
480-727-0369
Arizona State University

Parental concerns in maintaining germ-free homes for their children have led to an ever-increasing demand and the rapid adoption of anti-bacterial soaps and cleaning agents. But the active ingredients of those antiseptic soaps now have come under scrutiny by the EPA and FDA, due to both environmental and human health concerns.

Two closely related antimicrobials, triclosan and triclocarban, are at the center of the debacle. Whereas triclosan (TCS) has long captured the attention of toxicologists due to its structural resemblance to dioxin (the Times Beach and Love Canal poison), triclocarban (TCC) has ski-rocketed in 2004 from an unknown and presumably harmless consumer product additive to one of today’s top ten pharmaceuticals and personal care products most frequently found in the environment and in U.S. drinking water resources.

Now, Biodesign Institute at Arizona State Univesity researcher Rolf Halden and co-workers, in a feat of environmental detective work, have traced back the active ingredients of soaps – used as long ago as the 1960s – to their current location, the shallow sediments of New York City’s Jamaica Bay and the Chesapeake Bay, the nation’s largest estuary.

“Our group has shown that antimicrobial ingredients used a half a century ago, by our parents and grandparents, are still present today at parts-per-million concentrations in estuarine sediments underlying the brackish waters into which New York City and Baltimore discharge their treated domestic wastewater,” said Halden, a new member of the institute’s Center for Environmental Biotechnology. “This extreme environmental persistence by itself is a concern, and it is only amplified by recent studies that show both triclosan and triclocarban to function as endocrine disruptors in mammalian cell cultures and in animal models.”

Aiding in his team’s research was another type of contamination: the radioactive fallout from nuclear testing conducted in the second half of the last century. Using the known deposition history and half-lives of two radioactive isotopes, cesium-137 and beryllium-7, Halden and his collaborators Steven Chillrud, Jerry Ritchie and Richard Bopp were able to assign the approximate time at which sediments observed to contain antimicrobial residues had been deposited in the two East Coast locations.

By analyzing vertical cores of sediment deposited over time in the two sampling locations on the East Coast, they showed that TCC, and to a lesser extent, TCS, can persist in estuary sediments. TCC was shown to be present at parts per million levels, which could represent unhealthy levels for aquatic life, especially the bottom feeders that are important to commercial fishing industries like shellfish and crabs.

In the Chesapeake Bay samples, the group noticed a significant drop in TCC levels that corresponded to a technology upgrade in the nearby wastewater treatment plant back in 1978. However, earlier work by the team had shown that enhanced removal of TCC and TCS in wastewater treatment plants leads to accumulation of the problematic antimicrobial substances in municipal sludge that often is applied on agricultural land for disposal. Lead author Todd Miller concludes that “little is actually degraded during wastewater treatment and more information is needed regarding the long term consequences these chemicals may have on environmentally beneficial microorganisms.”

Along the way of studying the deposition history of antimicrobials in sediments, the team also discovered a new pathway for the breakdown of antimicrobial additives of consumer products. Deep in the muddy sediments of the Chesapeake Bay, they found evidence for the activity of anaerobic microorganisms that assist in the decontamination of their habitat by pulling chlorine atoms one by one off the carbon backbone of triclocarban, presumably while obtaining energy for their metabolism in the process. “This is good news,” said Halden, “but unfortunately the process does not occur in all locations and furthermore it is quite slow. If we continue to use persistent antimicrobial compounds at the current rate, we are outpacing nature’s ability to decompose these problematic compounds.”

While combining bioenergy production and pollutant destruction has its own appeal, Halden sees a simpler solution to combating the pollution his team discovered: limit the use of antimicrobial personal care products to situations where they improve public health and save lives.

“The irony is that these compounds have no measurable benefit over the use of regular soap and water for hand washing; the contact time simply is too short.” Unfortunately this cannot be said for the bottom-dwelling organisms in the sampling locations on the East Coast. “Here,” Halden concludes, “the affected organisms are experiencing multi-generational, life-time exposures to our chemical follies.”

Halden is planning to continue his research on persistent antimicrobials by studying their body burden and associated health effects in susceptible populations including mothers and their babies.

 

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“Fate of Triclosan and Evidence for Reductive Dechlorination of Triclocarban in Estuarine Sediments” is an original research paper currently in press in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science & Technology. The work was funded in part by the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. The study’s authors are T. R. Miller, J. Heidler, S. N. Chillrud, A. DeLaquil, J. C. Ritchie, J. N. Mihalic, R. Bopp, and R. U. Halden.

