Selected category: Health Science

EPA to consider perchlorate risks from degradation of hypochlorite bleach

Tom Neltner, J.D.is Chemicals Policy Director and Maricel Maffini, Ph.D., Consultant

Virtually all types of food contain measurable amounts of perchlorate. Young children are the most highly exposed, and they consume levels that may be unsafe. Reducing exposure to perchlorate is of public health importance because it presents a risk to children’s brain development

One potentially significant source of the toxic chemical in food is hypochlorite bleach that, when not well managed, degrades to perchlorate. Bleach is used to sanitize food manufacturing equipment or to wash or peel fruits and vegetables. Thanks to a recent decision by Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Pesticide Programs, we will better understand the risk posed by perchlorate-contaminated bleach and whether standards are needed to improve the management of bleach.

Reduce perchlorate exposure by improving bleach management

In 2011, an excellent report by the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and the Water Research Foundation documented that hypochlorite bleach degrades into perchlorate. The report also included guidelines on better management of hypochlorite to preserve its effectiveness for drinking water utilities using it to disinfect water.

Most of AWWA’s recommendations are equally relevant to food manufacturers and anyone using bleach to disinfect food contact surfaces. The key recommendations are:

  • Dilute hypochlorite solutions on delivery. Cutting the concentration in half decreases the degradation rate by a factor of 7.
  • Store hypochlorite solutions at lower temperatures. Reducing temperature by 5oC decreases degradation rate by a factor of 2.
  • Keep pH between 11 and 13 even after dilution.
  • Avoid extended storage times, and use fresh hypochlorite solutions when possible.

The objective is not to reduce the use of bleach. Rather it is to preserve its effectiveness by preventing degradation to perchlorate through careful management.

Bleach: a food additive and a pesticide

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Also posted in Drinking Water, Emerging Science, FDA, Food, perchlorate, Regulation| Tagged , , , , , , | Comments are closed

When it comes to lead, formula-fed infants get most from water and toddlers from food, but for highest exposed children the main source of lead is soil and dust

Tom Neltner, J.D.is Chemicals Policy Director

On January 19, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a major new draft report proposing three different approaches to setting health-based benchmarks for lead in drinking water. We applauded EPA’s action and explored the implications for drinking water in a previous blog. One of the agency’s approaches provides useful, and surprising, insights into where the lead that undermines the health of our children comes from. Knowing the sources enables regulators and stakeholders to set science-based priorities to reduce exposures and the estimated $50 billion that lead costs society each year.

The EPA draft report is available for public comments until March 6, 2017, and it is undergoing external peer-review by experts in the field in support of the agency’s planned revisions to its Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) for drinking water. Following this public peer-review process, EPA expects to evaluate and determine what specific role or roles a health-based value may play in the revised LCR. With the understanding that some of the content may change, here are my takeaways from the draft:

  • For the 20% of most exposed infants and toddlers, dust/soil is the largest source of lead. Since we know that 21% of U.S. homes (24 out of 114 million) have lead-based paint hazards, this should not be surprising.
  • For most infants, lead in water and soil/dust have similar contributions to blood lead levels, with food as a smaller source. If the infant is formula-fed, water dominates.
  • For 2/3 of toddlers, food appears to provide the majority of their exposure to lead. This result was a surprise for me. EPA used data from the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Total Diet Study collected from 2007 to 2013 coupled with food consumption data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey collected from 2005 to 2011. In August 2016, FDA reported on levels of lead (and cadmium in food) commonly eaten by infants and toddlers based on a data set that is different from its Total Diet Study. FDA concluded that these levels, “on average, are relatively low and are not likely to cause a human health concern.”
  • For all children, air pollution appears to be a minor source of lead exposure. We think it is most likely because exposure is localized around small airports and industrial sources.

For a visual look at the data, we extracted two charts from the draft EPA report (page 81) that show the relative contribution of the four sources of lead for infants (0-6 month-olds) and toddlers (1 to <2 year-olds) considered by the agency. The charts represent national exposure distributions and not specific geographical areas or age of housing.

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Also posted in Drinking Water, Emerging Science, EPA, FDA, Food, Health Policy, lead| Tagged , , , , , , | Comments are closed

Introducing our new podcast: You Make Me Sick!

[Edited on 17 February 2017. Click here to subscribe via iTunes or Google Play]

Today we are launching the second episode of our podcast, You Make Me Sick! On this episode, we talked with Dr. Brett Finlay, author of “Let Them Eat Dirt”, about the fascinating world of microbes.

