Tuesday, November 13, 2007

What Chemical Is In You? ABC News Story

Here is a link to the ABC news story I caught online earlier today. "What Chemical Is In You?" http://abcnews.go.com/Video/playerIndex?id=3848254

(Come back after you watch the video)

In a nutshell:

Chemicals are showing up inside our bodies:

chemicals from plastic bottles
chemicals from lining of food and soda cans
chemicals from nail polish
chemicals from shampoo & conditioner

[I have to wonder: Did anyone seriously think that chemicals in everyday items wouldn't be absorbed by our bodies? Environmental pollutants like these are probably the biggest threat to your health today because you aren't even aware of the threat.]

The most shocking fact from the news story:

Scientists believe one chemical group – the phthalates – have caused male bass in the Potomac River to grow eggs in their testes. [Now there's a normal development, right?]

Here are the three chemicals being measured for levels absorbed by your body:

Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs)
Bisphenol A (BPAs)

Here is the rest of the story that the news didn't cover; some facts about these chemicals and their safety or lack thereof:


As of 2004, manufacturers produce about 363 thousand metric tonnes (800 million pounds or 400 000 short tons) of phthalates each year. They were first produced during the 1920s, and have been produced in large quantities since the 1950s, when PVC was introduced. The most widely used phthalates are di-2-ethyl hexyl phthalate (DEHP), diisodecyl phthalate (DIDP) and diisononyl phthalate (DINP). DEHP is the dominant plasticizer used in PVC, due to its low cost. Benzylbutylphthalate (BBzP) is used in the manufacture of foamed PVC, which is mostly used as a flooring material. Phthalates with small R and R' groups are used as solvents in perfumes and pesticides.

Phthalates are also frequently used in nail polish, fishing lures, adhesives, caulk, paint pigments……

Controversially, phthalates are still being used in modern pop-culture electronics. Notable recent examples include Apple Inc.'s iPhone and iPod, and personal computers. The company has been criticized by environmental supporters claiming that tests on a commercially purchased iPhone returned "toxic" levels of the chemical, prompting public declarations for change due to its associated hazards. [3].

Health effects

Phthalates are controversial because high doses of many phthalates have shown hormonal activity in rodent studies. Studies on rodents involving large amounts of phthalates have shown damage to the liver, the kidneys, the lungs, and the developing testes. In addition, a recent British study showed that the phthalate di(n-butyl) phthalate (DBP) or its metabolite monobutyl phthalate (MBP) suppresses steroidogenesis by fetal-type Leydig cells in primates as in rodents.[4]

2004 - a joint Swedish-Danish research team found a very strong link between allergies in children and the phthalates DEHP and BBzP.[5]

2005 - A study by Swan et al. reported that human phthalate exposure during pregnancy changed an anogenital measurement in the baby boys later born, a change that in rodents exposed to phthalates is associated with genital abnormalities. [6]

In the study at the University of Missouri in Columbia and other centers, urine samples were collected from pregnant women in four United States cities. All were found to have levels of phthalate residues in their urine.[7] Upon birth of the children whose mother's urine had been previously measured, the genital features and anogenital distance were measured and correlated with the residue levels in the mother's urine. In boys, the highest levels of residue were seven times more likely to have a shortened anogenital distance.



Polybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDE, are a flame retardant sub-family of the brominated flame retardant group. They have been used in a wide array of household products, including fabrics, furniture, and electronics. There are three main types, referred to as penta, octa and deca for the number of bromine atoms in the molecule. After studies in Sweden found substances related to PentaBDE accumulating in breast milk and other tissues, Sweden reduced the use of this substance. A follow-up study has in the meantime indicated declining levels.[1]

The European Union has carried out a comprehensive risk assessment under the Existing Substances Regulation 793/93/EEC of Penta-, Octa- and DecaBDE. As a consequence the EU has banned the use of Penta-and OctaBDE since 2004.

Health concerns

Since 1998, there have been concerns raised about the safety of PBDEs after Swedish scientists noticed substances related to PentaBDE were accumulating in human breast milk.[5] Based on a comprehensive risk assessment under the Existing Substances Regulation 793/93/EEC, the EU has banned the use of Penta- and OctaBDE since 2004.[6]

Some studies in Canada have found notable concentrations of PBDEs in common food products such as salmon, ground beef, butter, and cheese.[7] In Canada there is no set limit for what upper amount of PBDEs in the human body is still considered to be safe, but there remains concern in the general public that the PBDEs are having harmful effects on human health and the environment.