Concern about plans to close unique Canadian environmental project

Contact: Michael Bernstein m_bernstein@acs.org 202-872-6042 American Chemical Society

The Canadian government’s plans to discontinue in 2013 a unique environmental research project that has yielded insights into water pollution, climate change and other topics for almost 40 years would be a “huge loss not only to science but to the scientific heritage of humanity.” That’s the focus of a viewpoint article in ACS’ journal Environmental Science & Technology.

J. G. Hering, D. L. Swackhamer and W. H. Schlesinger explain that the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) comprises 58 freshwater lakes and their watersheds in remote areas of the province of Ontario, where researchers can study how human influences impact complex, real-world waterways. The governments of Canada and Ontario put these waters under protection in 1968. Since then, scientists from around the world have conducted numerous long-term and ecosystem-scale experiments, producing 750 peer-reviewed reports, that the authors say would have been impossible elsewhere.

The Canadian government’s plans to shutter the ELA fostered widespread concern among scientists. The authors reflect that concern in arguing: “In a world facing unprecedented effects of global climate change, we can ill afford to abandon a facility that offers the unique combination of long-term monitoring and the capacity for ecosystem-scale experimentation.”

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The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 164,000 members, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

To automatically receive news releases from the American Chemical Society, contact newsroom@acs.org.

Study finds increasing atmospheric concentrations of new flame retardants

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Compounds used in new flame-retardant products are showing up in the environment at increasing concentrations, according to a recent study by researchers at Indiana University Bloomington.

The study, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, reports on concentrations of two compounds measured in atmospheric samples collected in the Great Lakes region between 2008 and 2010. Authors are doctoral student Yuning Ma, Assistant Research Scientist Marta Venier and Distinguished Professor Ronald A. Hites, all of the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

The chemicals — 2-ethylhexyl tetrabromobenzoate, also known as TBB; and bis(2-ethylhexyl) tetrabromophthalate, or TBPH — are used to reduce flammability in such products as electronic devices, textiles, plastics, coatings and polyurethane foams.

They are included in commercial mixtures that were introduced in recent years to replace polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDEs), widely used flame retardants that have been or are being removed from the market because of their tendency to leak from products into the environment.

“We find that the environmental concentrations of these compounds are increasing rather rapidly,” Hites said. “It’s rare to find that concentrations of any compound are doubling within a year or two, which is what we’re seeing with TBB and TBPH.”

The researchers measured concentrations of TBB and TBPH in 507 air samples collected at six locations on the shores of the Great Lakes. The samples were collected by the Integrated Atmospheric Deposition Network, a joint U.S.-Canada project, conducted by IU researchers, to monitor airborne toxic chemicals that are deposited in the Great Lakes.

The results constitute the first self-consistent data set that shows environmental concentrations of TBB and TBPH increasing relatively rapidly. Previous studies have found the compounds in sewage sludge in California, marine mammals in Hong Kong and household dust and furniture foam in the U.S.

As would be expected, the IU researchers found the largest concentrations of TBB and TBPH in atmospheric samples collected in urban areas: Chicago and, especially, Cleveland. But the compounds were also detected in about half the samples from remote sites at Sleeping Bear Dunes and Eagle Harbor in Michigan and Point Petre in Ontario, Canada. They also were detected at rural Sturgeon Point, N.Y.

TBPH was detected more frequently and in higher concentrations than TBB. The concentrations are similar to those reported previously by Hites and Venier for PBDEs at the Great Lakes sites, suggesting the newer-generation flame retardants may be replacing their predecessors in the environment.

First link between potentially toxic PFCs in office air and in office workers’ blood

In a first-of-its-kind study, scientists are reporting that the indoor air in offices is an important source of worker exposure to potentially toxic substances released by carpeting, furniture, paint and other items. Their report, which documents a link between levels of these so-called polyfluorinated compounds (PFCs) in office air and in the blood of workers, appears in ACS’ journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Michael McClean and colleagues explain that PFCs, used in water-repellent coatings on carpet and furniture, may have adverse effects on human health. The substances are widespread in the environment and in humans around the world. Scientists know that potential sources of exposure include food, water, indoor air, indoor dust and direct contact with PFC-containing objects. But the link between levels in air and blood had not been explored previously, so McClean’s group set out to fill that gap with a study of 31 office workers in Boston.

They found concentrations of a PFC called fluorotelomer alcohol (FTOH) in office air that were 3-5 times higher than those reported in previous studies of household air, “suggesting that offices may represent a unique and important exposure environment.” In addition, the study found a strong link between concentrations of FTOH in office air and perfluorooctanoic acid (a metabolite of FTOH) in the blood of office workers. The results also suggested that workers in newly renovated office buildings may receive considerably higher doses of PFCs than workers in older buildings