Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[News Item] California seeks to remove toxic chemicals from consumer goods

From the 13 March 2014 Stateline Daily item

California took steps to reduce the toxins found in children’s sleeping products and home and building supplies on Thursday, when regulators announced they would begin asking manufacturers to eliminate chemicals known to cause cancer and other illnesses.

In making the announcement, regulators with the California Department of Toxic Substances Control rolled out a program six years in the making — the first of its kind in the nation — that aims to minimize consumers’ exposure to toxic chemicals.

“I can’t even tell you what a big deal this is,” said Kathleen Curtis, the national coordinator for the Alliance for Toxic-Free Fire Safety, a nationwide coalition. “It’s huge, and it’s a super smart strategic move by the state of California.

On Thursday, state leaders announced the first round of top priority chemicals that they want reduced or eliminated from products many Californians use: children’s bedding items, spray foam used to insulate and weatherize buildings, and paint strippers, removers and surface cleaners. All of these products, state officials say, contain toxins that can cause cancer, hormone imbalances and environmental degradation.

Meredith Williams, deputy director of the Department of Toxic Substances Control, said the state’s message to manufacturers is this: If you want to sell products in California, you must make products that are safe — or risk being banned from the country’s largest economy.

The announcement signals a larger victory for environmental advocates who have been working for years to rid furniture of toxins that were added as flame retardants. Studies have shown that some of these flame retardants do very little to reduce fires and have been linked to startling health risks. One of the most widely used flame retardants is TDCPP, which, under the Safer Consumer Products regulations, the state will pressure manufacturers to remove from toddlers’ nap mats, cots, cribs, playpens and bassinets.

TDCPP is one of three chemicals the state announced it is targeting: the others are diisocyanates, a chemical found in spray polyurethane foam that is used to weatherize buildings, and has been linked to lung damage, asthma, cancer and respiratory ailments; and methylene chloride, a carcinogen found in paint or varnish removers, paint strippers and surface cleaners. Thursday’s announcement marked the start of what is expected to be a yearlong process that will include a public comment period, discussions with manufacturers and studies to identify safe substitutions. In October, the state will release a second, and much lengthier, list of priority chemicals and products, Williams said. Manufacturers who don’t meet the new standards could be compelled to label their ingredients or have their products banned from California as early as 2016,

flame retardant cotton socks

flame retardant cotton socks (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Read the entire item here

Enhanced by Zemanta

March 21, 2014 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog]Monday: What’s Lurking Beneath Your Sofa in Your (Otherwise) Healthy Home | Drexel School of Public Health

The house dust mite, its feces and chitin are ...

The house dust mite, its feces and chitin are common allergens around the home (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Monday: What’s Lurking Beneath Your Sofa in Your (Otherwise) Healthy Home | Drexel School of Public Health.

 

By Anneclaire De Roos, MPH, PhD, Associate Professor

When I think about this National Public Health Week’s topic – ‘Healthy Homes’ – what immediately comes to mind are themes like injury, fire safety, lead, radon, mold, and secondhand smoke. Most people’s thoughts about healthy homes probably don’t include dust.  How harmful can dust bunnies be?  Actually, we’ve long known that people with asthma and allergies are sensitive to dust mites.  And now there is ever-increasing documentation of a different type of health hazard from house dust – exposure to a diverse mix of pollutants including metals, pesticides, dioxins, flame retardants such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and phthalates.

These chemicals adhere to dust particles and blow into your household after being stirred up by traffic, are released from your sofa or appliances as they degrade over time, are deposited from disintegrating home building materials, and are introduced from cigarette smoking or pesticide applications indoors. Some of the pollutants are known to cause adverse health effects, such as lead and dioxins.  Others, including PBDE and phthalates, are not as well understood, although there is emerging evidence that these chemicals cause hormonal changes and may be particularly damaging when exposure happens during pregnancy or childhood.

