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 an opinion piece for Roll Call Jeanne Rizzo argues that Congress has utterly failed to effectively regulate the chemical industry, and shares responsibility for widespread toxic chemical contamination of people and the environment.
"Will Congress become relevant by leading the way to a new federal regulatory framework that makes protecting public health the number one priority? Or will Congress be sidelined, as the states and marketplace fill the leadership void that anti-regulation forces have created by ignoring the public’s demand for safer chemicals and healthier lives?"
Read on in Roll Call.
Posted by Breast Cancer Fund on April 23, 2014 at 01:46 PM in Chemicals policy reform, Federal Legislation, General Public Health, General Science, Green Our Chemical System, Make Prevention a Public Health Priority, News article | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
When we make protecting Mother Earth from toxic chemicals a priority, we are also prioritizing prevention of breast cancer and numerous other health issues. Many of the things you can do to protect you and your family from toxic exposures are also good for the planet.
1. Find safe ways to fight germs.
These days it seems like everything claims to be antibacterial—soaps, toothpaste, clothing, bedding, band-aids, toys, cutting boards—you name it. Chances are, these products contain triclosan, an antimicrobial agent that is suspected of interfering with the hormone systems of humans and wildlife. There’s no evidence that triclosan is more effective than soap and water, so trade in the toxics for some good, old-fashioned elbow grease.
2. Cut down on personal care products, and use Think Dirty to find safe alternatives.
When it comes to personal care products, simple is best. Decrease your exposure to toxic chemicals in cosmetics by using fewer products and choosing those with simpler ingredients. What you put on your skin can end up down the drain, entering rivers and streams, and disrupt ecosystems. For products you can’t live without, find a safe alternative using Think Dirty. The app, which contains a database of more than 94,000 personal care products (with more added every day!), will give you easy-to-understand info about products, ingredients, and cleaner options.
3. Go fresh, organic and hormone-free.
When possible, choose organic foods and hormone-free meat and dairy. Buying products grown organically reduces pesticide use, which is good for families, farmworkers, and the environment.
4. Dispose batteries, electronics and light bulbs properly.
When trashed, these items, which all contain chemicals linked to breast cancer and other health concerns, end up in landfills. From there, chemicals like cadmium and mercury can leach into soil, lakes and streams. What to do? Look for special battery or electronics recycling/disposal centers in your community, return compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) to your local hardware store and return electronics to returning them to the store or manufacturer.
5. Reduce your carbon footprint by walking, biking or taking public transportation. This also helps reduce exposures to other components of exhaust linked to breast cancer, because car exhaust releases carcinogens known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (known as PAHs). If you’re in the market for a car, choose a clean, fuel-efficient vehicle using the EPA’s Green Vehicle Guide.
Posted by Breast Cancer Fund on April 23, 2014 at 01:39 PM in Choose Safe Cosmetics, Cosmetics, Create a Healthy Home, Eat & Live Better, Food, General Public Health, General Science, Green Our Chemical System, Household Products, Make Our Products Safe, Tips | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
This article, which was written by Breast Cancer Fund Director of Science Sharima Rasanayagam, appears on CNN.com.
Every day millions of women apply lipstick without a second thought. What many don't know is that lipsticks may contain lead, the notorious metal that can cause learning, language and behavioral problems. Lead is a neurotoxin and can be dangerous even at small doses.
So what's lead doing in lipsticks?
Not all lipsticks contain lead, but a number of studies in recent years show that the metal is more prevalent than previously thought.
In 2007, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics conducted a study -- "A Poison Kiss" -- that detected lead in 61% of the 33 lipsticks tested, with levels ranging from 0.03 ppm to 0.65 ppm. Parts per million (ppm) is the measurement of lead in the environment.
Medical experts say there is no safe level of lead in the blood. The FDA says it doesn't consider the lead levels it found in lipsticks to be a safety issue.
