(Guest blog by Silent Spring Institute Research Director Ruthann Rudel)
Firefighters put their lives on the line to save people. What many people don’t know is that firefighters may also be facing risk from an entirely different source: the chemicals they encounter on the job. In San Francisco, which has many female firefighters, there is concern about elevated rates of breast cancer, particularly in younger women.
We know surprisingly little about women’s (including firefighters) chemical exposures in the workplace even though these can be much higher than typical exposure levels. To fill this data void, Rachel Morello-Frosch of UC-Berkeley and I, along with a powerful and inspiring group of firefighters, scientists, and advocates, have launched a new biomonitoring study to measure and compare exposures in two groups of women: firefighters and city office workers in San Francisco. The plan to compare exposures of women firefighters and city office workers emerged from firefighters’ concerns about elevated rates of breast cancer among their ranks.
The San Francisco Firefighters Cancer Prevention Foundation, United Fire Service Women, Commonweal Biomonitoring Resource Center, and the Breast Cancer Fund joined forces to respond to concerns about firefighter exposure to potential breast carcinogens. Researchers from UC-Berkeley, Silent Spring Institute, and UCSF were tapped to help try to get to the bottom of what has been going on. The research team includes Rachel Morello-Frosch of UC-Berkeley, Roy Gerona and Michael McMaster of UC San Francisco and myself at Silent Spring Institute. The firefighter community is an integral part of the project. Two firefighters, Tony Stefani and Heather Buren, serve as co-PI’s on the study; and several other firefighters are part of the study team.
This collaboration of researchers, firefighters, and advocates calls itself the Women Firefighters Biomonitoring Collaborative The 3-year study, funded by the California Breast Cancer Research Program, Local 798- International Association of Firefighters, and the San Francisco Firefighters Cancer Prevention Foundation, will specifically target potential breast carcinogens highlighted in a recent review conducted by Silent Spring Institute. This review identifies chemicals that are high-priority for breast cancer research because they cause mammary gland tumors in rodent studies. The review also describes the best methods to measure those exposures in people. We used this new review to hone in specifically on potential breast carcinogens that firefighters are likely to encounter.
Past investigations into workplace exposures to chemicals of interest for breast cancer have had to rely on surveys conducted in the 1970s and 1980s, so the information is out of date and incomplete. Furthermore, most knowledge about chemicals that cause cancer has come from studies of workplace exposures, but since we don’t know what women are exposed to at work, we are missing a major potential source of information about which chemicals cause breast cancer.
Our new study focuses on occupational exposures to chemicals that raise breast cancer concerns. We will collect blood and urine samples from 80 women firefighters and 80 city office workers, in addition to interviewing the women about potential exposure sources at home and work. We will measure levels of specific chemicals, including products of combustion and diesel exhaust, flame retardants, and perfluorinated chemicals. In addition, we will use an innovative method (called Time of Flight) to test for the presence of unanticipated chemical exposures by comparing blood samples from firefighters and office workers. As a result, the project will apply one of the newest tools available for biomonitoring.
We selected these chemicals for the study because we expect firefighters may have higher exposures to some of them, and because they are among the 102 chemicals listed as priorities for breast cancer research and prevention efforts in our new review paper, entitled New Exposure Biomarkers as Tools for Breast Cancer Epidemiology, Biomonitoring, and Prevention: A Systematic Approach Based on Animal Evidence. Our review shows that rodent data is a good predictor of chemicals' links to human breast cancer, so we prioritized chemicals that cause mammary gland tumors in rodent studies for further study in women workers. Then we compiled the best methods to measure women's exposure to the priority chemicals. We found that exposure to these mammary carcinogens can come from many sources, including tobacco smoke, gasoline, diesel exhaust, air pollution, polyurethane foam, flame retardants, drinking water, and pharmaceuticals. We found that methods are currently available to measure about two-thirds of the 102 priority chemicals in people, and US CDC includes 23 of them in the national exposure report.
While human data about breast carcinogens are limited, the Silent Spring study reviews those cases where data are available and finds consistency between the rodent and human data. This supports using rodent data to predict potential risks to people in order to make good decisions about chemical use and pollution control. This is especially important for breast cancer, which is difficult to study in women because it develops over many years and is influenced by multiple risk factors. Our review highlights that many mammary gland carcinogens are ubiquitous pollutants to which most women are exposed every day. We hope our review will encourage researchers to include exposure biomarkers for these chemicals in the many ongoing breast cancer studies that have already collected blood and urine from more than a million women. And policy makers can use biomonitoring for these chemicals now to find highly exposed populations where efforts to reduce exposure will have the biggest payoff.
The Silent Spring review and the Women’s Firefighter Biomonitoring Collaborative study respond to recommendations from the Institute of Medicine, International Agency for Research on Cancer, President's Cancer Panel, and US Interagency Breast Cancer and Environment Research Coordinating Committee to improve breast cancer prevention research by focusing on laboratory evidence and developing new exposure methods and data. You can read Silent Spring Institute’s perspectives on these reports here: IOM, IBCERCC.
Ruthann Rudel is the research director at Silent Spring Institute, where she leads major exposure and toxicology research programs focusing on hormonally active chemicals and biological mechanisms by which chemicals may influence breast cancer. Her innovations in “breast cancer toxicology” include major peer-reviewed articles that identify chemicals that cause breast tumors or alter breast development in animal models, and she is developing a database of methods for measuring these chemicals in women. Rudel leads a program to develop breast cancer-relevant chemical safety tests for green chemistry. She also directs the Institute’s Household Exposure Study, which has been described as the “most comprehensive analysis to date” of exposures in homes and is widely cited. She has served on the U.S. National Toxicology Program Board of Scientific Counselors and is an adjunct Research Associate in the Brown University School of Medicine.
Posted by Breast Cancer Fund on May 13, 2014 at 01:34 PM in Bisphenol A, Chemicals policy reform, Choose Safe Cosmetics, Create a Healthy Home, Eat & Live Better, General Public Health, Green Our Chemical System | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
Guest blog by Rick Smith, author of "Toxin Toxout"
When Bruce Lourie and I first began speaking to people about toxic chemicals after our first book, "Slow Death by Rubber Duck" was released five years ago; the world was a very different place. We would quite often ask “Who has heard of BPA? Of phthalates?” and not a single hand would go up in the audience.
How times have changed.
In the past few weeks, as we’ve spoken to very similar audiences about our second book “Toxin Toxout”, consumer awareness is considerably higher. Many people now know that of the 80,000-odd chemicals currently in commerce, most have never been adequately tested for safety. They know that countless consumer products that Americans use every day are full of these toxic ingredients, and they are quite concerned that their health – and that of their families – is being negatively impacted as a consequence.
They want solutions. They want to get these chemicals out of their bodies and their lives. And that’s what “Toxin Toxout” is all about.
Let’s face it: the toxic chemical issue is hard to get your arms around. The chemicals in question have long, often unpronounceable names. And with every men’s and women’s health magazine claiming to have the new definitive detox treatment it’s hard to figure out which chemicals to worry about and how to take effective action. “Toxin Toxout” tries to answer these questions head on.
Through a series of direct experiments on ourselves and other intrepid volunteers we tease apart fact from fiction. As one example, we show that eating organic food can dramatically lower levels of cancer-causing chemicals in the bodies of children. We experiment on two cosmetics industry insiders and demonstrate that using greener cosmetics can quickly alter body levels of parabens (linked to breast cancer) and phthalates. Because there is nothing we won’t do in service of science we even sit in a new car for a day, breathing in the off-gassing, to shine a light on the chemical effects of the “new car smell.” Along the way we also delve into the whole weird world of detox therapies and discover that many of the potions and cleanses on offer are nothing more than modern-day snake oil. The book concludes with a handy “Top 10” list of simple, everyday, actions that are guaranteed to reduce levels of toxins in the body.
In both our books we are honored to be able to feature the work of the Breast Cancer Fund. A true pioneer in the effort to investigate the links between toxic chemicals and rising rates of breast cancer, the Breast Cancer Fund continues to lead the way in defense of human health and the environment
Because of the perseverance of the Breast Cancer Fund and others, over the past year major companies like Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Avon and Walmart have all announced that they are moving to eliminate toxic chemicals from their products and their inventories. Jurisdictions around the world are making progress to eliminate chemicals from different aspects of our lives, such as the recent California crackdown on toxic flame retardants, and the US FDA’s new study of the health effects of triclosan. And millions of consumers across the US are getting educated like never before.
