Tag Archives: phthalates

Missing the forest for the trees? Are we addressing the biggest risks from exposure to phthalates?

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

A recent study published in Environmental Health Perspectives is the first to demonstrate a link between childhood asthma and prenatal exposure to certain phthalates.  Phthalates are a group of chemical plasticizers used in hundreds of everyday products, including home construction materials, toys, food packaging, medical devices, and synthetic fragrances found in personal care products, cleaning products, cosmetics, and air fresheners.  For the most part, it is impossible for the average consumer to know what products are made with phthalates; however, if you see the word “fragrance” listed on your shampoo or sun screen, it may well contain a phthalate.  

Several studies have suggested that phthalate exposure may have an adverse impact on children’s respiratory health (for example, see here, here, and here).   However, none of these studies has considered the potential role of prenatal exposure – exposures to the fetus in the womb – to phthalates.

The prenatal period is a critical developmental window for lung and respiratory health.  Thus, researchers at the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health (CCCEH) hypothesized that prenatal phthalate exposure would be associated with later development of asthma in childhood.  To investigate this hypothesis, the researchers measured phthalate metabolite levels in the urine of 300 women in the 3rd trimester of pregnancy, and then followed the children of these women to assess the extent to which they developed asthma between the ages of 5 and 11.  Read More »

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A REACH milestone: First authorisation application passes the European Chemicals Agency

Alissa Sasso is a Chemicals Policy Fellow.

It’s been a while since we’ve posted an update on ongoing activities under the European Union’s Regulation on the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation, and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH).  The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has been quite busy in recent months.

The first application for authorisation (we’ll be using the English spelling of this term, as it is spelled in REACH) to use a Substance of Very High Concern (SVHC) cleared ECHA’s Committees for Risk Assessment (RAC) and Socio-Economic Analysis (SEAC) on January 3rd. This is a significant step in the implementation of REACH in the EU. The authorisation process is intended both to manage the risks posed by SVHCs and to drive the replacement of these hazardous substances with safer alternatives.  And, as the final step in the process laid out under REACH for managing chemical substances, its execution is central to the success of REACH as a whole. This first application for authorisation was therefore a kind of test-run for ECHA, as well as the chemical industry, and sets the stage for the submission and review of future authorisation applications.

As we run through the details of this particular authorisation application, keep in mind that ECHA received seven other applications for authorisation last year, and will see even more activity in the coming year.  Read More »

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Premier medical organizations sound alarm on toxic chemicals’ harm to reproductive health

Joanna Slaney is an EDF consultant.

As a mom, I know what it’s like to worry about the health and safety of my children. You want to do everything you can to protect your kids, and help them stay healthy and strong. That’s why I think most parents will want to pay attention to the statement released today from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM). The joint opinion from two of the country’s most prestigious medical organizations details how prenatal exposure to certain chemicals is linked to miscarriages, stillbirths, and birth defects. These groups are urging ob-gyns to advocate for government policy changes needed to ensure we identify and reduce exposure to toxic environmental agents.

EDF Health is very pleased that ACOG and ASRM are expanding awareness of the serious threats toxic chemicals can pose to our health. We urge everyone, especially parents, to take a closer look at this joint statement.

EDF Health has issued the following statement: “Today’s statement from ACOG and ASRM is the latest reminder about the devastating impact toxic chemicals can have on our health,” said Dr. Sarah Vogel, Director, EDF Environmental Health. “Even more shocking is that most everyday chemicals have never been tested for safety.  Our doctors are telling us we need to fix America’s chemical laws to protect our families’ health.”

To learn more about the health impact of toxic chemicals, please go here.

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21st Century on the horizon for endocrine disruptor screening?

Rachel Shaffer is a research assistant. Jennifer McPartland, Ph.D., is a Health Scientist.

BPA, DDT, PCBs, PBDEs, phthalates, PFOA … Forgive the alphabet soup, but chances are you’ve heard of at least some of these endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), which have been the subject of a lot of public and media attention in the last several years. Research has begun to uncover the ways in which these chemicals can interact with the body’s hormone – or endocrine – system to disrupt various natural biological processes, including metabolism, the reproductive system, and development of the brain and nervous systems.

While the endocrine-disrupting properties of the chemicals named above have been confirmed, scientists suspect there may be many more such chemicals in our environment, in the products we use, and in our bodies.  How can we identify them?