No lipstick lists lead as an ingredient. The amounts are small, but the presence of lead in lipstick, which is ingested and absorbed through the skin, raises concerns about the safety of a cosmetic product that is wildly popular among women.
Urged on by both consumers and the cosmetics industry, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration conducted its own testing in 2010. The FDA's results were even more astonishing: The agency detected lead in all 400 lipsticks tested, ranging from 0.9 to 3.06 ppm -- four times higher than the levels observed in the study done by Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.
And lead isn't the only toxic metal you may be applying to your lips. In a recent study, University of California researchers tested eight lipsticks and 24 lip glosses and detected nine toxic heavy metals, including chromium, cadmium, manganese, aluminum and lead.
The FDA said, "We have assessed the potential for harm to consumers from use of lipstick containing lead at the levels found in both rounds of testing. Lipstick, as a product intended for topical use with limited absorption, is ingested only in very small quantities. We do not consider the lead levels we found in the lipsticks to be a safety concern."
Likewise, the cosmetics industry also doesn't see this as an issue, saying that the dose makes the poison -- in other words, the trace amounts of heavy metals in lipsticks are not harmful.
But the FDA noted, "Although we do not believe that the lead content found in our recent lipstick analyses poses a safety concern, we are evaluating whether there may be a need to recommend an upper limit for lead in lipstick in order to further protect the health and welfare of consumers. "
Indeed, what the FDA and the cosmetics industry have been ignoring is cumulative exposure and potential long-term adverse effects.
It's true that a single lipstick application will not lead to harm. And the good news is that not all lipsticks contain detectable levels of lead or other heavy metals. (And by the way, cost doesn't seem to be a factor; a cheap or expensive lipstick isn't the determinant of how much lead is present.)
The problem is when women who wear lipstick apply it two to 14 times a day, according to the University of California study. The result is that they are ingesting and absorbing through their lips as much as 87 milligrams of product a day, the study says.
Women are not only applying their lipsticks several times a day, but they also are doing this in the span of a whole lifetime, which means that exposure to lead and other heavy metals adds up and canpotentially affect their health.
One challenge for people wanting to avoid exposure is that none of the metals, with the exception of aluminum, are deliberately added to lipsticks and lip glosses. The metals are contaminants that are present in the pigments and base materials used to make the products. Because the metals are not ingredients, cosmetics companies are not required to list them on products' ingredient labels.
The law regulating cosmetics passed Congress in 1938 and has never been updated. The FDA possesses no legal authority to make sure products are safe before they are sold. Nor is the agency empowered to pull dangerous products from store shelves. It's the Wild West for cosmetics companies, which have very few rules restricting chemical ingredients used in everything from shampoosto lotions to lipsticks.
As the contamination of lip products with heavy metals makes it clear, allowing the industry to police itself is not the best idea.
We need the FDA to be empowered by Congress and to take action so women won't face any health risks when they put on makeup. Cosmetics companies should be required to adhere to a standard for best manufacturing processes to limit metal contamination.
For now, consumers should take precautions to protect themselves from heavy metal exposure from lip products. First, use less. If you find yourself reapplying lipstick 14 times a day, consider cutting back. Second, don't let children use lipstick, as their young bodies are especially vulnerable to toxic metals. Then let's get to work to make sure that by the time they've grown up, we have solved the problem of toxic chemicals in cosmetics.
Posted by Breast Cancer Fund on April 16, 2014 at 12:50 PM in Chemicals policy reform, Choose Safe Cosmetics, Cosmetics, Eat & Live Better, Federal Legislation, General Public Health, General Science, Green Our Chemical System, Make Informed Health Care Choices, Make Our Products Safe, Make Prevention a Public Health Priority, News article, Protect Yourself & the Environment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Technorati Tags: Breast Cancer, Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, heavy metals, lipsticks, Parts per million (ppm, the dose makes the poison, toxic metal, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Unviersity of California, Wild West
Facing pressure from shareholders and consumers who want safer cosmetics, Avon announced it will phase out the toxic chemical triclosan from its beauty and personal care products. While the Breast Cancer Fund and our Campaign for Safe Cosmetics are pleased that Avon has taken action to remove this hormonally active chemical, we’re pushing the company to adopt a comprehensive policy that declares all chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects and other adverse health effects to be off limits.