Fundamentally, “Toxin Toxout” is an optimistic book. Though it may be true that the toxic chemicals we have created are driving increased rates of serious disease such as breast and prostate cancer, the solutions to the crisis are within our grasp. Five years ago, audiences stared at us blankly when we asked them if they had ever heard of BPA. Now, every hand in the audience shoots up in answer to the same question. That’s progress!
So please check out “Toxin Toxout”, support the Breast Cancer Fund, and let’s keep the momentum going. Together, we’re winning!
RICK SMITH is co-author of the new book TOXIN TOXOUT: Getting Harmful Chemicals Out of Our Bodies and Our World (St. Martin’s Press) and of the international bestseller SLOW DEATH BY RUBBER DUCK: The Secret Danger of Everyday Things. A prominent Canadian author and environmentalist, he is executive director of the Broadbent Institute and was the executive director of Environmental Defence for almost 10 years.
Posted by Breast Cancer Fund on May 05, 2014 at 06:14 PM in Air & Water, Bisphenol A, Chemicals policy reform, Choose Safe Cosmetics, Eat & Live Better, Food, General Public Health, Green Our Chemical System, Household Products, News article, Protect Yourself & the Environment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Technorati Tags: BPA, Broadbent Institute, Environmental Defence, FDA, Johnson & Johnson, new car smell, Rick Smith, Slow Death by Rubber Duck: The Secret Danger of Everyday Things, St. Martin's Press, the US
Guest post by Maricel V. Maffini, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, Natural Resources Defense Council
At low doses the FDA says bisphenol A, the substance used in cans, plastics and dental fillings, is safe. But, the agency is in the midst of a multimillion dollar study examining the safety of this synthetic estrogen. Haven’t they jumped the gun?
FDA officials seem eager to put this discussion behind them and move on, but there is still a lot to be done in the quest to find answers to the question: does BPA adversely affect human health?
In 2009, Congress provided the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) with $30 million to invest in research that will lead to a better understanding of the public health consequences of exposures to bisphenol A. NIEHS’s National Toxicology Program partnered with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and created a consortium called CLARITY in which investigators from academic institutions, the FDA and the National Toxicology Program would work together to answer “important questions surrounding BPA and risks to human health” and “to support and perform the best science we can to inform the best possible decision making.”
The experiments were designed to be comprehensive and to cover 1) a wide variety of disorders and diseases including breast cancer and 2) exposures to everyday levels throughout the life of the animals. These experiments are still ongoing and it will take another three to four years to have all the data analyzed and published.That means it should take the FDA three to four years to make sense of the results and to draw conclusions about the safety of this widespread endocrine disruptor.
For reasons only known to the FDA, its scientists published preliminary data in February that were limited in scope and duration and of questionable scientific value due to the contamination of the study’s control group. Animals that were not supposed to have been in contact with BPA were found to be contaminated. It’s bad enough that data of very limited significance got published, but FDA’s statement to Environmental Health News was worse: “[t]he study reported no effects of BPA at any dose, except at the very highest levels, and is consistent with the FDA’s current position that BPA is safe at the very low amounts that occur in some foods."
Why would FDA declare BPA safe at everyday exposure levels before the comprehensive study is finalized? What is the rush? Why would FDA jeopardize public health by making a premature decision?
Meanwhile, scientific evidence continues to pile up and other agencies have come up with opinions contrary to FDA’s current stance on BPA. In January 2014, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) (FDA’s counterpart across the pond) released its draft extensive Scientific Opinion on the risks to public health related to the presence of BPA in foodstuffs. EFSA’s opinion recommended to lower the current acceptable daily intake, in other words the amount of BPA one can safely consume without harm, from 50 micrograms/kg body weight to 5 micrograms/kg because of likely kidney, liver and mammary gland adverse effects. Also in Europe, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) last month has supported a proposal to strengthen the current classification of BPA as a reproductive toxicant from “suspected human reproductive toxicant” to “presumed human reproductive toxicant” based on evidence that it affects fertility.
The FDA seems unfazed by the hundreds of publications showing that 1) BPA causes numerous adverse effects and 2) free BPA can be measured in human blood. But FDA officials seem to be in a hurry to support their current stance using unreliable data. The best thing FDA should do is to let the study, and the data it will generate, run its course and then, only then, make a rigorous assessment of the safety of BPA considering ALL available information.
