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Mon Jan 21, 2013, 02:40 PM

Thousands of chemicals pose risks to health

Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer

By Sandy Bauers
Published: January 20, 2013 12:00AM, Midnight, Jan. 20


PHILADELPHIA — In testimony before a Senate subcommittee, Ken Cook spoke passionately about 10 Americans who were found to have more than 200 synthetic chemicals in their blood.

The list included flame retardants, lead, stain removers and pesticides the federal government had banned three decades ago.

“Their chemical exposures did not come from the air they breathed, the water they drank or the food they ate,” said Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, a national advocacy group.

How did he know?

The 10 Americans were newborns. “Babies are coming into this world pre­polluted with toxic chemicals,” he said.

More than 80,000 chemicals are in use today, and most have not been independently tested for safety, regulatory officials say.

Yet we come in contact with many every day — most notably, the bisphenol A in can linings and hard plastics, the flame retardants in couches, the nonstick coatings on cookware, the phthalates in personal care products, and the nonylphenols in detergents, shampoos, and paints.

These five groups of chemicals were selected by Sonya Lunder, senior scientist with the Environmental Working Group, as ones that people should be aware of and try to avoid.

Read more: http://www.registerguard.com/web/news/sevendays/29328523-57/chemicals-environmental-products-tsca-chemical.html.csp

25 replies, 3747 views

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Arrow 25 replies Author Time Post
Reply Thousands of chemicals pose risks to health (Original post)
proverbialwisdom Jan 2013 OP
hedgehog Jan 2013 #1
onestepforward Jan 2013 #3
derby378 Jan 2013 #2
siligut Jan 2013 #8
derby378 Jan 2013 #10
siligut Jan 2013 #14
derby378 Jan 2013 #15
athena Jan 2013 #11
pnwmom Jan 2013 #13
derby378 Jan 2013 #16
pnwmom Jan 2013 #18
JoeyT Jan 2013 #24
pnwmom Jan 2013 #25
JDPriestly Jan 2013 #4
DeSwiss Jan 2013 #5
u4ic Jan 2013 #22
DeSwiss Jan 2013 #23
They_Live Jan 2013 #6
gateley Jan 2013 #7
siligut Jan 2013 #9
angrycaveman Jan 2013 #12
pnwmom Jan 2013 #17
Igel Jan 2013 #19
pnwmom Jan 2013 #20
L0oniX Jan 2013 #21

Response to proverbialwisdom (Original post)

Mon Jan 21, 2013, 02:44 PM

1. If you'd like to change your own exposure...

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Response to hedgehog (Reply #1)

Mon Jan 21, 2013, 03:22 PM

3. I love that website!

It's been a huge help for me when trying to find less toxic products.

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Response to proverbialwisdom (Original post)

Mon Jan 21, 2013, 02:57 PM

2. The flipside is that the flame retardant on our couch...

...probably saved my wife from burning to death in her sleep back in 2009.

Ginny was pooped one night, so she conked out on the sofa and I tucked her in. I went to bed, and awoke the next morning only to smell smoke. Was there a fire nearby? I stepped out of the bedroom and into the living room where I found flames slowly consuming the couch, and Ginny was still fast asleep on it, breathing in all that smoke. I grabbed her and bundled her out the front door so that she could get some fresh air, then extinguished the fire by smothering it and soaking a burning blanket in the bathtub. Aside from a little smoke inhalation, the wife and I were just fine, but rather shaken and in need of a new sofa.

While we definitely need to do more to protect ourselves from hazardous chemicals, there is still a need for personal safety in cases like this. If that couch hadn't been treated, the flames would have spread out of control, and Ginny would probably be dead - and I might be, too.

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Response to derby378 (Reply #2)

Mon Jan 21, 2013, 03:45 PM

8. Wow, definitely makes one have to weigh the pros and cons

So glad Ginny is alive and well.

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Response to siligut (Reply #8)

Mon Jan 21, 2013, 03:59 PM

10. I appreciate the sentiment, but...

You might not know this, but Ginny passed away in May 2010. Her death was not related to the fire in any way that I know of.

She posted on DU as ChickMagic, and in earlier years as ginbarn.

Thank you for your kindness.

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Response to derby378 (Reply #10)

Mon Jan 21, 2013, 04:41 PM

14. Sorry, didn't know

But, of course, yours is still an effective story.

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Response to siligut (Reply #14)

Mon Jan 21, 2013, 04:51 PM

15. No problem at all

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Response to derby378 (Reply #2)

Mon Jan 21, 2013, 04:26 PM

11. The real problem is that U.S. law does not require proof that chemicals are safe.

To regulate any chemical, the EPA has to prove it's unsafe, which is often difficult. Indeed, a type of flame retardant that is banned in Europe and Japan is used in Mountain Dew in the U.S.

Instead of achieving flame retardant properties by using chemicals that later turn out to be unsafe, why not look for safer chemicals in the first place? Or, if there are really no safe chemicals that have such properties, why not look into making mattresses out of something less inflammable?