Dr. Finlay’s research focuses on how bacteria and other tiny microorganisms living in and on us might not be all bad. We caught up with him in New York City to learn about fecal transplants and asthma, and to get some new evidence in the never-ending dogs vs. cats debate. Click below to listen.

 

[EPISODE 1 – Impact of lead on the developing brain]

Working at EDF’s Health Program, we learn new and fascinating things about the science of environmental health every day. We decided these stories of how chemicals can affect our health are too interesting and important to keep to ourselves. In order to bring you the latest and greatest in scientific research around environmental health, EDF Health is proud to present our new podcast, You Make Me Sick, hosted by yours truly and Dr. Jennifer McPartland.

Over the next few months, this podcast, which will be released every few weeks, will bring you the latest research from experts in the field of environmental health. We will be sitting down with them to discuss where the science has been, is, and will be.

Our first interview was with Dr. Bruce Lanphear, a professor at Simon Fraser University with expertise in children’s environmental health. His research ranges from childhood exposures to pesticides, mercury, tobacco smoke and other chemicals of concern. In this episode, we sat down with him in the EDF Washington office to learn specifically about how lead exposure affects children.

Click below to listen. While you're at it, make sure to subscribe to us via iTunes or Google Play!

Posted in Health Science| Tagged | Read 1 Response

A non-estrogenic alternative to Bisphenol A at last?

Cans

A non-estrogenic alternative to Bisphenol A at last?

Sarah Vogel, Ph.D.is Vice-President for Health.

Last week a new study was published showing promising results for a non-estrogenic alternative to polymers based on bisphenol A (BPA) used to line the  inside of food cans.  The paper, in Environmental Science & Technology (ES&T), evaluated the estrogenicity of an alternative to BPA— tetramethyl bisphenol F (TMBPF) — and its final polymer product developed by Valspar, a major paint and resin company. The authors found that, unlike BPA and some of its analogs that have been used as substitutes, TMBPF exhibited no signs of estrogenicity.

This was an unusual paper on a number of fronts—how the material was selected, how it was evaluated and by whom.  In this post I’m going to explore who was involved, what testing was done and what this might mean for the BPA alternatives market.

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Also posted in Emerging Science, Uncategorized| Tagged , , , | Read 2 Responses

With draft report, EPA takes major step to help communities assess risks from lead in drinking water

Tom Neltner, J.D.is Chemicals Policy Director

Communities around the country are testing their water for lead. But when they get the results, parents, public health officials, housing agencies and school officials have little guidance about what the number means and what actions to take or priorities to set. For lead in dust and soil in homes, child-care and schools, they have health-based numbers that serve as benchmarks for assessing risk. There is no such benchmark for drinking water. As a result, many are using the “Lead Action Level” of 15 parts per billion (ppb) as a surrogate. Yet, this level is based on the effectiveness of corrosion control; it has no relation to the associated health risks of lead exposure.

Yesterday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) helped fill the void by releasing a draft report that provides three different approaches to setting a scientifically-robust “health-based benchmark” for lead in drinking water. The agency is seeking public comment on the draft and will convene a panel of scientific experts to consider each of the approaches.

The report is a critical step in implementing the recommendations of the agency’s National Drinking Water Advisory Council (NDWAC) which called for this type of health-based benchmark as part of an overhaul of the Lead and Copper Rule. The agency went a step further and provides alternatives to consider. We applaud EPA for its action and its rigorous, scientific analysis.

Accounting for the various models and assumptions, EPA developed a range of potential health-based benchmarks that range from 3 to 56 ppb of lead in water that people actually drink. However, you cannot readily compare these values to the typical water testing results reported by utilities or schools. Those tests are based on the first draw of water that has been sitting in the faucet and plumbing overnight and do not necessarily reflect what people drink over the course of a day. Later samples would likely be lower but could be higher if the building has a lead service line, especially if the line has been disturbed. Read More »

Also posted in Drinking Water, lead, Regulation, Uncategorized| Tagged , , , , , | Read 2 Responses

EPA proposes second rule to ban more uses of toxic TCE

Jennifer McPartland, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist with the Health Program.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took another significant step yesterday to protect against exposures to the highly toxic chemical, trichloroethylene (TCE), proposing a rule to ban its use as a vapor degreaser.

The proposed rule is the second issued under section 6 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) as amended by last year’s Lautenberg Act.  It follows on EPA’s proposed rule last month to ban the use of TCE as an aerosol degreaser and spot cleaning agent in dry cleaning facilities. Both proposed rules on TCE are critical to protecting consumer and worker health from the harmful effects of TCE and should move swiftly toward finalization.   Read More »

Also posted in EPA, Health Policy, TSCA Reform| Tagged , | Comments are closed
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