EDF Health

Selected tag(s): general interest

West Virginia officials trust shaky science in rush to restore water service: One-part-per-million “safe” threshold has questionable basis

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


In a press conference today outlining plans to restart the water system serving 300,000 people, West Virginia state officials and executives from the West Virginia American Water utility company stressed that levels of the toxic chemical that contaminated the supply after last week’s spill had reached a “safe” level of one part per million (1 ppm), the threshold agreed upon by state and federal officials on Saturday.

Unfortunately, the science behind this standard remains unclear.  Based on what we do know, there are good reasons to believe that officials are overlooking significant health risks.  Read More »

Posted in Environment, Health Policy, Regulation / Also tagged , , , | Read 36 Responses

Failed TSCA collides with the real world in West Virginia chemical spill this week

Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.  Jennifer McPartland, Ph.D., is a Health Scientist.


If the protracted debate over reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) sometimes seems esoteric or abstract, the epic failure of this law could not be better illustrated than by what’s unfolding in Charleston, WV this week.

There, a major spill into the Elk River of an obscure chemical used to wash coal has disrupted the lives of hundreds of thousands of residents of the state for what is likely to be days if not weeks or longer.  The storage tank from which the chemical has leaked lies upstream from the intake for one of the city’s drinking water treatment plants.  Even before the leak had been detected or reported, the chemical was sucked into the plant and distributed through thousands of miles of pipe to homes and businesses.  Residents have been told not to drink, bathe or otherwise come into contact with the water – although some exposure clearly did occur before the warnings were issued.  Massive amounts of water are being trucked into the area.  President Obama declared the situation a national emergency.

What is particularly maddening and outrageous is that no one – not local or state officials, not the company that owns the storage tank, not the federal government – can say anything even close to definitive about what risk the chemical poses to people, even in the short-term, let alone over time.  And that’s where the failures of TSCA come into sharp focus.  Read More »

Posted in Health Policy, Regulation, TSCA Reform / Also tagged , , | Read 10 Responses

It’s a generational thing: Evidence grows that environmentally induced epigenetic changes can be passed down from one generation to the next

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

We’ve blogged here before about the growing evidence that environmental exposures can cause changes in gene expression – not to be confused with mutations, which are changes in the DNA itself.  We’ve noted that these changes in how and when our genes are turned on and off may actually be heritable, along with any biological or behavioral changes they induce.  That is, not only might the individual who is directly exposed suffer effects, but – and here’s the kicker – so might descendants who never experienced the original exposure.

Now, several new studies add even more evidence that epigenetic changes may be transgenerational.  In the past 10 days, the Washington Post has run articles detailing three new studies in mice, each of which strongly indicate that dietary deficiencies and environmental exposures can reprogram DNA in ways that can be passed along to reside in the DNA of the offspring of the affected individuals.  Read More »

Posted in Emerging Science, Health Science / Also tagged , , | Comments are closed

EDF Applauds New Walmart Policy That Promises Safer Products for Consumers

Here is EDF’s release on Walmart’s announcement today:


EDF Applauds New Walmart Policy That Promises Safer Products for Consumers

New chemicals policy today promises to bring safer, healthier products
to the 80 percent of Americans that shop at Walmart

September 12, 2013

CONTACT: Katie Ware, kware@edf.org, (212) 616-1283

BENTONVILLE, Ark.—Walmart announced a new chemicals policy today that promises to bring safer, healthier products to the 80 percent of Americans that shop there. The policy was unveiled during Walmart’s Global Sustainability Milestone Meeting and focuses on chemical ingredients in consumables –household cleaners, personal care products and cosmetics.

Walmart is calling for expanded ingredient disclosure, targeting about ten key chemicals of concern for substitution with better ingredients and looking to take its private brand products through a rigorous screening process.

“Today’s announcement is yet another indication that consumers, advocates and business are working together to fill the void left by Washington’s inaction on chemical safety,” said Sarah Vogel, Director of EDF’s Environmental Health program.

EDF worked closely with Walmart to prioritize the removal of toxic chemicals in household, personal care and beauty products. Walmart’s new chemicals policy targets about ten hazardous chemicals in consumer products for replacement with safer ingredients and significantly expands ingredient disclosure to the public.

“Some companies stop at issuing a restricted substances list,” said Vogel. “No other company is requiring the all-important, but often forgotten, second step to truly transformational phase-outs: putting a system in place that avoids regrettable chemical substitutions. EDF commends this aggressive new policy.”


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Environmental Defense Fund (edf.org), a leading national nonprofit organization, creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. EDF links science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships. Follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/EnvDefenseFund and on Facebook at facebook.com/EnvDefenseFund.


Posted in Health Policy, Markets and Retail / Tagged | Comments are closed

My mother is not Angelina Jolie

Rachel Shaffer is a research assistant.

Last week, Angelina Jolie announced that she recently had a double mastectomy: surgery to remove both of her breasts. She chose to undergo such a difficult procedure because she, like her mother who had breast cancer (and died of ovarian cancer), carries the BRCA1 gene, a genetic mutation that significantly raises her risk of breast and ovarian cancer. While Jolie does not have cancer, this surgery lowers her chances of developing the disease in the future.

That otherwise healthy women are choosing to take such drastic steps to reduce their risks of cancer demonstrates a willingness to make profound sacrifices for health.  But it also raises the question of what options for prevention are available to the millions of other women who develop breast cancer, even though they have no known genetic risk factor. Approximately 90-95% of breast cancer cases cannot be attributed to BRCA1 or other genetic mutations; these cases are triggered by various factors in a woman’s environment.  

My mother’s cancer, diagnosed ten years ago this month, falls into this category. So once again, I’m reminded of the obvious: the life of superstar Angelina Jolie does not reflect the life of my mother or the lives of the vast majority of women.  Read More »

Posted in Health Policy, Health Science / Also tagged , | Read 2 Responses

Two safer chemicals initiatives garner national headlines: Mind the Store campaign and The Safe Chemicals Act of 2013

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

This morning, two major daily newspapers carried stories on initiatives to ensure the safety of products containing chemicals to which people are increasingly exposed in their daily lives.

A story in USA Today covers the launch of Mind the Store, a campaign that asks the top 10 retailers in the country to develop and make public their plans to address toxic chemicals in the consumer products they sell. 

Also today, the Philadelphia Inquirer ran a story on the introduction of the Safe Chemicals Act of 2013 in the U.S. Senate, which would amend the core provisions of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) for the first time since its passage 37 years ago. 

See more information on each of these initiatives below.  Read More »

Posted in Health Policy, Markets and Retail, TSCA Reform / Also tagged , , , | Comments are closed