New Wristband Technology Illuminates Chemical Asthmagens in our Environment

Lindsay McCormick is a Research Analyst.

Asthma presents a huge public health challenge.  Over the past few decades, asthma rates in the U.S. have nearly tripled – increasing from 3.1% in 1980 to 8.4% in 2010. Today, more than 25 million people suffer from this chronic respiratory illness.

While air pollution and allergens like pet dander are clearly big triggers for asthma, we know that certain chemical exposures play an important role as well.  A number of chemicals used in everyday consumer products – from household cleaners and building materials to shampoos and cosmetics – are known or suspected "asthmagens"– environmental agents that cause or exacerbate asthma.  Unfortunately, such chemicals are poorly regulated and we, as individuals, rarely have any way of knowing which ones are lurking in our environment.

EDF recently conducted a pilot project to explore which chemicals we are exposed to in our day-to-day lives.  The project employed simple chemical-detecting wristbands that absorb certain chemicals present in the environment.  We enlisted 28 volunteers to become “environmental sensors” for a week by wearing the wristbands.

Among the results:  Over the course of that week, the participants came into contact with a total of 57 potentially hazardous chemicals, 16 of which are linked to respiratory health effects such as asthma.   Read More »

Posted in Emerging Testing Methods, Health Policy, Health Science| Tagged , , , , , | 2 Responses

Towards Safer Food Additives

Tom Neltner, Chemicals Policy Director.

EDF strives to make safer food available by partnering with companies to reduce and eliminate potentially unsafe chemical food additives and supporting efforts to fix a broken regulatory system.

For many years this blog has focused on the safety of chemicals and nanomaterials used in industrial and consumer products.  Most of these substances are regulated federally by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  But we also encounter chemicals in other ways, including those present in or added to food.  Such chemicals are regulated under a different law, the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act (FFDCA), administered by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  This blog introduces EDF’s “Safer Food Additives” initiative to get unsafe and questionable chemicals out of our food by using dual levers of change—corporate leadership and public policy.   Making our food trustworthy demands leadership in both the private sector and the FDA.

The food market is changing rapidly as manufacturers work to keep up with consumer concerns about what’s in our food. And it’s not just about added sugar, salt and trans fats, or whether the food was grown locally or with or without pesticides. Public campaigns increasingly put the spotlight on many chemicals commonly used in food and food packaging—food additives—with growing scientific evidence questioning the safety of their use.

Consumer concern re foodA respected industry survey released in May 2015 showed that 36% of consumers rated chemicals in food as their most important food safety concern – greater than pathogens, pesticides, animal antibiotics and allergens, and up from 23% in 2014 and 9% in 2011. These concerns translated into action; 45% of consumers reported changing their buying habits.   Read More »

Posted in FDA, Food, Health Policy, Markets and Retail| Tagged , , , , | Comments are closed

What does BPA have to do with metabolism, mazes and my mom?

Jonathan Choi is a chemicals policy fellow.

flickr user: ebarney

Creative Commons. flickr user: ebarney

[CORRECTED 11-6-15:  Two statements in this post have been corrected as indicated below.]

Last week my mom called me out of the blue with a question on chemicals. You see, in my family, we make (and eat) a lot of kimchi—that spicy, wonderful, fermented cabbage that is ubiquitous in Korean cuisine. For my entire life, we’ve been using the same hard plastic containers to store and ferment kimchi in the basement fridge. My mom was calling me because those containers were getting pretty old and she wanted to replace them. She was wondering whether she should pay a bit more to buy kimchi containers that were explicitly labeled “BPA free.”

Read More »

Posted in Emerging Science, Health Science| Tagged | Comments are closed

It’s not ‘either/or’

Richard Denison, a Lead Senior Scientist.

A recent column in the New York Times focused on some differences that have surfaced inside the environmental community during the long fight for federal chemicals policy reform. I’d like to write today about what we have in common, and how our differences can make us stronger—because I don’t want anyone to be left with the false impression that EDF believes there is only one strategy for environmentalists to pursue on the road to reform.