Environmental organizations argue that all PBDEs should be banned as they aren’t needed and replacements are available.[citation needed] But, the electronics industry claims that PBDEs are applied to most newly manufactured electronic assemblies such as printed circuit boards and capacitors and thus are vital to their business.[citation needed]

There is growing evidence that indicates these chemicals may possess liver toxicity, thyroid toxicity, and neurodevelopmental toxicity.[3]



Health risks

Bisphenol A is known to be an estrogen receptor agonist, which can activate estrogen receptors, leading to similar physiological effects as the body's own estrogens.[3] The first evidence of the estrogenicity of bisphenol A came from experiments in the 1930s in which it was fed to ovariectomized rats.[4][5] Some hormone disrupting effects in studies on animals and human cancer cells have been shown to occur at levels as low as 2-5 ppb (parts per billion). It has been claimed that these effects lead to health problems such as, in men, lowered sperm count and infertile sperm. Recent studies have confirmed that bisphenol A exposure during development has carcinogenic effects and produce precursors of breast cancer.[6] Bisphenol A has been shown to have developmental toxicity, carcinogenic effects, and possible neurotoxicity.[7][8] Recent studies suggest it may also be linked to obesity by triggering fat-cell activity.[9]

Bisphenol A has been known to leach from the plastic lining of canned foods and, to a lesser degree, certain plastics that are cleaned with harsh detergents or used to contain acidic or high-temperature liquids.[17] Infants fed with concentrated (canned) infant formula have among the highest exposures of anyone eating canned foods. Infants fed canned formula with polycarbonate bottles can consume quantities of bisphenol A up to 13 µg/kg/day.[18] The chemical is found in most people that live in developed countries at low concentrations. Debate continues on what is the safe limit of this compound. Within the United States, an exposure of up to 50 µg/kg/day (50 ppb) is considered safe - satisfying a thousandfold margin of safety[13] - by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.[19]

(In recent years, the EPA has been more favorably disposed to the corporations than the environment. You decide how far you want to trust what they consider "safe" levels of toxic substances.)


Given the statistics in my post "Very Scary Statistics" about the astronomically rising incidents of cancer, autism, depression, bipolar disorder, ADD/ADHD, and the deplorable state of general health in the United States, it would be my guess that the three substances mentioned above, among other "safe" chemicals, are creating illness the likes of which we have never seen before, and cannot control.

Unfortunately, it's probably not possible to completely avoid exposure to these toxic substances. The best we can do is to avoid the use of plastic food containers, avoid canned foods not only because of the plastic lining but the aluminum cans which have been implicated in Alzheimer's disease. Cook and store food in glass containers. Finally, get lots of sunshine to keep up your Vitamin D levels so your body won't be as stressed out by the chemicals to which you are exposed.

If you remember to do that, you will be helping yourself and your children to Live Long and Prosper.


Veggies.... said...

Wow M, scary indeed. I am guilty of using plastic food containers but we are working on switching to glass as much as possible, seems to be a better alternative. Threw out the saran wrap years ago though and don't use many canned foods. Really have to keep building up the immune system, with all these things bombarding us, dont we. thanks for another very interesting post.

Michelle said...

Here is what gets me the most: phthalates "were first produced during the 1920s, and have been produced in large quantities since the 1950s" which was just about the time that incidents of cancer began to rise sharply. I have long thought there is a relationship between plastics and cancer.

I do use one of those machines that seals food into a vacuum bag, but I always wrap the food in wax paper before putting it in the plastic baggie.

That is one of the problems I think we face...we eat food that is as user-friendly as possible, but most of it comes in plastic containers! (I'm thinking of my organic strawberries from the supermarket in their plastic box...good grief)

What I'd like an answer to is why is a chemical from the flame-retardant family being found in salmon, ground beef, butter, and cheese??

Geraldine said...

If you get an answer to that, let me know! Just like so many things, there is no GOOD answer, only insanity at times. Makes me want to move to a little bit of land, in an unpolluted (as possible) area and try to live as simply as possible. That's becoming a lot of people's dream, isn't it?

Michelle said...

Yes, I agree...move to someplace out of the way of pollution and live in voluntary simplicity. Works for me! :-)

That happens to be where you find the people who live the longest, too....in rural areas where the technology & pollution is less, and the outdoor living is more.

David said...

A carbon emission disaster is unfolding right under our noses. Local media coverage has been scant and narrow.

Dominion Power is the sole provider of electricity in Northern Virginia. Big, powerful, arrogant, old school.

Wants to build a 250+ transmission line so that it can buy cheap dirty coal-fired power (from some of the dirtiest generators in the country) and sell it cheap up the line .

They say they need to do it to “keep the lights on” in Northern Virginia.

Every outside industry expert … not just our greenie friends .. say that Dominion can take care of the need (yes, growing) through more responsible means …conservation and efficiency, combined with techniques (this is the eyes glaze over part) that other more progressive companies use already (distributed generation, demand-side management…Google those terms) and alternative fuels.

The only people activated are folks in more rural areas who are offended that the transmission line required (so say Dominion) would be made up of hundreds of 15-story power towers. Offensive yes. But what no one is focused on here in town is that Dominion is stuck in its ways and had no desire to get with the program, as far as reducing carbon emissions goes.

They have to apply to the Commonwealth of Virginia for permission to do this. Deadline for public comment is December 14. We’re an organization with a website that makes it very easy to email the state officials.

Sure would love your help in getting the word out. Anyone in DC area who cares about the environment can have so much more impact by objecting to this proposal, than a box full of fluorescent lights bulbs and recycling water bottles (not that there’s anything wrong with that!).

Website: www.virginiascommitment.org Check out blog.

Michelle said...

Thanks for stopping by David, and good luck!