The trouble arises because people inadvertently swallow small amounts of dust during their normal daily activities like eating, drinking, and breathing.  For example, it’s well known that exposure to organochlorines, such as dioxins, comes from the diet – from fatty foods including fish, meat, and dairy.  However, we are now learning that a major source of our exposure also comes from ingestion of dust, in amounts that rival dietary exposures.  This is an especially important pathway of exposure for small children, who crawl on the floor and explore their environment using hand-to-mouth behavior.  House cats also ingest very high amounts of house dust through self-grooming.  In fact, studies in the US and Europe have found that house cats had 50 times higher blood levels of PBDEs than people.

Aside from not breathing or swallowing, or fruitlessly trying to change the behaviors of your toddler or pet, what can be done to reduce exposure to pollutants from household dust?  The answers are somewhat obvious, but do require vigilance.

1) Avoid introduction of pollutants inside the home where possible, by banning smoking in the home and seeking alternatives to pesticide applications

2) Wipe your feet on a high-quality doormat before entering the home

3) Eliminate wall-to-wall carpeting and shag rugs, which trap dust

4) Vacuum frequently, ideally using a high-powered vacuum cleaner with a dirt finder

5) Wet-mop non-carpeted floor surfaces on a regular basis

6) Wipe down toys and other items your toddler contacts, using a wet cloth

In my review of the literature, I even saw a recommendation to wipe down your cat with a wet cloth on a daily basis (good luck with that!).  Nevertheless, it makes good health sense to follow these recommendations, particularly during pregnancy or with toddlers in the home.  At the very least, you will have a cleaner home to show for it.

 

Related articles

May 2, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, environmental health | , , , | Leave a comment

Numerous Flame Retardants in House Dust, Some Exceeding Federal Health Guidelines

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Volume 4, Issue 1: January 2013www.niehs.nih.gov/PEPH
PEPH eNews

From the January edition of PEPH eNews

Numerous Flame Retardants in House Dust, Some Exceeding Federal Health Guidelines

Recent studies from our PEPH partners have shed light on concerns for widespread exposure to flame retardants in U.S. homes, and their publications garnered a flurry of attention in the lay press. Flame retardants (FRs) are commonly used in furniture and other products, and pose health risks including cancer, learning problems, and hormone disruption.

In a new report published in Environmental Science & Technology, Robin Dodson, Sc.D., at the Silent Spring Institute found that, in a survey of house dust, 36 of 44 FRs identified were detected in at least 50% of the samples. Most houses tested had at least one FR in house dust whose levels exceeded a federal health guideline

In the same issue, Heather Stapleton, Ph.D., an environmental chemist at the Duke University Superfund Research Program, published studyfindings that over 85% of couches tested contained an FR. Stapleton said, “Our study found that one California state flammability standard is affecting the entire country’s exposure to chemicals that may be causing human health problems, and it is unclear whether or not these chemicals actually offer any fire safety benefits.” Dodson added, “These hazardous chemicals are in the air we breathe, the dust we touch, and the couches we sit on. Infants and toddlers who spend much time on the floor are at higher risk for exposure.” Their research received much publicity in the press including ForbesNatureCBSSan Francisco Chronicle, and theChicago Tribune. The Silent Spring Institute offers a factsheet with suggestions on how you can reduce exposures to FRs in your home.

 

January 4, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health | | Leave a comment

Common Flame Retardant Linked to Social, Behavioral and Learning Deficits

From the 16 February 2012 article at Science Daily

Mice genetically engineered to be susceptible to autism-like behaviors that were exposed to a common flame retardant were less fertile and their offspring were smaller, less sociable and demonstrated marked deficits in learning and long-term memory when compared with the offspring of normal unexposed mice, a study by researchers at UC Davis has found. The researchers said the study is the first to link genetics and epigenetics with exposure to a flame retardant chemical….

 

February 20, 2012 Posted by | Consumer Health, environmental health | , , | Leave a comment

   

%d bloggers like this: