Your Environment Your Health

Educating the community on environmental contaminants linked to developmental disabilities.

Exposure to flame retardants can damage a developing fetus

fires,flames,households,matches,PhotographsA new study pin points the consequences of exposure to flame retardants. Medical New Today reports,

Chemicals called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) have been used for decades to reduce fires in everyday products such as baby strollers, carpeting and electronics. A new study presented on Monday, May 6, at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting shows that prenatal exposure to the flame retardants is associated with lower intelligence and hyperactivity in early childhood.

“In animal studies, PBDEs can disrupt thyroid hormone and cause hyperactivity and learning problems,” said lead author Aimin Chen, MD, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Health at University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. “Our study adds to several other human studies to highlight the need to reduce exposure to PBDEs in pregnant women.”

Dr. Chen and his colleagues collected blood samples from 309 pregnant women enrolled in a study at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center to measure PBDE levels. They also performed intelligence and behavior tests on the women’s children annually until they were 5 years old.

“We found maternal exposure to PBDEs, a group of brominated flame retardants mostly withdrawn from the U.S. market in 2004, was associated with deficits in child cognition at age 5 years and hyperactivity at ages 2-5 years,” Dr. Chen said. A 10-fold increase in maternal PBDEs was associated with about a 4 point IQ deficit in 5-year-old children.

Even though PBDEs, except Deca-BDEs, are not used as a flame retardant in the United States anymore, they are found on many consumer products bought several years ago. In addition, the chemicals are not easily biodegradable, so they remain in human tissues and are transferred to the developing fetus.

“Because PBDEs exist in the home and office environment as they are contained in old furniture, carpet pads, foams and electronics, the study raises further concern about their toxicity in developing children,” Dr. Chen concluded.

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Lipstick may have more concerning ingredients than just lead…

USAToday.com reports,

cosmetics,grooming,lips,lipsticks,persons,Photographs,womenTesting of 32 commonly sold lipsticks and lip glosses found they contain lead, cadmium, chromium, aluminum and five other metals — some at potentially toxic levels, according to researchers at the University of California-Berkeley’s School of Public Health.

Prior research has also found lead in lipstick, including a December 2011 survey of 400 varieties by the Food and Drug Administration that found low levels the agency said pose no safety concerns. This UC study looked at more metals and estimated health risks based on their concentrations and typical lipstick use.

“Just finding these metals isn’t the issue.It’s the levels that matter,” says co-author S. Katharine Hammond, professor of environmental health. She says some of the toxic metals are occurring at levels that could pose health problems in the long run.

“This study is saying, ‘FDA, wake up and pay attention,’ ” she says.

When not blotted on tissue or left as kiss marks, lipstick and lip gloss are ingested or absorbed by the user. The health effect depends partly on how often and how heavily the product is applied. The average user applies lipstick 2.3 times daily and ingests 24 milligrams each day, while a heavy user applies it as many as 14 times and ingests an average of 83 milligrams, the UC study says..

For even the average user, the study found that some of the lipsticks could result in excessive exposure to chromium, a carcinogen linked to stomach tumors. High use could potentially cause overexposure to aluminum, cadmium and manganese.

“Lead is not the metal of most concern,” Hammond says, noting it was found in 24 of the products but at levels generally lower than the acceptable daily intake. Still, since no level of lead exposure is considered safe for children, she discourages kids from playing with lipstick or using it for beauty contests.

“I don’t think people should panic,” she hastens, saying that not all lipstick needs to be tossed in the trash. “But if you use it several times every day, you may want to think about it.” Her basic advice: “Use it less.”

In a statement from the Personal Care Products Council, chief toxicologist Linda Loretz cautions that the finding of trace amounts of metals needs to be put in context, given their natural presence in air, soil and water. “Food is a primary source for many of these naturally present metals, and exposure from lip products is minimal in comparison,” Loretz says. An example: Trace amounts of chromium or cadmium from lip products, as measured in the UC report, are less than 1% of the exposure that people could get from their diet, she says.

