Posts Tagged ‘ toxic chemicals ’

Autism Linked to Pesticide Exposure During Pregnancy

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

Pregnant women who are exposed to chemical pesticides, especially those used to treat large farm fields, may be more likely to have babies who are later diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or other developmental delay.  A new study conducted at the University of California Davis reported these findings–the third major study to link pesticide exposure with autism rates–but stopped short of saying that pesticide exposure is definitely a cause of ASD.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest numbers suggest that 1 in 68 American children has an autism spectrum disorder, with its causes remaining one of the most vexing mysteries in modern medicine.  The debate over whether vaccines cause autism is ongoing despite copious research disproving any link, and a recent British study found that genetics may play as much of a role as whether a child is autistic as environmental exposure does.

Reuters has more on the new study, which was conducted in California where agricultural pesticide use is carefully reported and mapped:

For the new study, the researchers used those maps to track exposures during pregnancy for the mothers of 970 children.

The children included 486 with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), 168 with a developmental delay and 316 with typical development.

….

In the new study, about a third of mothers had lived within a mile of fields treated with pesticides, most commonly organophosphates.

Children of mothers exposed to organophosphates were 60 percent more likely to have an ASD than children of non-exposed mothers, the authors report in Environmental Health Perspectives.

Early Signs of Autism
Early Signs of Autism
Early Signs of Autism

Image: Tractor spraying a field, via Shutterstock

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Common Chemicals May Hurt Sperm Quality

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

A group of common chemicals called endocrine disruptors are being connected to fertility problems in men, as CNN reports:

Researchers found endocrine disruptors can interfere with human sperm’s ability to move, navigate and/or penetrate an egg. Their study results were published Monday in EMBO reports.

Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that interfere with your endocrine system – the system in your body that regulates hormones. These hormones control everything from your metabolism to your sleep cycle to your reproductive system, so messing with them can cause serious issues.

Scientists have a long list of potential endocrine disruptors, including bisphenol-A (BPA), phthalates, dioxin, mercury and perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs). They can be natural or man-made and are virtually “omnipresent,” the study authors write, in our food and in common household and personal care products.

This isn’t the first time scientists have linked these chemicals with fertility issues in humans.  For example, in 2010, a study of Chinese factory workers found exposure to BPA can reduce sperm counts. More recent studies have shown BPA and chemicals called phthalates can hinder a couple’s ability to conceive and carry a healthy baby to full term.

Scientists in Germany and Denmark tested 96 endocrine disrupting chemicals on human sperm – both individually and in various combinations.  Around one-third of the chemicals had a negative effect.

The researchers found these endocrine disruptors increased the amount of calcium found in sperm cells – although BPA was found to have no effect. Calcium ions control many of the essential functions of sperm, study author Dr. Timo Strunker explains, including the flagellum – the tail that propels sperm forward. So changing the calcium level in a sperm cell can impact its motility, or swimming ability.

Image: Sperm, via Shutterstock

Take our quiz to find out if you could be ovulating.

Pregnancy Sex Tips: Have Fun Sex and Get Pregnant
Pregnancy Sex Tips: Have Fun Sex and Get Pregnant
Pregnancy Sex Tips: Have Fun Sex and Get Pregnant

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Toxic Chemicals Found in Crib Mattresses

Friday, April 4th, 2014

Significant amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are toxic chemicals often found in household cleansers and paints, have been found in the polyurethane foam and polyester foam padding materials found in many crib mattresses.  More on the new study, which was conducted by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin:

The researchers studied samples of polyurethane foam and polyester foam padding from 20 new and old crib mattresses. Graduate student Brandon Boor, in the Cockrell School’s Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering, conducted the study under the supervision of assistant professor Ying Xu and associate professor Atila Novoselac. Boor also worked with senior researcher Helena Järnström from the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. They reported their findings in the February issue of Environmental Science & Technology.

The researchers found:

  • New crib mattresses release about four times as many VOCs as old crib mattresses.
  • Body heat increases emissions.
  • Chemical emissions are strongest in the sleeping infant’s immediate breathing zone.

The researchers concluded that, on average, mattresses emitted VOCs at a rate of 87.1 micrograms per square meter per hour, while older mattresses emitted VOCs at a rate of 22.1 micrograms per square meter per hour. Overall, Boor said crib mattresses release VOCs at rates comparable to other consumer products and indoor materials, including laminate flooring (20 to 35 micrograms per square meter per hour) and wall covering (51 micrograms per square meter per hour).

Boor became motivated to conduct the study after finding out that infants spend 50 to 60 percent of their day sleeping. Infants are considered highly susceptible to the adverse health effects of exposure to indoor air pollutants.

“I wanted to know more about the chemicals they may inhale as they sleep during their early stages of development,” he said. “This research also helps to raise awareness about the various chemicals that may be found in crib mattresses, which are not typically listed by manufacturers.”

The 20 mattress samples are from 10 manufacturers. The researchers chose not to disclose the names of the manufacturers studied so that their results could draw general attention to the product segment without focusing on specific brands.

At present, not much is known about the health effects that occur from the levels of VOCs found in homes, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Researchers advised parents to allow new mattresses to air out in a garage or protected porch for as long a period as possible before placing it in a child’s crib.