Legislation enacted in 1996 required the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop a screening program to identify potential EDCs.  More than 10 years later, EPA finally launched the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program (EDSP).  Testing is being conducted in two phases, or “tiers.”  In “Tier 1,” a screening battery of validated in vivo and in vitro assays is used to identify chemicals with potential to interfere with the endocrine system. Chemicals flagged in the first tier of testing are then subject to “Tier 2” testing intended to determine the specific effect and the lowest dose at which it occurs. (We should note this program is very controversial and the subject of ongoing debate, but that is not the subject of this post.)

EPA has identified an estimated 9,700 chemicals to be screened – a very daunting task given the time- and resource-intensive nature of the testing battery EPA has established.  Might there be a way to expedite the identification and testing of the more problematic chemicals? A study published earlier this year in Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP) investigates a possible approach: using in vitro high-throughput (HT) assays developed through EPA’s ToxCast and Tox21 programs to target and prioritize chemicals for further testing under the EDSP. While use of these assays poses its own challenges, might it at least help in determining an appropriate testing sequence?  Read More »

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No way to treat our kids: Formaldehyde, flame retardants and other toxics exceed safe levels in air and dust in day care centers

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

A study conducted by the State of California [Update 10-26-12:  The study was funded by the California Air Resources Board and conducted by Asa Bradman and colleagues at the Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health at UC Berkeley] – described as “the first comprehensive study in child care centers to measure a broad spectrum of pollutants including many volatile organic chemicals, particles, and pesticides, and emerging pollutants such as flame retardants, phthalates and perfluorinated compounds” – has routinely detected dozens of these toxic contaminants in the air or floor dust present in such facilities. 

Some of the key findings include the following:

  • “Formaldehyde levels in 87% of the facilities exceeded the California acute and chronic reference exposure guideline levels for non-cancer health effects such as respiratory and sensory irritation (e.g. eyes, nose, throat, and lungs).”
  • “In most facilities, levels of formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, chloroform, benzene, or ethylbenzene exceeded child-specific Safe Harbor Levels computed by the report authors based on Proposition 65 guidelines for carcinogens.”  [These are levels calculated to result in a cancer risk of at least 1 per 100,000 people.]
  • “Phthalates, flame retardants, pesticides, perfluorinated compounds, and lead were also frequently detected in dust and/or air.”
  • “Child dose estimates from ingestion of dust for two brominated flame retardants (BDE-47 and -99) exceeded the non-cancer U.S. EPA reference health dose (RfD) in 10.3% of facilities for children < 1 year old.”
  • “Two VOCs commonly found in cleaners and personal care products, d-limonene and decamethylcyclopentasiloxane, had the highest concentrations compared to other chemical groups.”

The presumed sources of most if not all of these chemicals are everyday materials and products used to construct, furnish or clean these facilities.  Formaldehyde, for example, is used in hundreds of materials and products, including furniture, wood products, carpeting, paints, and household cleaning products.  California took action in 2007 to limit is use in pressed wood products, and Congress passed a law in 2010 to do the same.  (Unfortunately, the proposed regulations needed to implement the federal law – which Congress mandated be in place by January 1, 2013 – are stuck in regulatory review limbo at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB):  The proposed regulations were sent by EPA to OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) more than 170 days ago, on May 5 of this year, but remain under “pending review” by OIRA despite the requirement for OIRA to complete its reviews within 90 days.)

The larger problem exposed by the California study demands, of course, a far more comprehensive solution – TSCA reform.

 

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ECHA gives a CoRAP: REACH substance evaluation kicks off with list of target chemicals

Allison Tracy is a Chemicals Policy Fellow.

Posts to this blog concerning REACH – the European Union’s regulation for the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals – have dealt mainly with the “R” and “A”.  A few weeks ago, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) took a first big step to capitalize on the “E” (Evaluation).

Specifically, the final 2012-2014 Community Rolling Action Plan (CoRAP) was published on February 29th (see ECHA’s press release).  After many months of consultation with the Member States, ECHA has released the list of 90 chemicals that will be the first to undergo REACH’s substance evaluation process in 2012, 2013, and 2014.

Existing data guided the prioritization process that led to the production of this list, but REACH’s authorities granted for substance evaluation will allow ECHA and the Member States to gather new information to fill data gaps.  This new information will help to improve both governmental and public knowledge about the risks these chemicals may pose to human health and the environment.  Read More »

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