"The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics congratulates Avon for finally giving triclosan the boot," said the Breast Cancer Fund's Janet Nudelman."But triclosan is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to unsafe chemicals in cosmetics. We want Avon to adopt a comprehensive policy that declares chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects, and other adverse health effects to be off limits in cosmetics and to support stricter regulation of the $71bn cosmetics industry so that everyone is protected."
Posted by Breast Cancer Fund on April 16, 2014 at 12:47 PM in Chemicals policy reform, Choose Safe Cosmetics, Cosmetics, Create a Healthy Home, Eat & Live Better, Federal Legislation, General Public Health, General Science, Green Our Chemical System, Make Prevention a Public Health Priority, News article | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Firefighters Sound Alarm On Toxic Chemicals
Firefighters across the nation lined public spaces with work boots to protest the pervasive use of flame retardants and other toxic chemicals in household products on Thursday, March 27. It's all part of "Give Toxics the Boot", an initiative to get toxic chemicals out of our homes launched by the HBO film Toxic Hot Seat, along with Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, and the International Association of Fire Fighters.
Mark Leno's bill would close loophole on fire-retardant use
A bill introduced by state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, would give Californians the right to know whether the furniture they're buying contains potentially dangerous flame-retardant chemicals.
S.F. firefighter's new battle: proving cancer is job-related
The San Francisco Chronicle reports on a law being drafted by San Francisco Board of Supervisors President David Chiu to give firefighters the presumption that disabilities from illnesses such as cancer or heart disease were caused by their work. The article highlights the case of Denise Elarms,a female firefighter in San Francisco, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011 and has been fighting to prove that her illness is job-related.
Posted by Breast Cancer Fund on March 28, 2014 at 12:05 PM in Air & Water, Chemicals policy reform, Eat & Live Better, Federal Legislation, General Public Health, General Science, Green Our Chemical System, Household Products, News article, Protect Yourself & the Environment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Solidifying its national leadership to halt the use of a highly toxic flame retardant chemical linked to cancer and other serious health effects, Gov. Jerry Brown's administration issued new rules requiring the evaluation of the safety of TDCPP (chlorinated Tris) and its alternatives used in children’s sleep products sold in the state of California.
As a key step in its Safer Consumer Products regulations, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) announced three draft “priority products” that are listed below. DTSC is requiring manufacturers who want to sell them in California to conduct an “alternatives analysis” to determine if feasible safer ingredients are available.
DTSC says they selected these priority products because they contain at least one of more than 1,100 toxic chemicals that the department identified as having the potential to cause significant harm to people or the environment. The products also are widely used and create the potential for significant public exposure to these chemicals.
The three products are:
The Breast Cancer Fund's Janet Nudelman was quoted by three news outlets about the development:
Posted by Breast Cancer Fund on March 20, 2014 at 04:10 PM in Chemicals policy reform, Create a Healthy Home, Eat & Live Better, Federal Legislation, General Public Health, General Science, Make Our Products Safe, Make Prevention a Public Health Priority, News article, Protect Your Family, Protect Yourself & the Environment, State Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
by Dr. Mhel Kavanaugh-Lynch
My goal in life is to put myself out of a job.
As director of the California Breast Cancer Research Program for nearly 20 years, it has been my privilege to award over $235 million to over 600 academic and community researchers to address critical topics in breast cancer prevention and treatment. We focus on under-researched populations and under-funded topics of critical importance to our understanding of the disease.