Hammond says the results are preliminary and more research needs to be done, because there’s no U.S. standards for metal content in cosmetics. The European Union views cadmium, chromium and lead as unacceptable ingredients, at any level, in cosmetic products

Although the study is small, Hammond says, the 32 tested products are common brands sold in stores nationwide. The study was partly funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education Research Center. Its findings appear in the the peer-reviewed journalEnvironmental Health Perspectives.

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NJ firm recalls frozen pasta products…

Please read the following.

Recall Release CLASS I RECALL
HEALTH RISK: HIGH
FSIS-RC-029-2013

Congressional and Public Affairs
Adam Tarr
(202) 720-9113

WASHINGTON, May 1, 2013 – Real Pasta Inc., a North Bergen, N.J., establishment is recalling approximately 25,000 pounds of assorted pasta products that were processed without benefit of inspection. Some of the products were also misbranded after being repackaged and may contain soy, a known allergen not declared on the label.

The products subject to recall were labeled under the following brand names:

  • Angelina Foodservice
  • Deer Park Ravioli
  • K-Bella
  • La Gustosa Ravioli
  • NY Ravioli and Pasta
  • Pasta Del Mondo
  • Queen Ann Ravioli
  • Raffetto’s Corp
  • Real Pasta Inc
  • San Marco Ravioli
  • Serino’s Italian Foodservice
  • Vitamia

Various products include:

  • Meat Ravioli
  • Meat Ravioli Round
  • Meat Tortellini
  • Pre-cooked Meat Tortellini
  • Veal Tortellini
  • Meat Raviolinni
  • Chicken Tortellini
  • Chicken Ravioli with Smoked Mozzarella

The products subject to recall were packaged on various dates since November 14, 2012, then shipped into commerce bearing one of the following establishment numbers: Est. 21479, P-21479, Est. 4702, or P-4702, Est. 1835, or P-1835. Wholesale and retail outlets can identify bulk pack product by the following Julian codes: 12318 through 12366, and 13001 through 13121. The products were distributed in Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York.

This problem was discovered in an FSIS investigation after product was noticed in a retail outlet bearing the establishment number of a facility that had recently lost its federal grant of inspection. When available, the retail distribution list(s) will be posted on the FSIS website at:www.fsis.usda.gov/FSIS_Recalls/
Open_Federal_Cases/index.asp

FSIS has received no reports of illness due to consumption of these products. Anyone concerned about an illness should contact a healthcare provider.

FSIS routinely conducts recall effectiveness checks to verify that recalling firms notify their customers of the recall and that steps are taken to make certain that recalled product is no longer available to consumers.

Consumers and members of the media who have questions regarding the recall can contact James Realbuto, the company’s owner, at (201) 552-9242.

Consumers with food safety questions can “Ask Karen,” the FSIS virtual representative available 24 hours a day atwww.AskKaren.gov or via smartphone at m.askkaren.gov. “Ask Karen” live chat services are available Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET. The toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) is available in English and Spanish and can be reached from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET Monday through Friday. Recorded food safety messages are available 24 hours a day.

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10 major retailers urged to pull toxic products off shelves

From USAToday.com,

Health and environmental groups will launch a national campaign Thursday to prod 10 major retailers — including Walmart, Target and Costco — to clear store shelves of products containing hazardous chemicals.

bathrooms,bleach,bottles,chemicals,chores,cleanings,dirty,Fotolia,households,hygiene,scrubs,soaps,sprays,squirts,stains,supplies,washing,waters,worksAdvocates say these companies have done some “retail regulation” but argue more needs to be done and the U.S. government isn’t stepping up. They list 100-plus chemicals used in hundreds, possibly thousands, of products including wrinkle-free clothes, vinyl flooring, shampoos, sofa cushions and food packaging.

“We’ve seen the power of retailers to change the marketplace,” says Andy Igrejas of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, a coalition advocating against toxic chemical use. He notes that many stores pre-empted a 2012 federal biphenol-A (BPA) ban by no longer selling baby products containing the hormone-disrupting chemical. “But the bites so far are too small for the scale of the problem,” he says.