See this:
http://www.nrdc.org/health/toxics.asp

Under the current law, it is almost impossible for the EPA to take regulatory action against dangerous chemicals, even those that are known to cause cancer or other serious health effects.

(snip)

Under the current law, the EPA must prove a chemical poses an "unreasonable risk" to health or the environment before it can be regulated. The law is widely considered to be a failure. When the law was first passed, 62,000 chemicals were allowed to remain on the market without testing for their effects on health or the environment. In more than 30 years, the EPA has only required testing of about 200 of those chemicals, and has partially regulated only five. The rest have never been fully assessed for toxic impacts on human health and the environment.

For the 22,000 chemicals introduced into commerce since 1976, chemical manufacturers have provided little or no information to the EPA regarding their potential health or environmental impacts.


and a related post:
http://www.democraticunderground.com/11426817

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Response to derby378 (Reply #2)

Mon Jan 21, 2013, 04:37 PM

13. What set her couch on fire? A cigarette, right? What we need is self-extinguishing

cigarettes to protect smokers from themselves -- not unhealthy chemicals for everyone.

If you have a habit that poses a significant risk for fires, then by all means get your furniture treated with fire retardants.

But the rest of us would rather avoid the chemicals, which pose a special risk for babies and children.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/20/opinion/sunday/kristof-are-you-safe-on-that-sofa.html

For years, I’ve written about this type of chemical, endocrine disruptors, but The Chicago Tribune has just published a devastating investigative series called “Playing With Fire” that breaks vast new ground. It is superb journalism.

It turns out that our furniture first became full of flame retardants because of the tobacco industry, according to internal cigarette company documents examined by The Tribune. A generation ago, tobacco companies were facing growing pressure to produce fire-safe cigarettes, because so many house fires started with smoldering cigarettes. So tobacco companies mounted a surreptitious campaign for flame retardant furniture, rather than safe cigarettes, as the best way to reduce house fires.

The documents show that cigarette lobbyists secretly organized the National Association of State Fire Marshals and then guided its agenda so that it pushed for flame retardants in furniture. The fire marshals seem to have been well intentioned, but utterly manipulated.

SNIP

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Response to pnwmom (Reply #13)

Mon Jan 21, 2013, 04:54 PM

16. I'm afraid you're right

A cigarette seems to be the only likely cause. But your point is well taken; my butt just needs a seat, not chemicals. I'd be happy with just the seat. (And I've never smoked.)

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Response to derby378 (Reply #16)

Mon Jan 21, 2013, 04:59 PM

18. It was easy to guess because that's by far the most typical situation.

Couches and beds don't tend to self-immolate. And then I googled and saw your wife mentioning smoking during jury duty. . . .

I am very sorry for your loss, though. I saw that afterwards.



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Response to pnwmom (Reply #13)

Wed Jan 23, 2013, 11:59 AM

24. We already have them.

We've had them for a few years now. If you look at a modern pack of cigarettes you'll see the letters "FSC" (I think it stands for "Fire Safer Cigarette") stamped beside the bar code. What that means is the cigarettes have rings of thicker less porous paper that smother the cigarette if it isn't continually pulled on. They work too. When I still smoked I was terrible about forgetting I had a cigarette in my hand. I hardly ever managed to smoke one without relighting it at least once.

I couldn't find a good closeup of a cigarette where you could see the rings, but I did find the NFPA site that has more information.

http://www.nfpa.org/categoryList.asp?categoryID=2256&URL=Safety%20Information/For%20consumers/Causes/Smoking/Coalition%20for%20Fire-Safe%20Cigarettes/About%20fire-safe%20cigarettes

They do taste like crap, but that's a small price to pay. It's not like they tasted like sugar and roses to start with.

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Response to JoeyT (Reply #24)

Wed Jan 23, 2013, 05:46 PM

25. So we're all stuck with the fire retardants in our couches

even though the cigarettes have been developed that makes them unnecessary. But now there's a huge chemical industry lobby to keep them there. Great.

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Response to proverbialwisdom (Original post)

Mon Jan 21, 2013, 03:29 PM

4. Bookmarked for future reference.

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Response to proverbialwisdom (Original post)

Mon Jan 21, 2013, 03:31 PM

5. K&R

Uploaded by HumanityDisrupted on Nov 20, 2009


An endocrine disruptor is any compound that is capable of interacting with endocrine receptor cells in a body. The body mistakes it for the female hormone estrogen. Endocrine disruptors come in forms such as: detergents, shampoos, personal care products, fragrances, and so on. Many foods also have endocrine disrupting capabilities. An example is soy based baby formula. Many plastics that humans are exposed to every day contain the endocrine disruptor BPA (Bisphenol A plasticer).