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Nursery Ideas: Design a Nautical Nursery
Nursery Ideas: Design a Nautical Nursery
Nursery Ideas: Design a Nautical Nursery

Image: Baby in crib, via Shutterstock

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FDA Sued Over Mercury in Dental Fillings

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

A number of dental groups and individuals have filed a lawsuit in D.C. District Federal Court alleging that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not adequately addressed concerns over the use of “amalgam,” a material that contains mercury, in dental fillings.  Among other claims, the suit alleges that such filings are particularly dangerous to children and should be restricted for use in kids and other vulnerable populations.

Attorney James M. Love, who filed the lawsuit, said in a statement that American consumers and dental professionals are being misled by the American Dental Association (ADA) — the largest and most powerful advocate for continued amalgam use.

“The ADA has misrepresented FDA’s lack of regulation as proof of safety, and continues to use this toxic dental filling, despite scientifically demonstrated risks,” said Love. “Most individuals remain unaware that those ‘silver’ fillings, prevalently used as a dental restoration and covered by insurance policies, consist of 45-55% metallic mercury, and that there are health and environmental risks associated with those fillings.”

Scientific studies cited by the plaintiffs claim that mercury is a persistent toxic chemical that can build up in the body, particularly in the kidneys and the nervous system. Young children, they say, are more sensitive to mercury and can be exposed to mercury through breast milk. Unborn fetuses can be exposed to mercury from placental transfer of mercury from a pregnant woman’s teeth if she has fillings containing amalgam.

“We have banned mercury in disinfectants, thermometers, and many other consumer products,” said Griffin Cole, DDS, President of the IAOMT. “There is no magic formula that makes mercury safe when it’s put into our mouths. It’s inexcusable to use mercury in dental fillings when there are much safer alternatives.”

A previous 2007 lawsuit, Moms Against Mercury v. Eschenbach, alleged that more than thirty years ago the FDA was legally obligated to classify dental amalgam, but did not do so. In direct response to this lawsuit, the FDA agreed to classify dental amalgam. However, FDA classified the device in Class II, assigning no controls or other measures intended to protect the public.  The new lawsuit is claiming the FDA has not responded appropriately to petitions requesting amalgam be classified as Class III, which would require higher safety standards, environmental impact studies, and restricted use in vulnerable populations, including children.

Download our free dental guide to help protect your child’s smile and build stronger, healthier teeth and gums.

Dental Experts Remind Parents, Toddlers Need to Visit Dentist by Age 1
Dental Experts Remind Parents, Toddlers Need to Visit Dentist by Age 1
Dental Experts Remind Parents, Toddlers Need to Visit Dentist by Age 1

Image: Child at the dentist, via Shutterstock

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Birth Defects in Washington State Mystify Doctors

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

Doctors and public health officials are puzzled by why a cluster of diagnoses of anencephaly, a fatal birth defect in which infants are born missing parts of their brain and skull, has emerged in Washington state. The spate of diagnoses is leading parents and doctors to question how rigorous epidemiologists are being in determining the causes of the defect.  CNN has more:

For months, Andrea Jackman has been expecting a call from the Department of Health.

While pregnant, Jackman lived in the Yakima Valley, an agricultural area in south-central Washington. Her daughter, Olivia, was born in September with spina bifida, which, like anencephaly, is a neural tube defect the state is also tracking. Unlike anencephaly, however, spina bifida is usually not fatal.

She says she’s incredulous and outraged that state researchers haven’t called to ask questions: What did she eat while she was pregnant? Did she spend time near farms that sprayed pesticides? Did she take any herbs or supplements? How about Olivia’s father? Was he exposed to any toxic chemicals?

But no one has called.

Mandy Stahre, the state epidemiologist who’s investigating the cluster of birth defects, says it might be upsetting for mothers to get a call with such questions. Most of the women were pregnant with babies who had anencephaly, and the outcome is always horrible. If a woman didn’t miscarry, she had to make a decision whether to terminate her pregnancy or go ahead and have a baby sure to die soon after birth.

Stahre and her colleagues asked themselves: Would a phone call traumatize these women?

“We have to weigh that heavily. This is a devastating diagnosis, and we know that for a lot of these women they had to make some hard choices,” Stahre says. “We have to weigh how invasive we want to be with these types of interviews.”

Jackman says that attitude is paternalistic and condescending. She says she would do anything to help prevent another family from having a baby with a severe birth defect. State epidemiologists should have made those phone calls a long time ago, she says, since every day that passes, her memory, and those of other mothers, start to fade about what their habits were during pregnancy.

“What are you researching if you haven’t physically called the families to find out?” she asks.

‘Very bad research

Stahre has an answer to Jackman’s question: The state examined the mothers’ medical records, which revealed, among other things, the women’s home addresses.

By the address, epidemiologists can learn a mother’s water source, whether she lives near an agricultural area and whether she took folic acid early in pregnancy, which helps prevent neural tube defects.

“(Medical records) give us a lot of information about all of the known risk factors,” the epidemiologist says.

The state’s rigorous search of the women’s medical records, along with birth and death certificates, found nothing linking the families who had babies with birth defects.

That finding doesn’t surprise Dr. Beate Ritz, who’s done several studies on birth defects.

Ritz, vice chair of the epidemiology department at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, says medical records are notoriously unreliable: One doctor, for example, might note whether a woman smokes, but another doctor might not.

“From a research point of view, this is very bad research,” she says.

She says medical records reveal whether a woman has been prescribed any drugs, or diagnosed with a certain condition, but they don’t contain detailed information about a mother’s diet or possible toxins she might have been exposed to in the environment.

“The data quality on medical records is so low that it’s not really research,” she says.

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