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
Johanna Katz is a Cornell Iscoll intern at EDF. Jennifer McPartland, Ph.D., is a Health Scientist.
Toxic chemicals called diisocyanates are long-established as occupational hazards known to cause severe respiratory problems to workers who use or are otherwise exposed to them (see here). In fact, diisocyanates are the number one cause of workplace-induced asthma (see here and here). Recently, potential exposure of the general public to diisocyanates has grown, as these chemicals are increasingly used in consumer products. This is certainly a troubling trend considering that the primary health effect of these chemicals, asthma, is a massive and growing public health problem, especially among children. And some of the newest uses of diisocyanates are in products to which children are quite likely to be exposed.
Asthma is at an all-time high, affecting more than 24 million Americans, and creating astronomical health and productivity costs upwards of $20 BILLION each year. And while diisocyanates are but one of many contributors to the increasing rate of asthma in the general population, we surely don’t need to be bringing more products containing such chemicals into our homes, schools, and workplaces. That will only make matters worse.
So what exactly are diisocyanate chemicals, where are they found, and what’s the federal government trying to do about them? Read on to find out. Read More
Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.
Health policy history of sorts was made this week: The prestigious journal Health Affairs, the nation’s leading journal of health policy, unveiled its first-ever issue devoted entirely to environmental health. It did so via a briefing held in Washington, DC on Wednesday that featured several pre-eminent environmental health experts, including David Fukuzawa, Program Director for Health at The Kresge Foundation; Linda Birnbaum, Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS); and Kenneth Olden, Professor and Founding Dean at the new City University of New York’s School of Public Health and former long-time NIEHS Director.
A sneak peak has been provided via advanced publication of some of the journal issue’s articles. Prominent among the themes of these articles: The high and increasing health and economic costs of unregulated exposures to unsafe and inadequately tested chemicals.
I’ll call attention here to two papers in particular:
Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.
The Safer Chemicals Healthy Families campaign, of which EDF is a founding member, is releasing an important report today: "The Health Case for Reforming the Toxic Substances Control Act." This report connects the growing number of dots linking chemical exposures to a number of serious chronic diseases that are rising in incidence. These include certain types of cancer, including childhood cancers; learning and developmental disabilities; Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Disease; reproductive health and fertility problems in both women and men; and asthma.
The report provides a succinct review of the state of the science in each of these areas, and argues that the U.S. has an opportunity to help ameliorate both the rise in these chronic diseases and their associated health care costs — by enacting comprehensive reform of our nation's policies addressing the safety of chemicals.
Check out the report and news release.