Maricel V. Maffini, Ph.D.
Senior Scientist, Natural Resources Defense Council
Maricel Maffini is a member of the Breast Cancer Fund’s Science Advisory Panel. She is a senior scientist in the health and environment program at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in Washington, DC. She joined NRDC in 2013 after completing a three-year research project evaluating the U.S. food additive regulatory system at The Pew Charitable Trusts. Dr. Maffini holds a Ph.D. in Biological Sciences from the National University of Litoral, Santa Fe, Argentina.
Posted by Breast Cancer Fund on May 01, 2014 at 02:33 PM in Air & Water, Bisphenol A, Chemicals policy reform, Create a Healthy Home, Eat & Live Better, Federal Legislation, General Public Health, General Science, Green Our Chemical System, Household Products, Make Our Products Safe, Make Prevention a Public Health Priority, Plastics, Protect Yourself & the Environment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Technorati Tags: BPA, Congress, European Chemicals Agency, European Food Safety Authority, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Toxicology Program, Natural Resources Defense Council, The Pew Charitable Trusts, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
In September 2013 ACOG released a statement recommending that physicians educate patients about how to avoid toxic chemicals found in thier homes, communities and workplaces. That statement has set the stage for ACOG's more than 50,000 reproductive doctor members to talk to their patients about toxic chemicals' potential effects on development and pregnancy. And the statement has put ACOG in a "position to engage with policymakers and legislators to do more on chemicals."
Nancy Buermeyer, senior policy strategist for the Breast Cancer Fund, was quoted in the article, saying that ACOG's position is "incredibly helpful" in drumming up support for substantive chemicals policy reform.
"They're the medical professionals that take care of the most vulnerable populations," Buermeyer said. "We know prenatal exposures are often the most dangerous, and having the group of physicians taking care of women at that time means they can do a world of good in reducing that exposure. Just as important, their voice in the public policy world is respected."
Tracey Woodruff, who leads the reproductive health and environment program at the University of California, San Francisco and serves on the Breast Cancer Fund's science advisory panel, refers to ACOG's statement as a "foundational step."
The Greenwire story is not available online, but you can read more about prenatal chemical exposures in our Sept. 2013 report Disrupted Development: the Dangers of Prenatal BPA Exposure.
Posted by Breast Cancer Fund on January 06, 2014 at 04:37 PM in Air & Water, Bisphenol A, Chemicals policy reform, Green Our Chemical System, Health Care, Make Informed Health Care Choices, Make Prevention a Public Health Priority, News article, Protect Your Family | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Technorati Tags: ACOG, American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Environment and Public Works Committee, Greenwire, medical professionals, physicians, prenatal, reproductive health, San Francisco, Unviersity of California
The ABC affiliate in Syracuse ran two stories featuring the Breast Cancer Fund including one on Target and Walmart's new steps to clean up chemicals in products and another on our prenatal report, which calls for the urgent need to get the toxic endocrine disruptor, BPA, out of food cans in order to protect pregnant women and future generations.
"We've been seeing mercury in face cream, formaldehyde in hair straightening products, heavy metals in lipsticks and lip glosses," explained Janet Nudelman, the Director of Program and Policy for the Breast Cancer Fund and Co-Founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. “Lead in lipstick, these are connected to cancer, reproductive and development harm.”
"Consumer concerns have led manufacturers to remove it from baby bottles and infant formula packaging, but BPA could pose a risk to children long before they take their first sip of milk, according to the Breast Cancer Fund."
Posted by Breast Cancer Fund on October 21, 2013 at 11:51 AM in Bisphenol A, Chemicals policy reform, Choose Safe Cosmetics, Federal Legislation, General Public Health, General Science, Make Our Products Safe, News article | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
A USA Today story highlights the mounting evidence on the link between prenatal BPA exposure and increased risk for later-life breast cancer. The story explains that BPA could pose a risk to children long before they take their first sip of milk and cites our September report, Disrupted Development: the Dangers of Prenatal BPA Exposure and quotes our director of science, Sharima Rasanayagam:
"A developing fetus is especially vulnerable during the first 11 weeks of pregnancy, says co-author Sharima Rasanayagam, director of science at the Breast Cancer Fund. 'Everything is being developed' at this stage, she says. 'The building blocks are being laid down for future health.'"