While we believe our approach of bipartisan engagement has been effective in moving and improving legislation to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), we also understand and appreciate the strategies employed by other groups.  Principled opponents of legislative proposals have helped to identify legitimate concerns and to pressure lawmakers to address those concerns.  Collectively, these varied efforts have yielded a strong bipartisan Senate bill that will advance protections for public health and the environment.

EDF believes that the longstanding efforts of many state governments and state- and local-based advocates have also been essential to get us to where we are today.  These efforts have both directly addressed risks posed by toxic chemicals, and driven the chemical industry to the negotiating table on TSCA reform after years of complacency.

As essential as that state-level work has been and remains, we believe it is not sufficient.  We must also secure a strong federal system that provides EPA with the authority and resources needed to establish nationwide protections from chemical risks.  From the beginning, one of the biggest challenges in strengthening TSCA has been to strike an appropriate balance between state and federal authority.  EDF was clear early on that initial bipartisan legislative proposals were far too sweeping in their preemption of state authority (see, for example, pages 1 and 8 of my 2013 testimony on the Chemical Safety Improvement Act).  For the past two and a half years, we have worked diligently to press lawmakers to narrow that preemption and retain a strong role for states, while preserving the solid bipartisan support that is essential for getting a bill to the President’s desk.

While we have supported the Lautenberg Act, we have also fought for improvements in the bill.  As improvements were made, 60 Senators, including progressive Democrats like Sens. Whitehouse and Markey, have come to support to the bill.

Getting a strong TSCA reform bill enacted into law has demanded, and will continue to demand, input from a broad set of stakeholders. Differences in strategy and approach can strengthen, rather than diminish, that outcome.


Posted in Health Policy, TSCA Reform| Tagged | Comments are closed

Sens. Dick Durbin and Ed Markey Announce Support for the Lautenberg Act

EDF Action Statement on Key New Support for Senate’s Chemical Safety Legislation
Sens. Dick Durbin and Ed Markey Announced Support for the Lautenberg Act

Washington, D.C. (October 2, 2015) – Today Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Ed Markey (D-MA) announced their support for the Lautenberg Act, Senator Udall’s comprehensive legislation to fix America’s primary chemical safety law, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

Elizabeth Thompson, President of EDFAction commented on today’s announcement:

“Today’s announcement from Senators Durbin, Markey and Udall is another major step forward in securing comprehensive legislation to ensure chemical safety. Their hard work has further strengthened a bill that is now poised to earn huge support from both sides of the aisle in the Senate. Since Frank Lautenberg’s death more than two years ago, Sen. Udall has worked tenaciously to shepherd the Lautenberg Act through the legislative process. Sens. Markey and Durbin are the latest Senators to roll up their sleeves and work to both strengthen the bill and keep it moving. Today we are even closer to a new law that can finally protect public health and the environment from harmful chemicals.”

Sens. Durbin and Markey announced their support along with changes to the bill made since the Committee markup in March.  The bill that now appears headed for the Senate floor is the result of more than two years of negotiations led on the Democratic side by the chief sponsor Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) as well as Sens. Tom Carper (D-DE), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Cory Booker (D-NJ).  These members have worked with the chief Republican sponsor Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) and EPW Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-OK).  With the additional support of Sens. Durbin and Markey, it is clear the bill is primed to receive overwhelming support in the Senate. Reports indicate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell may bring the bill to the Senate floor any day.


Posted in Health Policy, TSCA Reform| Tagged | Comments are closed

Prominent national groups urge the Senate to pass the Lautenberg Act

Richard Denison, a Lead Senior Scientist.

Senior officials from a diverse group of eight prominent national public health, environmental, labor, wildlife, and animal welfare organizations sent a letter today to Senate leaders urging them to act on the Senate’s bipartisan chemical safety reform legislation.

The organizations, which collectively represent more than 25 million Americans, are:


  • Environmental Defense Fund
  • The Humane Society of the United States
  • International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
  • March of Dimes
  • Moms Clean Air Force
  • National Wildlife Federation
  • North America's Building Trades Unions
  • Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

The letter, addressed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Harry Reid, requests that they bring the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act to the floor of the Senate for a vote as soon as possible.  The Lautenberg ActS. 697, is the bipartisan legislation to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the nation’s primary chemical safety law, which is nearly 40 years old and widely acknowledged to be badly broken.