His group and nearly four dozen others, including the Breast Cancer Fund and the Union of Concerned Scientists, are sending a letter Wednesday to 10 retailers asking them to develop a plan within a year to phase out use of the chemicals. The companies include Kroger, Walgreens, Home Depot, CVS Caremark, Lowe’s, Best Buy and Safeway.

Some have already acted. In 2007, Target and the parent company of Sears and Kmart announced plans to join Walmart in phasing out polyvinyl chloride (PVC) from products. In 2011, Walmart said it would stop using a controversial flame retardant. Kroger, which phased BPA out of cash register receipts in 2011, said in 2012 that its Simple Truth products would be free of 101 chemicals and ingredients. Lowe’s and Home Depot have stopped selling driveway sealants that contain coal tar, which has suspected carcinogenic chemicals.

As of Tuesday evening, the 10 retailers said they had not seen the campaign’s letter. Walmart, Target and Kroger, asked to comment on their prior efforts and the challenges in expanding them, declined interview requests.

“Our companies go to great lengths to help Americans make informed decisions about which products are best for their families,” says Anne Kolton of the American Chemistry Council, which represents manufacturers of plastic and other chemicals. She says the group does its own “extensive” chemical testing and provides that information to retailers and suppliers. She says six federal agencies oversee chemical safety via more than a dozen federal laws.

Igrejas says the federal government, unlike some states, is doing little. “It’s the Wild West,” he says, adding the Toxic Control Substances Act hasn’t had a major update since its passage in 1976. He says many chemicals used in consumer products aren’t federally tested or required to submit safety data.

“The federal government isn’t minding the store, so the stores need to mind the store,” Igrejas says. He’s calling on retailers to identify and stop selling products that contain chemicals whose exposure has been linked to health problems, including cancer, infertility, learning disabilities and behavioral problems. The 100-plus chemicals include formaldehyde, parabens, phthalates, BPA and flame retardants.

“The devil is in the details,” says Joe Schwarcz, director of Montreal-based McGill University’s Office for Science and Society. He says a chemical’s toxicity depends largely on its concentration, not simply its presence in a product. He says many chemicals can be toxic at high enough levels.

Also, retailers and their suppliers don’t necessarily know every chemical in their products, says Anne Steinemann, an environmental engineering professor at the University of Washington, Seattle. She’s tested dozens of scented products and has found that fewer than 1% disclose all ingredients on the label or anywhere else. Even if an item lists “fragrance,” she says it doesn’t have to list each of the fragrance’s myriad chemicals.

Steinemann says some manufacturers get around black-listed chemicals with substitutes that could be worse. For cleaning products, she recommends consumers stick to baking soda, hydrogen peroxide and vinegar, adding: “Use what our grandparents used — simple products.”

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Air pollution strongly linked to birth defects…

The NY Times reports, 

automobiles,blurry,cars,Madrid,roadways,Spain,Spanish,streets,traffic,vehicles,transportationExposure in the first two months of pregnancy to air pollution from traffic sharply increases the risk for birth defects, a new study has found.

Researchers used data from two large studies carried out in eight counties in the San Joaquin Valley in California. One has tracked birth defects since 1997, and the other has recorded concentrations of nitrogen dioxide, nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide and particulate matter at 20 locations in the valley since the 1970s. The results are posted online in The American Journal of Epidemiology.

Setting aside defects attributable to other known causes, there were 849 cases of birth defects. The researchers adjusted for smoking, maternal age and other variables, and compared these cases with 853 healthy control subjects.

They found that a mother living in areas with the highest levels of carbon monoxide or nitrogen oxide concentrations (the top 25 percent) was almost twice as likely to give birth to a child with neural tube defects — severe and often fatal defects of the brain and spinal cord— as one living in areas with the lowest concentrations.

The lead author, Amy M. Padula, a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford, acknowledged that in looking at many variables, some associations were likely to turn up by chance.

“These results need to be taken in context,” she said. “More studies are needed to affirm these associations before we make any clinical recommendations to pregnant women.”

