EDF Health

Selected tag(s): National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

Gasping for breath: Asthma-inducing diisocyanates enter our homes and schools

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 »

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Hitting 'em where it hurts: BPA reduces sperm quantity and quality in male workers

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

As reported by Rob Stein in the Washington Post this morning, a NIOSH-funded study of male Chinese workers conducted by researchers at Kaiser-Permanente in Oakland, California has found that exposure to the endocrine-disrupting chemical bisphenol A (BPA) significantly increases the incidence of low sperm counts and concentrations, as well as lowered sperm motility and higher mortality.

The 5-year study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Fertility and Sterility (that's a title only slightly more cheery than the CDC's publication Morbidity and Mortality!), shows that the same kinds of adverse effects of BPA on sperm already observed in animal studies also occur in humans with detectable levels of BPA in their urine.

And while the most pronounced effects were observed in highly exposed workers, the authors of the study note:

Similar dose-response associations were observed among participants with only environmental BPA exposure at levels comparable to men in the general United States population.

Despite a markedly reduced sample size in this group of men exposed only to low environmental BPA sources, the inverse correlation between increased urine BPA level and decreased sperm concentration and total sperm count remain statistically significant.

Read More »

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Won’t we ever stop playing whack-a-mole with “regrettable chemical substitutions”?

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

In recent days, two compelling cases have surfaced of so-called “regrettable substitutions” – industry responding to concerns about the use of one dangerous chemical by replacing it with another that is less well-studied, or at least not currently in the crosshairs.

Case 1:  Chinese manufacturers of children’s jewelry, responding to concerns and restrictions on the use of lead in such products produced for export to the U.S., have replaced it with cadmium, a known human carcinogen and developmental toxicant that, if anything is even more toxic to kids than lead – but is not subject to any restrictions in such kids’ products.

Case 2:  American food product manufacturers, responding to concerns about the devastating effects on the lungs of workers exposed to diacetyl – an artificial butter flavoring used in many products, most notably microwave popcorn – have begun to replace it with closely related chemicals likely to break down into diacetyl or otherwise have similar effects.

Are we destined forever to play this dangerous variant on the game of whack-a-mole, or can something be done? Read More »

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Questionable risk decisions under ChAMP: Alkyl Nitriles Category

Cal Baier-Anderson, Ph.D., is a Health Scientist and Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.

This post is the first of a number to come that will examine in some detail specific chemicals and chemical categories for which EPA has made questionable or flawed risk decisions under ChAMP. Many of these problems can be traced to EPA's near-exclusive reliance on incomplete or poor-quality data provided by manufacturers, or its need to resort to unsupported assumptions in the absence of sufficient data. For each posting, we'll summarize what is known about production and use of the chemical(s); describe EPA's hazard, exposure, risk and priority rankings; and then discuss why we question or disagree with EPA's decisions. First up: a category of three alkyl nitriles. Read More »

Posted in EPA, Health Policy, Regulation / Also tagged , , | Comments are closed

MWCNT toxicity: Another dot to asbestos is connected

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

Some months ago, my colleague John Balbus posted here about studies finding that when multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs) are injected into the abdominal cavities of mice, they induce inflammation and mesothelioma-like reactions similar to those caused by asbestos.  He appropriately cautioned that – among other critical questions – these studies had not demonstrated that inhaled MWCNTs could actually move out of the lung and into the tissues where asbestos gives rise to its effects.  Well, that particular dot now appears to have been connected. Read More »

Posted in Emerging Science, Health Science / Also tagged , | Read 3 Responses

EPA Nano Authority under TSCA, Part 1: It All Depends on What “New” Means

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

[Links to posts in this series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5]

In this and my next two posts, I want to explore the question of whether EPA has sufficient authority under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to effectively oversee nanotechnology.  EPA (as well as the White House) maintains that the agency has ample statutory authority to do what’s needed to identify and address any potential risks nanomaterials may pose to consumers, the general public and the environment.  I beg to differ.  Read More »

Posted in Health Policy, Nanotechnology, Regulation / Also tagged | Read 1 Response