Selected category: Health Science

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 »

Also posted in Emerging 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 »

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

What I Learned from Theo Colborn

Sarah Vogel, Ph.Dis Director of EDF's Health Program.

It was late September and we were driving up and over the Kebler Pass, which takes you from the dry desert environment of the Western Slope of the Rocky Mountains near Paonia, Colorado to the high mountain town of Crested Butte. We traveled through green meadows up through groves of quaking aspens, bright gold at the higher altitudes, up towards the pass, already covered in snow, blindingly bright under a brilliant Colorado sun and clear blue sky.

These were the mountain ranges where Theo Colborn, scientist and environmental health advocate, began her studies; where she lived for much of her life; the mountains that she loved; where she recently passed away at 87 years of remarkable age; and, where I suspect her spirit now resides.

Read More »

Also posted in Emerging Science, Health Policy| Tagged , | Read 1 Response

Building scientific bridges to support EPA’s new chemical testing programs

Jennifer McPartland, Ph.D., is a Health Scientist.

Readers of this blog are acutely aware of the dearth of data available for tens of thousands of chemicals in U.S. commerce today.  This state of ignorance reflects legal and resource constraints as well as the “challenge” of continuously integrating advancements in our scientific understanding of human health and disease into the way we assess chemical toxicity.

Fortunately, federal efforts to develop new chemical testing approaches, such as the high-throughput screening programs ToxCast and Tox21, offer a great opportunity to narrow the data gap while also helping to shine light on how environmental chemicals can impact our health.  But realizing the full potential of these new approaches will take a village.

Today in Environmental Health Perspectives we have published a commentary  that calls for greater and more diverse engagement of the basic research community in developing and using the new federal chemical testing data. We also provide recommendations that we believe would help facilitate and improve such engagement.  Read on to learn more.   Read More »

Also posted in Emerging Testing Methods, Health Policy| 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 »

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

Newly listed carcinogens are all chemicals deeply embedded in US commerce

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

[CORRECTION 10/4/14:  The company identified at the bottom of the table in this post as importing pentachlorophenol has been corrected to be KMG CHEMICALS; the original post had erroneously identified the company as ALBEMARLE.]

Yesterday the National Toxicology Program (NTP) released its 13th Report on Carcinogens.  This periodic, Congressionally mandated report lists substances classified after a rigorous scientific review as either “known” or “reasonably anticipated” to be human carcinogens.

The 13th report includes 4 new listings:

  • ortho-Toluidine, used to make rubber chemicals, pesticides, and dyes, was upgraded from its prior listing as “reasonably anticipated” to now be listed as a known human carcinogen, based on studies in humans showing it causes urinary bladder cancer.
  • Three chemicals are listed for the first time, each as reasonably anticipated to be human carcinogens:
    • 1-bromopropane, used as a cleaning solvent and spray adhesive, inhalation of which has been shown in animal studies to produces tumors in the skin, lungs, and large intestine;
    • cumene, used to make phenol and acetone, inhalation of which has been shown in animal studies to produces tumors in the lungs and liver; and
    • pentachlorophenol, a wood preservative mixture, exposure to which increases risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in studies in humans and causes tumors in the liver and other organs in mice.

EDF used the latest available data on the production and import of industrial chemicals collected by EPA under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to ascertain the extent to which these four chemicals are manufactured and used in the U.S.  These data demonstrate that the four substances are all present in U.S. commerce in very large amounts, considered by EPA to be high production volume (HPV) chemicals because their manufacture exceeds one million pounds annually.  In fact, all four chemicals are present in amounts far higher than that level, as shown below.  Read More »

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