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Phthalates in shampoos and lotions causing kids to gain weight?

NJ.com reports,

Phthalates are plasticizers commonly used in everything from industrial building products to personal health products such as lubricants, lotions, and scented sprays for the body. The study explored the link between theses chemicals from and childhood obesity.

The study collected urine samples from 2,884 children ages 6 to 19, of all types of ethnicities. They found that there was a strong correlation between children from an African American background and high levels of phthalates in their urine. These same children also had a higher rate of obesity. For every three-fold increase in phthalate level there was a 21 chance of the child being overweight, and a 22 percent chance that they were obese. Dr. Leonardo Trasande, the main investigator on the study, says “Diet and physical activity are still the leading causes of childhood obesity, this study lends evidence to the notion that we need to consider environmental contributions as well… when we think of disparities in childhood obesity, we also need to think of disparities in environmental exposures.” And perhaps he has a point.

Dermal exposure is just one way that a person can be exposed to phthalates. Inhalation and ingestion are also common sources. These chemicals have been found in air fresheners and scented candles as well as common school supplies. The threat of obesity is not the only issue. Scientists are also finding a link to asthma, allergies, breast cancer and birth defects. Though there may not be a way to avoid exposure completely, some have opted to ‘go-green’ and stick with natural body product brands that use as little synthetic chemicals and preservatives as possible. Researchers suggest that you limit your child’s exposure to plastic and vinyl products, and that you use cleaning products that contain natural ingredients.

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More evidence shows air pollution and low birth weight are linked

Low birth weight leaves babies with complication later in life such as developmental delays, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and the risk of dying earlier. The New York Times reports,

Exposure to air pollution during pregnancy raises the odds of having low-birth-weight babies, a large international study has found.

Researchers combined data on more than 3 million full-term singleton births in 14 health centers in nine countries to establish the impact of air polluted with particulate matter less than 10 micrometers in diameter. The report appeared online last week in Environmental Health Perspectives.

Previous studies have linked air pollution and adverse pregnancy outcomes, but the results have been inconsistent.

After adjusting for health and economic factors and trying to minimize variations in reporting from the different centers, the researchers found that the risk of low birth weight was 10 to 15 percent higher in locations with the most polluted air, compared with those with the least polluted air.

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Are companies exaggerating the amount or danger of chemicals in consumer products?

Numerous studies point out the danger of chemicals commonly found in consumer products. Claims of cancer, thyroid problems, asthma, or neurodevelopmental issues are just a few of many claims that certain chemicals cause to the human body. Many companies that use these chemicals claim that they only use these chemicals in small doses or that the chemical would have to be consumed many times more than what studies claim to have the predicted effect. Check out this article to learn more about this disturbing question.

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More harm found from BPA in children…

Heart disease is now another risk factor associated with children being exposed to BPA. Time Magazine reports,

HighResolutionFor the latest study, published in Kidney International, researchers at New York University analyzed data from 710 U.S. children and teens, ages 6 to 19, who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in 2009 and ’10. Based on previous research that uncovered a relationship between BPA and heart problems in adults, the scientists decided to focus on children, who may even be more vulnerable to the effects of chemicals in their environment. The researchers recorded the children’s BPA levels as measured in their urine and found that kids and adolescents with the highest levels of the compound also had noticeably higher levels of albumin, a protein that builds up when kidneys are damaged, than participants with the lowest levels of BPA.

“This study doesn’t definitively say that BPA causes heart or kidney disease,” says the study’s lead author, Dr. Leonardo Trasande, an associate professor of pediatrics and environmental medicine at the New York University School of Medicine. “The increase in albumin leakage is fairly small, but there are studies in adults that suggest that even that small increment is associated with a higher risk of later heart disease.”

BPA can be found in the lining of food and beverage containers, reusable plastic water bottles, and baby bottles among many other plastic products. It is recommended that consumers purchase labeled BPA-free containers, while the FDA slowly phases out this chemical in consumer products.

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Health begins at home

Check out this video from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to find quick and easy tips on how to keep your home healthy.

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