These disruptions can cause cancerous tumors, birth defects, and other developmental disorders. Specifically, they are known to cause learning disabilities, severe attention deficit disorder, cognitive and brain development problems, deformations of the body (including limbs); sexual development problems, feminizing of males or masculine effects on females, etc. Any system in the body controlled by hormones, can be derailed by hormone disruptors.

The critical period of development for most organisms is between the transition from a fertilized egg, into a fully formed infant. As the cells begin to grow and differentiate, there are critical balances of hormones and protein changes that must occur. Therefore, a dose of disrupting chemicals can do substantial damage to a developing fetus (baby). The same dose may not significantly affect adult mothers—for a more scientific explanation, see below.

For more information, please visit www.humanitydisrupted.com.

See also: The Disappearing Male

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Response to DeSwiss (Reply #5)

Tue Jan 22, 2013, 04:12 PM

22. This documentary is the first thing I thought of while reading the OP

Last edited Tue Jan 22, 2013, 04:45 PM - Edit history (1)

and was about to post it. Thanks for doing so.

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Response to u4ic (Reply #22)

Tue Jan 22, 2013, 06:01 PM

23. De nada.

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Response to proverbialwisdom (Original post)

Mon Jan 21, 2013, 03:33 PM

6. K&R

thanks for the link. I was just thinking about this the other day, all the chemicals in food and packaging, as well.

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Response to proverbialwisdom (Original post)

Mon Jan 21, 2013, 03:38 PM

7. It's alarming -- and overwhelming. Thanks for this.

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Response to proverbialwisdom (Original post)

Mon Jan 21, 2013, 03:51 PM

9. When we voiced concern about this in the 80s we were written off

Though it is good to see that it is generally accepted now.

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Response to proverbialwisdom (Original post)

Mon Jan 21, 2013, 04:32 PM

12. The Hundred year old lie - Better living through chemistry

If you want more information and learn how to avoid, then you will want to read this book. http://www.hundredyearlie.com/

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Response to proverbialwisdom (Original post)

Mon Jan 21, 2013, 04:56 PM

17. We can thank the cigarette industry for the unhealthy fire retardants

in our furniture. They pushed for it rather than developing self-extinguishing cigarettes.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/20/opinion/sunday/kristof-are-you-safe-on-that-sofa.html

For years, I’ve written about this type of chemical, endocrine disruptors, but The Chicago Tribune has just published a devastating investigative series called “Playing With Fire” that breaks vast new ground. It is superb journalism.

It turns out that our furniture first became full of flame retardants because of the tobacco industry, according to internal cigarette company documents examined by The Tribune. A generation ago, tobacco companies were facing growing pressure to produce fire-safe cigarettes, because so many house fires started with smoldering cigarettes. So tobacco companies mounted a surreptitious campaign for flame retardant furniture, rather than safe cigarettes, as the best way to reduce house fires.

The documents show that cigarette lobbyists secretly organized the National Association of State Fire Marshals and then guided its agenda so that it pushed for flame retardants in furniture. The fire marshals seem to have been well intentioned, but utterly manipulated.

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Response to pnwmom (Reply #17)

Mon Jan 21, 2013, 06:07 PM

19. Did they also push for fire retardants in infant and toddler PJs?

For those kids aged 1 month to 5 years who smoke in bed?

Partial explanations are risky, and claims of risk without weighing a chemical or practice's benefits are all too common.

There's also the problem of proving safety. Very hard to do, esp. when you have to take into account interactions with other chemicals, the effect of heat, light, time, acids, bases, etc. Take Corexit. They proved it safe, at least a lot safer than oil spoils. Come to find out that in combination with other materials present during its use it's much riskier than thought.

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Response to Igel (Reply #19)

Mon Jan 21, 2013, 08:10 PM

20. I know they pushed for fire retardants in furniture.

I don't know about baby's clothes, but it could have been part of the same push. Compared to other babies, the baby of a smoker is more at risk of getting involved in a fire.

What you say about proving safety of the added chemicals is true -- which adds an additional reason for developing self-extinguishing cigarettes. If the smoker chooses to smoke, knowing that there might be some additional risk, so be it. But every person trying to buy a couch shouldn't have to buy one laden with fire retardants that were put there to avoid a fire caused by a smoker.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/watchdog/flames/ct-met-flames-tobacco-20120508,0,6090419,full.story

A key prong in R.J. Reynolds' 1996 strategic plan to fight these laws was the marshals' petition to the Consumer Product Safety Commission for flame retardant furniture rules. A handwritten note on the first page directs an R.J. Reynolds employee to file the plan under "Fire Safe Sparber."

The plan used italics to hammer home the urgency of focusing on the furniture fueling fires, not the cigarettes igniting them: "In 1996, fire officials must keep the pressure on the Commission to focus on the fuels rather than ignition sources."

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Response to proverbialwisdom (Original post)

Tue Jan 22, 2013, 11:38 AM

21. USA ...number one in the world for cancer. "...Better Living Through Chemistry". n/t

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