EDF Health

New study links PFAS exposure and body weight regulation

Ryan O’Connell is a High Meadows Fellow

Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), sometimes referred to by the broader term “PFCs” (perfluorinated chemicals), are a large class of chemicals used to make products water- or grease-resistant. They can be found in everything from nonstick cookware and clothing to food packaging and adhesives. While PFAS have useful commercial and industrial applications, these chemicals also persist in the environment and in people, and a number of them have been shown to be very toxic.

Read More »

Posted in EPA, FDA, Health Policy, Health Science / Comments are closed

Making “safer” accessible to all

Lindsay McCormick is a Research Analyst.

I find purchasing shampoo and other common personal care products to be a surprisingly stressful experience – I pace the aisles at the drugstore for a good 10-15 minutes, read every product ingredient list, contemplate the legitimacy of claims like “paraben-free” or “no artificial colors or fragrances,” and weigh the impact on my wallet. In the end, I usually choose a moderately priced product with some sort of ingredient safety claim brightly printed on the front label, and hope the extra $2 I spent will actually reduce my exposure to hazardous chemicals.

Many consumers are hungry for information and solutions that help reduce their exposure to toxic chemicals.  As more research links exposures to common ingredients in personal care products and health impacts – like certain parabens to reduced fertility; certain phthalates to asthma, reproductive disorders, and neurological effects; and triclosan to obesity – many consumers want to feel empowered to take action. That’s why the results of a recent intervention study are so intriguing: researchers found that exposures to certain chemicals fell in a population of low-income Latina girls after using personal care products labeled as being free of such chemicals for three days.

The implications of this study raise several interesting questions that I’ll explore in this post. Specifically, are personal shopping choices an effective way to avoid chemical exposures?  And, is this strategy equally available to everyone in our society?   Read More »

Posted in Emerging Science, FDA, Health Policy, Health Science, Markets and Retail / Tagged , , | Comments are closed

Evidence mounts on BPA’s adverse effects on human health

Lindsay McCormick is a Research Analyst.

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a high production volume chemical that is used to make polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins.  It is commonly found in food and beverage packaging, such as plastic bottles and the lining of food cans, as well as thermal paper receipts (see our previous blog).  BPA is widely-recognized as an endocrine-disrupting chemical, meaning that it can alter the normal functioning of the body’s hormonal system.  Hundreds of studies have been published associating BPA exposure with health effects, ranging from cancer to obesity to attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.  Data from the Center for Disease and Control (CDC) show that nearly all people tested have BPA in their bodies.

Despite a plethora of data, numerous calls for action (for example, see here, here and here), and comprehensive regulation in France, it does not seem that national regulation of BPA in food packaging in the U.S. will be happening any time soon.  The official position of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is that, while BPA exhibits endocrine-disrupting properties at high doses, it is safe at the current levels occurring in food.  Although the FDA banned the use of BPA-based materials in baby bottles, sippy cups, and infant formula packaging in 2012, FDA said it based this action on changes in the market, rather than safety concerns.

In the fall of 2014, FDA completed a four-year review of the literature, including more than 300 scientific studies, and concluded that the information does not “prompt a revision of FDA’s safety assessment of BPA in food packaging at this time.”

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recently followed suit with their announcement that BPA does not pose a health risk to consumers, including children, at current exposure levels.  (This is in contrast to the action of several EU member states, which have banned BPA in food contact materials for children under 3 years of age over the past few years.)

Meanwhile, scientists continue to churn out studies linking low-level BPA exposure to a variety of health effects.  In this post, we discuss several new studies.   Read More »

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

New bill puts BPA back in the spotlight

Sarah Vogel, Ph.D., is Director of EDF’s Health Program.

The hotly debated chemical BPA is back in the policy spotlight. This week Senator Edward Markey (D-Mass) joined Representatives Lois Capps (D-CA) and Grace Meng (D-NY) to announce the Ban Poisonous Additives (BPA) Act.  The bill would ban the use of BPA or bisphenol A from food packaging and mandates extensive consideration of the hazardous properties of any BPA alternative, so as to avoid substituting chemicals that may pose just as many health risks (as increasingly it appears to be with the case of the common BPA replacement, BPS).

Low dose exposure to BPA has been associated with a wide range of health effects including behavioral problems, prostate, breast and liver cancer as well as obesity.  A study released just last week demonstrated how low dose exposure to BPA during fetal development can alter gene expression in the mammary gland of female rats, resulting in abnormal development of the breast and increased susceptibility to breast cancer later in life.   Read More »

Posted in Health Policy, Health Science, Regulation / Tagged | Read 1 Response

Linking everyday chemicals to disease: New science keeps on intensifying the writing on the wall

Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.

As a Washington policy geek, it’s sometimes hard not to let the ups and downs of political prospects for achieving real improvements in public health protections from toxic chemicals get me down.  The tenacity with which some stakeholders insist on throwing wrenches into the works to block efforts to reach middle ground is indeed depressing.

But through it all, there is one constant that continually restores my optimism that we’ll eventually get where we need to get to:  Science keeps moving forward and inexorably points toward the need for reform.  I will use this post to briefly highlight four recent studies that demonstrate the changing landscape of our knowledge of how environmental factors, including toxic chemical exposures, are affecting our health.  What’s noteworthy about these studies is that they all identified adverse health effects in human populations, and linked those effects to early-life exposures.  They all also illustrate the complex interplay between chemical exposures and social or other environmental factors that directly challenges the overly simplistic and non-scientific approach to causation that our chemicals policies have taken for decades.

Below are summaries of and links to these new studies:

  • Early-life exposure to PCE is associated with later-life risky behaviors.
  • Phthalate exposure is associated with excess weight in New York City children.
  • Exposure to perfluorinated chemicals may interfere with childhood vaccine effectiveness.
  • Epigenetic changes are associated with socio-economic status and biomarkers for cardiovascular disease.

Read More »

Posted in Emerging Science, Health Science / Tagged , , , , , , , | Read 2 Responses

A new power couple: The combined impact of the microbiome and chemical exposures on disease susceptibility (Part 2 of 2)

Allison Tracy is a Chemicals Policy Fellow. EDF Health Scientist Dr. Jennifer McPartland and Senior Scientist Dr. Richard Denison contributed to this post.

In Part 1 of this two-part post, I reviewed scientific evidence that the gut microbiome interacts with ingested chemicals to influence susceptibility to obesity and diabetes.  This hypothesis is the focus of a recent review article by Suzanne Snedeker and Anthony Hay.  Having reviewed evidence of the link between the microbiome and obesity and diabetes as well as the link between chemical exposures and obesity and diabetes, we now proceed to address this question:  Can the gut microbiome act in concert with ingested synthetic chemicals to predispose people to obesity and diabetes?

Read More »

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