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Thursday, May 3rd, 2012
Garden hoses, gloves, and even shovels have been found to contain toxic chemicals including lead, phthalates, and bisphenol A or BPA, research from the environmental group HealthyStuff.org has found. Families who spend time in the garden should take note, as these chemicals have been linked to birth defects and hormonal changes after prolonged exposure.
Thirty percent of the 179 garden products tested contained more than 100 parts per million of lead, which is Consumer Product Safety Commission Standard (CPSC) for lead in children’ products. Water sitting outside in a new garden hose for a couple of days was measured with 18 times the allowable lead level.
“Even if you are an organic gardener, doing everything you can to avoid pesticides and fertilizers, you still may be introducing hazardous substances into your soil by using these products,” said Jeff Gearhart, Research Director at the Ecology Center in a press release for HealthyStuff.org. “The good news is that healthier choices are out there. Polyurethane or natural rubber water hoses, and non-PVC tools and work gloves, are all better choices.”
The group urges parents to take the following steps to have a safer garden:
- Read the labels: Avoid hoses with a California Prop 65 warning that says “this product contains a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects and other reproductive harm.” Buy hoses that are “drinking water safe” and “lead-free”.
- Let it run: Always let your hose run for a few seconds before using, since the water that’s been sitting in the hose will have the highest levels of chemicals.
- Avoid the sun: Store your hose in the shade. The heat from the sun can increase the leaching of chemicals from the PVC into the water.
- Don’t drink water from a hose: Unless you know for sure that your hose is drinking water safe, don’t drink from it. Even low levels of lead may cause health problems.
- Buy a PVC-free hose: Polyurethane or natural rubber hoses are better choices.
Image: Garden hose, via Shutterstock.
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Monday, April 2nd, 2012
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced Friday that it will not ban the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) from food packaging–including infant formula packages–even though the agency agrees the substance needs to be studied more carefully for potential health risks.
The FDA’s BPA policy statement was updated to say that in response to a 2008 petition by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the agency is taking “reasonable steps to reduce human exposure to BPA in the food supply,” but that it will stop short of banning its use altogether. “FDA is not recommending that families change the use of infant formula or foods, as the benefit of a stable source of good nutrition outweighs the potential risk from BPA exposure,” the policy states.
Health risks associated with BPA include negative effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and young children.
Health policy experts are disappointed, if not dismayed, at the decision. Jeanne Rizzo, president and CEO of the Breast Cancer Fund, responded in a strongly-worded statement, “Scientists, consumers, retailers, manufacturers and the states are sending clear signals that BPA doesn’t belong in our food packaging and that investment in safe alternatives is an investment in the health of the American public. Now the FDA needs to catch up. Inaction is not acceptable.”
Two weeks ago, Massachusetts Congressman Ed Markey submitted his own petition for a BPA ban, arguing that it is a obsolete material that is not necessary, especially given the health risks.
Image: Canned foods, via Shutterstock.
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Wednesday, March 21st, 2012
Bisphenol A, or BPA, has been slowly disappearing from toys, food packaging and food service items since it was revealed to have health risks including cancer, sexual dysfunction, and heart disease. The issue is particularly important for children, as BPA levels–detectable in the blood and urine of pregnant women, and in the umbilical cord blood of infants–is believed to impact fetal and child development alike.
The fight to have BPA banned from all food service items was escalated late last week when Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass. petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to ban it. The Washington Post reports that Markey’s argument is not based on the health risks of BPA, but rather is based on the obsolescence of the material:
Markey did not premise his request on the chemical’s potential dangers. Instead, he used a provision that allows people to petition for changes to food additive rules if it can be shown that an additive’s old use has been abandoned. Markey’s office polled the food industry and found that major manufacturers no longer use BPA in their food packaging. Using this “abandonment” clause enables the government to sidestep the debate over whether BPA is safe and still bar the chemical’s use.
In three separate petitions, Markey is asking FDA to ban the chemical’s use in the packages of three types of household products: infant formula and baby/toddler food, canned foods and beverages, and small reusable food containers.
The four companies that make nearly all the nation’s formula said they no longer use BPA, according to the petition. Seven other companies that make canned foods said they either no longer use BPA or they are phasing it out. Seven firms that make reusable containers, such as Tupperware and Glad, said they have either never used BPA or have stopped using it.
The FDA has previously stipulated that BPA carries health risks, but has stopped short of banning it saying that it is safe in small doses.
Image: Plastic baby bottle, via Shutterstock.
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Monday, October 24th, 2011
Preliminary research into the effects of in-utero exposure to the chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) has correlated high levels of the compound with behavioral issues in 3-year-old girls, The Associated Press reports.
The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, found that preschool-aged girls whose mothers had high levels of BPA during pregnancy scored worse–though still within normal range–on behavioral measures including anxiety and hyperactivity. For every 10-fold increase in BPA in the mothers during pregnancy, the study found that girls scored 6 points worse on the behavioral questionnaire given at 3 years.
The results did not seem to be replicated in boys.
Nearly all Americans have measurable BPA levels in their bodies (the pregnant women were given urine tests). The chemical is found in some plastics and food can linings, though increasing numbers of companies are marketing “BPA-free” materials, especially in items intended for use by children.
Researchers called these results “preliminary” and called for further study of BPA’s effects on child health. This study was specifically faulted for not tracking other potential behavior-influencing factors, such as the mother’s prenatal eating habits.
Parents can consult the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website for information on current research and advice on managing BPA levels in children.
(image via: http://onmybaby.com)
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Tuesday, June 28th, 2011
Bisphenol A (BPA), the chemical found in some hard plastics and food can linings, has been found to make male mice less “masculine” and less attractive to female mice, reports Health.com.
Though the study, in which pregnant mice were fed BPA and their offspring put through a series of tests, cannot be conclusively linked to similar effects of BPA on baby boys, studies have shown that male factory workers who were exposed to significant amounts of BPA experienced erectile dysfunction and loss of libido.
In 2010, the Food and Drug Administration issued a statement of concern over the effect of BPA on fetuses and young children, though BPA has not been officially declared to be a toxic chemical. Many toy and baby bottle companies have stopped using BPA in their plastics.
One interesting finding from the mouse study was that adult BPA-exposed and non-exposed mice both exhibited normal testosterone levels, though their behaviors were different. The study’s lead author, associate professor of biomedical sciences at the University of Missouri–Columbia Cheryl Rosenfeld, Ph.D., says this suggests that future human research should focus on pre-adult hormone levels, and how BPA exposure might be affecting people in ways that are not currently being measured.
“[We] have sexually selected traits just like animals do, so there’s no reason to presume that the animals would behave differently than humans,” Rosenfeld told Health.com. “It also suggests that the development period is very important — the period when offspring are exposed to endocrine-disrupting compounds. Pregnant women need to start considering what exposure to these compounds is doing to their offspring.”
For more: 15 BPA-Free Baby Bottles and Sippy Cups
(image via: http://www.fooducate.com/)
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