Read on in the full article.
Posted by Breast Cancer Fund on October 09, 2013 at 07:36 PM in Bisphenol A, Eat & Live Better, General Public Health, Make Prevention a Public Health Priority, News article, Protect Your Family, Protect Yourself & the Environment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
In her latest Huffington Post article, Breast Cancer Fund President and CEO Jeanne Rizzo explains the urgent need to protect pregnant women—the next generation’s first environment—from toxic exposures, starting with BPA.
"We shouldn't place yet another burden on pregnant women by giving them the nearly impossible job of avoiding chemical exposures. Yes, women who are pregnant should avoid canned food, but that's not enough. The science shows us that the first 11 weeks of gestation may be the most critical window, and we all know that many women don't even realize they're pregnant until well into or even after this period."
Read on in the full article.
Posted by Breast Cancer Fund on September 23, 2013 at 04:05 PM in Bisphenol A, Chemicals policy reform, Create a Healthy Home, Eat & Live Better, Federal Legislation, Food, General Public Health, General Science, Household Products, News article, Protect Your Family, Protect Yourself & the Environment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
An article on RodaleNews.com offers a digestable overview of the Breast Cancer Fund's recent report, Disrupted Development: the Dangers of Prenatal BPA Exposure, emphasizing that a baby's exposure to the endocrine-disrupting chemical, bisphenol A (BPA) in the mother's womb during the first 11 weeks of pregnancy can damage development that will only show up years or decades later.
Our program and policy manager, Gretchen Lee Salter, is quoted in the article and drives home the message that cans are pregnant women's number-one route of exposure to the endocrine-disrupting chemical:
"To protect every woman who's pregnant or may become pregnant, the only logical solution is to remove BPA from all canned foods."
Posted by Breast Cancer Fund on September 17, 2013 at 10:35 AM in Bisphenol A, Chemicals policy reform, Eat & Live Better, Food, General Public Health, General Science, Green Our Chemical System, News article, Protect Your Family, Protect Yourself & the Environment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Last December, I read an article about a survey of 2,600 obstetricians and gynecologists in which most reported that they don’t warn their pregnant patients about the dangers of exposure to chemicals in food, consumer products or the environment.
I wasn’t surprised.
When I was pregnant with my daughter three years ago, no one in my doctor’s office mentioned anything about the potential risks associated with chemical exposures, nor did they mention anything about the steps I could take to avoid these exposures. Now in my second pregnancy, not only did my OB-GYN not mention this issue, she dismissed my concerns as a “long-term” problems. Since I plan on being a mother long-term, I’m disappointed that my concerns were brushed aside.
It isn’t as though the information isn’t out there. It is. The Program for Reproductive Health and the Environment at the University of California, San Francisco has been warning women about the dangers of toxic exposures for years. But, sadly, most women are still in the dark about the dangers associated with prenatal exposure to certain chemicals.
That’s why the Breast Cancer Fund teamed up with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the March of Dimes to draft legislation in California requiring that this information be made available to pregnant women.
Senate Bill 460, authored by Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), a longtime friend and supporter of the Breast Cancer Fund, would mandate that information about environmental health be provided to women during their prenatal care. Existing law requires that medical professionals in California provide pregnant women with a pamphlet on prenatal testing. If SB 460 passes, this pamphlet would include an insert about toxic chemical exposures. The bill would also encourage OB-GYNs and midwives to discuss environmental health with their patients.
It’s a simple bill and an idea that is long overdue. And the state legislature seems to agree. In May, the bill passed the state Senate with unanimous support, and this week it was approved by a key Assembly committee, again with unanimous support.
The bill will be up for a full vote in the Assembly in the next few weeks, where it is expected to pass. Then it is on to Gov. Brown for his signature. We’ll keep you updated on its progress.
In the meantime, I intend on keeping myself and my doctor informed about the risks and, hopefully, in the near future, my doctor and thousands of others will be the ones initiating these conversations with patients.
Posted by Breast Cancer Fund on August 15, 2013 at 10:30 AM in Air & Water, Bisphenol A, Chemicals policy reform, Create a Healthy Home, Eat & Live Better, Food, General Public Health, General Science, Health Care, Make Informed Health Care Choices, Protect Your Family, Protect Yourself & the Environment, State Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)