Nick Kristof of the New York Times has been one of the most influential voices in the media when it comes to the dangers of endocrine disruptors. Last week he wrote again about the the science fiction that we are living with these chemicals.
The article is a great reminder of why we make such a big fuss around the presence of endocrine disruptors, and why we always advise people to avoid fragrance in their products. (Fragrances notoriously contain phthalates, part of this nasty club.)
Are you very aware of these chemicals in your day-to-day? Do you avoid them at all costs? I still eat many things out of a can (notably sardines) and am at a loss as to how to stop. Is is too much to ask that these chemicals just be banned, once and for all?
This month also happens to be Pregnancy Awareness Month, founded by author and lifestyle expert Anna Getty and producer Alisa Donner. Have you heard of this? It was created in 2008 with the intention of building a support community for mothers and expecting families, and to help educate them around health and wellness.
We should all know about endocrine disruptors, but fetuses are particularly vulnerable. I’ve pasted a few highlights from Kristof’s piece below in case you missed it, or if you’ve capped out on your New York Times articles for the month:
Endocrine disruptors are everywhere. They’re in thermal receipts that come out of gas pumps and A.T.M.’s. They’re in canned foods, cosmetics, plastics and food packaging. Test your blood or urine, and you’ll surely find them there, as well as in human breast milk and in cord blood of newborn babies.
Scientists have long known the tiniest variations in hormone levels influence fetal development. For example, a female twin is very slightly masculinized if the other twin is a male, because she is exposed to some of his hormones.
Now experts worry that endocrine disruptors have similar effects, acting as hormones and swamping the delicate balance for fetuses in particular. The latest initiative by scholars is a landmark 78-page analysis to be published next month in Endocrine Reviews, the leading publication in the field.
“For several well-studied endocrine disruptors, I think it is fair to say that we have enough data to conclude that these chemicals are not safe for human populations,” said Laura Vandenberg, a Tufts University developmental biologist who was the lead writer for the panel.
Need we say more?
Happy Friday! Big news: Scientific groups representing more than 40,000 researchers and clinicians have come together in the pages of the super-influential journal Science to insist that federal regulators do more—and do more, more quickly—to assess the human safety of the 12,000 new substances registered every day at the American Chemical Society.
“The need for swifter and sounder testing and review procedures cannot be overstated,” the letter says.
The letter’s corresponding author Patricia Hunt, a professor in the Washington State University School of Molecular Biosciences, said:
“As things stand now,” she added, “things get rapidly into the marketplace and the testing of them is tending to lag behind.”
Hunt told ScienceDaily that the letter was inspired by growing concerns about BPA, which more than 300 studies have found to cause adverse health effects in animals. Hormone disruptors more broadly, were also of concern. She says:
“Hormones control everything—our basic metabolism, our reproduction. We call them endocrine disruptors. They’re like endocrine bombs to a certain extent because they can disrupt all these normal functions.”
Boom. She also said one of the problems is that the methods used to assess safety—primarily toxicology—are insufficient. “The FDA and EPA need to look beyond the toxicology of substances to the other ways chemicals can affect us. … One of the problems they have is they look at some of the science and don’t know how to interpret it because it’s not done using the traditional toxicology testing paradigm,” she said. “We need geneticists, we need developmental and reproductive biologists and we need the clinical people on board to actually help interpret and evaluate some of the science.”
I think this qualifies as a sign that things are changing, no?
Fantastic news coming out of Denmark. The country’s environment ministry announced today that it was banning two parabens in products for kids under 3, making it the first in Europe to ban those pesky hormone disruptors. Hey, it only applies to kids’ products, but it’s a HUGE start. I’m curious to see what will happen. Will companies start reformulating for Denmark only? Will they just replace parabens with another cheap synthetic preservative like phenoxyethanol, which is also on our black list in the book? Will the EU follow suit? Will the United States? (That last one was a joke. Kind of.)
You can read all about it in Danish or stay tuned for more news from us. And if you speak Danish, would you be a doll and email us at nomoredirtylooks at gmail dot com? Grazie!
We’ve invented a word because Canada is having a great week on toxics regulation. According to Environment Canada, BPA has been added to the agency’s toxic substances list—a big, big deal, especially after the disturbing revelation last week that 90% of the people tested had the hormone disruptor in their urine. (A similar study in the United States found it in 93% of those sampled.)
The American Chemistry Council is predictably miffed, and last year said that classifying it as a toxic is “pander[ing] to emotional zealots.” Well, color us emotional zealots because we are thrilled.
BPA, in case you have been living under a rock, has been linked to obesity, neurological issues, impaired thyroid function and other hormonal issues. Humans are exposed to it from soda cans, canned foods, baby bottles, school lunches, in plastics and more.
This is pretty game-changey. We’re excited to see what happens next, and we hope Environment Canada is ready to duck, because we imagine there’s going to be some mudslinging.
Luca with a BPA-free bottle (and Siobhan)
According to a new study, young girls are developing breasts as early as 7 and 8 years old these days. As the New York Times is reporting, a survey of 1,239 girls aged 6 to 8 found the following:
At 7 years, 10.4 percent of white, 23.4 percent of black and 14.9 percent of Hispanic girls had enough breast development to be considered at the onset of puberty.
At age 8, the figures were 18.3 percent in whites, 42.9 percent in blacks and 30.9 percent in Hispanics. The percentages for blacks and whites were even higher than those found by a 1997 study that was one of the first to suggest that puberty was occurring earlier in girls.
Reasons for the racial disparity are inconclusive, though obesity definitely plays a role in early onset puberty because body fat can produce sex hormones. But the author of the study, Dr. M. Frank Biro, doesn’t think weight tells the whole story.
Exposure to environmental chemicals—many of which are estrogen-mimickers—may also be playing a role. You know where this is going right? Several suspected hormone disruptors are found in personal care products.
Among the many reasons this study is so disconcerting? Seven and 8 year old girls are not psychologically ready to be in women’s bodies, let alone deal with the attention that engenders. We couldn’t say it better than the Dr. Biro:
“I think we need to think about the stuff we’re exposing our bodies to and the bodies of our kids. This is a wake-up call, and I think we need to pay attention to it.”