The Lautenberg Act was introduced in the Senate in March and passed in revised form out of the Environment and Public Works Committee in April on a strong bipartisan vote.  With 52 cosponsors hailing from 33 states, the bill is poised to receive strong support on the Senate floor.  The groups noted that the bill represents an historic opportunity to update and strengthen our chemical safety and better protect American families, workers, wildlife and the environment.

The diverse nature of the organizations signing the letter urging passage of the Lautenberg Act is testament to the broad consensus as to both the need for TSCA reform and the strength of the legislation.

The joint letter is available here.  For more background on the Lautenberg Act and how it would address the key flaws of TSCA, click here.

Posted in Health Policy, TSCA Reform| Comments are closed
  • About this blog

    Science, health, and business experts at Environmental Defense Fund comment on chemical and nanotechnology issues of the day.
    Our work: Chemicals

  • Get blog posts by email

    Subscribe via RSS

  • Filter posts by tags

    • aggregate exposure (10)
    • Alternatives assessment (3)
    • American Chemistry Council (ACC) (57)
    • arsenic (3)
    • asthma (4)
    • Australia (1)
    • Behind the Label (1)
    • biomonitoring (9)
    • bipartisan (6)
    • bisphenol A (22)
    • BP Oil Disaster (18)
    • California (1)
    • Canada (7)
    • carbon nanotubes (24)
    • carcinogen (22)
    • Carcinogenic Mutagenic or Toxic for Reproduction (CMR) (12)
    • CDC (6)
    • Chemical Assessment and Management Program (ChAMP) (13)
    • chemical exposure (1)
    • chemical identity (30)
    • chemical testing (2)
    • Chemicals in Commerce Act (3)
    • Chicago Tribune (6)
    • children's safety (24)
    • China (10)
    • computational toxicology (11)
    • Confidential Business Information (CBI) (54)
    • conflict of interest (8)
    • consumer products (50)
    • Consumer Specialty Products Association (CSPA) (4)
    • contamination (4)
    • cumulative exposure (4)
    • data requirements (47)
    • dermal exposure (1)
    • Design for Environment (1)
    • diabetes (4)
    • DNA methylation (4)
    • DuPont (11)
    • endocrine disruption (30)
    • epigenetics (4)
    • exposure and hazard (49)
    • FDA (9)
    • flame retardants (20)
    • food additives (1)
    • formaldehyde (15)
    • fragrances (1)
    • front group (13)
    • general interest (22)
    • Globally Harmonized System (GHS) (5)
    • Government Accountability Office (5)
    • GRAS (1)
    • hazard (6)
    • High Production Volume (HPV) (23)
    • in vitro (14)
    • in vivo (11)
    • industry tactics (44)
    • informed substitution (1)
    • inhalation (18)
    • IUR/CDR (27)
    • Japan (3)
    • Lautenberg Act (21)
    • lead (6)
    • markets (1)
    • mercury (4)
    • methylmercury (2)
    • microbiome (3)
    • nanosilver (6)
    • National Academy of Sciences (NAS) (20)
    • National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) (7)
    • National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) (5)
    • National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) (7)
    • National Toxicology Program (1)
    • New chemicals (2)
    • obesity (6)
    • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) (3)
    • Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) (4)
    • Office of Management and Budget (OMB) (16)
    • Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT) (3)
    • oil dispersant (18)
    • PBDEs (16)
    • Persistent Bioaccumulative and Toxic (PBT) (22)
    • pesticides (7)
    • phthalates (19)
    • polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) (5)
    • prenatal (6)
    • prioritization (35)
    • report on carcinogens (1)
    • revised CSIA (4)
    • risk assessment (70)
    • Safe Chemicals Act (24)
    • Safer Chemicals Healthy Families (33)
    • Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) (20)
    • Small business (1)
    • snur (1)
    • South Korea (4)
    • styrene (6)
    • Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC) (15)
    • systematic review (1)
    • test rule (18)
    • tributyltin (3)
    • trichloroethylene (TCE) (4)
    • TSCA Modernization Act (9)
    • Turkey (3)
    • U.S. states (14)
    • vulnerable populations (1)
    • Walmart (3)
    • worker safety (23)
    • WV chemical spill (11)