Author Archives: Lindsay McCormick

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 , , , , , , | Read 2 Responses

Evidence grows linking DEHP exposure to reproductive toxicity: What is the state of regulation?

Lindsay McCormick is a Research Analyst.

Phthalates are chemical plasticizers found in a wide array of industrial and consumer products, including polyvinyl chloride (PVC) piping and tubing, cosmetics, medical devices, plastic toys, and food contact materials.  Because phthalates are often not strongly chemically bound to these products, they can leach out of those products and into the environment around us. Given this, it may not be surprising that phthalates and their metabolites can be measured in the bodies of nearly all people tested.

This post reports on important new research on DEHP and summarizes the state of regulation of the chemical in the U.S. and abroad.   Read More »

Posted in Emerging Science, EU REACH, Health Policy, Health Science, Regulation, States| Tagged | Comments are closed

EPA identifies another risky chemical: Can it succeed in using TSCA to restrict it?

Lindsay McCormick is a Research Analyst.

Last week, EPA released a risk assessment on the chemical N-Methylpyrrolidone (NMP).  NMP is produced and imported into the U.S. in huge quantities (184 million pounds reported in 2012), and has a variety of uses including petrochemical processing, making plastics, and paint stripping.

Experiments in laboratory animals demonstrate that exposure to NMP during pregnancy leads to adverse developmental outcomes in the offspring, such as low birth weight, skeletal malformations, and mortality (see here and here).

EPA’s assessment focused exclusively on NMP exposure from its presence in products used to remove paint and other coatings.  Because of NMP’s potential to disrupt fetal development, EPA assessed exposures in women of childbearing age.

EPA found that exposure to NMP-based paint strippers in women of childbearing age beyond four hours per day presents risks that cannot be mitigated from use of protective gear such as gloves and respirators.  Risks obviously could be greater, even for shorter exposure times, if protective equipment is not consistently used.   Read More »

Posted in Health Policy, Regulation, TSCA Reform| 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

Getting under the surfac-tants: EDF comments support EPA regulations to limit their risks

Lindsay McCormick is a Research AnalystRichard Denison, Ph.D., is a Lead Senior Scientist

Today EDF submitted comments supporting EPA’s proposal to limit the use of two groups of toxic chemicals that have historically been widely used as, or to make, surfactants in consumer and commercial cleaning products.  The chemicals, nonylphenols (NPs) and nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs), are produced in high volumes for a variety of industrial uses and consumer products, some of which have led to widespread water pollution.  The chemicals are highly toxic to aquatic organisms, and also pose significant potential human health risks.

In October, EPA proposed a Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) for these chemicals that would require any company intending to begin manufacture or import of these chemicals to notify EPA prior to doing so, thereby allowing EPA to evaluate the risks associated with the proposed use of the chemical and to take action if appropriate.

SNURs are one of the few regulatory tools that EPA has to seek to restrict the use of chemicals under the nation’s outdated chemical safety law, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

While EDF’s comments generally support EPA’s proposed rule, they also raise some concerns.  Some highlights of our comments are described below.   Read More »

Posted in EPA, Health Policy, Health Science| Tagged , , | Comments are closed

More than skin-deep: Have we underestimated the role of dermal exposures to BPA?

Lindsay McCormick is a Research AnalystRichard Denison, Ph.D., is a Lead Senior Scientist

Bisphenol A (BPA) is an endocrine-disrupting chemical, and has been associated with health effects such as premature puberty and developmental neurotoxicity.  Massive quantities of BPA – about 10 billion pounds and rising – are produced each year, making it one of the highest volume chemicals in commerce.  For that reason alone, it may not be surprising that scientists find BPA in the urine of nearly all people they test. 

It has generally been thought that exposure to BPA primarily comes from dietary sources (see here and here) due to its use in food packaging products such as metal cans and polycarbonate bottles.  Based on these concerns and market pressure, FDA amended its regulations to no longer provide for the use of BPA-based materials in baby bottles, sippy cups, and infant formula packaging, and France passed a law banning BPA in all food packaging containers as a precautionary measure. 

However, there is growing evidence that non-dietary sources of BPA exposure may be important.  One potentially overlooked but significant source of exposure is the use of BPA to make thermal receipts, which are commonly used in cash registers and ATMs.  Unlike BPA used to make food packaging, which uses polymerized or otherwise chemically bound BPA molecules, thermal receipts are coated with BPA in free form, only loosely attached to the paper.

A study just published by researchers at the University of Missouri and the Universite de Toulouse suggests that we may be underestimating the role of dermal exposure to BPA from handling of thermal receipts, especially in certain common settings.  The researchers tested the impact that use of a hand sanitizer immediately preceding handling a thermal paper receipt has on the transfer and absorption of BPA.  Hand sanitizers and other skin care products may contain chemicals called “dermal penetration enhancers,” which increase skin permeability, for example, to facilitate drug delivery.  Read More »

Posted in Emerging Science, Health Policy, Health Science, Regulation, Uncategorized| Tagged , | Comments are closed
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