One of our strengths is our focus on the needs of the people impacted by breast cancer and ensuring that those voices are heard within the scientific community and that those needs are advanced with scientific rigor. We were the first to develop and nurture collaborative partnerships between academic researchers and community groups, and we were the first to bring breast cancer advocates into decision-making positions to set research priorities and make funding recommendations. Every research project we fund must include advocate voices like yours.
The best way to stop breast cancer is to prevent it, and we’ve developed several strategies to understand and oppose health factors like occupational exposures, air quality, and endocrine disruptors in our cosmetics and our food. Fifty percent of our funding is devoted specifically to breast cancer prevention and the identification and elimination of environmental causes of breast cancer and disparities in the burden of breast cancer in California. It’s our intent that this concentrated effort will result in new paradigms that shape the breast cancer research field and create the maximum benefit for people affected by the disease.
We are on the cusp of exciting advances. We are developing initiatives that will drive science-based research data to inform health policy decisions at state and national levels. We’re bringing new people into breast cancer research, like Meg Schwarzman, a medical doctor and environmental health expert working with us to develop an approach for identifying chemicals that may contribute to the development or progression of breast cancer.
I want to put us out of business, but the economy may beat me to it.
Tobacco tax revenue, the major source of our program’s funding, has been dropping steadily for years—this is great for public health, but unfortunate for our ability to fund significant research. One way to offset that decline is to participate in and spread the word about the voluntary Tax Checkoff contributions that California taxpayers can make when they file their taxes. With tax season underway, this secondary funding resource provides meaningful support to California researchers.
We won’t stop looking for a way to prevent breast cancer. Donate today to help fund our game-changing research.
Dr. Mhel Kavanaugh-Lynch has served as the director of the California Breast Cancer Research Program since 1995. She guides California’s research strategies and prioritizes efforts designed to bring an end to breast cancer and is also a member of the Breast Cancer Fund's science advisory panel.
Posted by Breast Cancer Fund on February 19, 2014 at 12:29 PM in Chemicals policy reform, Choose Safe Cosmetics, Cosmetics, General Public Health, General Science, Make Prevention a Public Health Priority | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
In spite of recent cuts to the Affordable Care Act and the National Institutes of Health, health tracking fared reasonably well in the $1 trillion omnibus budget bill signed by President Obama last month. The budget restored an almost $15 million cut from last year to bring the funding back to $35 million for the CDC’s Environmental Public Health Tracking Program, enabling the extensive collection of data throughout the country. Health tracking, the ability to compare environmental exposure data to health outcomes, is a vital tool in understanding how environmental chemicals are impacting our health.
In past years health tracking allocations had been threatened by political infighting when they were temporarily moved to the Affordable Care Act’s Prevention and Public Health Fund. With the new budget passed, this essential program is safe and sound for now.
Health tracking refers to tracking incidents of chronic disease and other health concerns overlaid with data on social and environmental factors such as race, ethnicity, geographic location and toxic exposures. This work often requires large amounts of data over long periods of time, and ongoing health tracking can fill gaps that traditional epidemiological studies face (long disease latency, early life exposures, etc.) This allows researchers and regulators to take data and make it relatable and useable to identify risks and focus limited health resources
One project of The California Tracking Program highlights a health tracking success story. The program developed a traffic tool to make it easier for government agencies, researchers and the public to access and use traffic data. Several agencies such as the California Environmental Protection Agency have used the tool to pull data and identify locations more likely to be exposed to pollution from traffic (including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and dioxins which are both linked to breast cancer). This gives agencies and regulators more information about communities affected by environmental exposures.
About half of worldwide cancers are preventable, according to the World Health Organization. Yet, we need more data on how, where and why environmental threats cause chronic diseases like breast cancer. Health tracking allows scientists, regulators and all of us to piece together some of the most important and challenging puzzles of our society.
Posted by Breast Cancer Fund on February 13, 2014 at 12:43 PM in Chemicals policy reform, Choose Safe Cosmetics, General Public Health, General Science, Green Our Chemical System | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)