Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

EPA Improves Access to Information on Hundreds of Chemicals

 


From the 15 June 2011 EPA Press Release

Searchable databases on chemical toxicity and exposure data now available

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is making it easier to find data about chemicals. EPA is releasing two databases – the Toxicity Forecaster database (ToxCastDB) and a database of chemical exposure studies (ExpoCastDB) – that scientists and the public can use to access chemical toxicity and exposure data. Improved access supports EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson’s priorities of protecting Americans’ health by assuring the safety of chemicals and expanding the conversation on environmentalism.

“Chemical safety is a major priority of EPA and its research,” said Dr. Paul Anastas, assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Research and Development. “These databases provide the public access to chemical information, data and results that we can use to make better-informed and timelier decisions about chemicals to better protect people’s health.”

ToxCastDB users can search and download data from over 500 rapid chemical tests conducted on more than 300 environmental chemicals. ToxCast uses advanced scientific tools to predict the potential toxicity of chemicals and to provide a cost-effective approach to prioritizing which chemicals of the thousands in use require further testing. ToxCast is currently screening 700 additional chemicals, and the data will be available in 2012.

ExpoCastDB consolidates human exposure data from studies that have collected chemical measurements from homes and child care centers. Data include the amounts of chemicals found in food, drinking water, air, dust, indoor surfaces and urine. ExpoCastDB users can obtain summary statistics of exposure data and download datasets. EPA will continue to add internal and external chemical exposure data and advanced user interface features to ExpoCastDB.

The new databases link together two important pieces of chemical research – exposure and toxicity data – both of which are required when considering potential risks posed by chemicals. The databases are connected through EPA’s Aggregated Computational Toxicology Resource (ACToR), an online data warehouse that collects data on over 500,000 chemicals from over 500 public sources.

Users can now access 30 years worth of animal chemical toxicity studies that were previously only found in paper documents, data from rapid chemical testing, and various chemical exposure measurements through one online resource. The ability to link and compare these different types of data better informs EPA’s decisions about chemical safety.

More information about the databases:
ToxCastDB: http://actor.epa.gov/actor/faces/ToxCastDB/Home.jsp
ExpoCastDB: http://actor.epa.gov/actor/faces/ExpoCastDB/Home.jsp
ACToR: http://actor.epa.gov 

June 23, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Finding Aids/Directories, Librarian Resources | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Haz-Map updated to include more information about occupational exposures to hazardous substances

Haz-Map: Occupational Exposure to Hazardous Agents

  as Search Agents Search Diseases Search Jobs Full Text Search

From a 4 May 2011 National Library of Medicine listerv item 

Haz-Map now includes 1212 new chemical agents and twelve chemical
categories with significance regarding occupational exposure.

The twelve categories of chemical agents include metals, solvents,
pesticides, mineral dusts, toxic gases and vapors, plastics and rubber,
biological agents, nitrogen compounds, dyes, physical agents, other
classes, and other uses.
http://hazmap.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/hazmap_cgi?level=0&tree=Agent

Haz-Map is an occupational toxicology database designed to link jobs to
hazardous job tasks which are linked to occupational diseases and their
symptoms.

The Haz-Map Jobs table is based on the 1997 Standard Occupational
Classification (SOC) system. The Industries table is based on the North
American Industry Classification System (NAICS). The Diseases table is
based on the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-9).

Information from textbooks, journal articles, and electronic databases was
classified and summarized to create the database.

Other NLM toxicology databases include

  • Household Products Database -Potential health effects of chemicals for common household products
  • Tox Town -Interactive guide to potentially toxic substances and environmental health issues in everyday places
  • TOXNET –Databases on hazardous chemicals, environmental health, and toxic releases



May 5, 2011 Posted by | Biomedical Research Resources, Consumer Health, Consumer Safety, Finding Aids/Directories, Librarian Resources, Public Health | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Annual Health Care Costs Rise Dramatically, Says New Study

Percent of Youth 4-17 ever diagnosed with Atte...

Percent of Youth 4-17 ever diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: National Survey of Children's Health, 2003

Poor childhood health caused by environmental factors, such as air pollution and exposure to toxic chemicals, cost the United States $76.6 billion in 2008, according to authors of a new study in the May issue of Health Affairs. This price tag represents a dramatic increase in recent years, rising from 2.8 percent of total health care costs in 1997 to 3.5 percent in 2008…

Click here for a Medical News Today summary of the research article (May 3, 2011)

Excerpts

Researchers used recent data to estimate the number of environmentally induced conditions in children and then calculated the annual cost for direct medical care and indirect costs, such as lost productivity resulting from parents’ caring for sick children. They found that the aggregate cost of environmental illness in children was $76.6 billion in 2008 dollars.

The study provides an update to an analysis of 1997 data that documented $54.9 billion in annual costs of environmentally contributable childhood diseases in the United States. In comparing the two studies, researchers found that diminished exposure to lead and reductions in costs for asthma care were offset by diseases newly identified as environmentally induced, including attention deficit disorder,[Editor Flahiff’s note: see above map] and the added burden of mercury exposure. This toxic metal, from contaminated fish and coal-fired power plants, can harm the developing brain and is associated with intellectual disability.

Key findings from the study:

– Lead poisoning cost $50.9 billion
– Autism cost $7.9 billion
– Intellectual disability cost $5.4 billion
– Exposure to mercury (methyl mercury) cost $5.1 billion
– Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder cost $5.0 billion
– Asthma cost $2.2 billion
– Childhood cancer cost $95.0 million

May 4, 2011 Posted by | Public Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Natural Resources Defense Council: Smarter Living

Natural Resources Defense Council
The Natural Resources Defense Council is environmental action group of 1.3 million members including more than 350 lawyers, scientists and other professionals.

The home page tabs provide access to News, Issues, Policies, Smarter Living options, and more.

The Smarter Living sections  include a wide range of resources and information, including

Related Resources

  • Household Products Databases – This database links over 8,000 consumer brands to health effects from Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) provided by the manufacturers and allows scientists and consumers to research products based on chemical ingredients
  • ToxNet – Databases on toxicology, hazardous chemicals, environmental health, and toxic releases

May 1, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pediatric Pros: 1976 Toxic Substance Control Act Needs Updating

From the 26 April 2011 Medical News Today article

Common household products are great disinfectants and ways to keep your habitation germ free, but there is still a high risk for children in particular who have not yet built up a solid immune system to be affected by exposure to chemicals. As a result, The American Academy of Pediatrics is calling for stronger federal regulation of chemicals in consumer products. The law in place now dates back more than three decades. …


Under current law, new chemicals used in consumer products are assumed to be safe until proved otherwise. Therefore, pediatricians have teamed with the American Medical Association and American Nurses Association in pushing for changes so that companies will be required to study the health effects of chemicals before marketing products that contain them.

Dr. Jerome Paulson with the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. stated:

“Under the current Toxic Substance Control Act, companies do not need to do research on the potential health impacts of the chemicals that they’re marketing before they put them out on the market.”

Dr. Kevin Osterhoudt, a board member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council on Environmental Health and the medical director of the poison control center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is a leader for change:

“If we want to market a drug or pharmaceutical, we have to do some studies to say that they’re safe. But companies can enter hundreds of thousands of tons of chemicals into the country and the burden isn’t on them to prove that that chemical’s safe.”

In a written statement, the AAP recommends any chemicals policy should consider the consequences on children and their families. Among the other recommendations:
The regulation of chemicals must be based on evidence, but decisions to ban chemicals should be based on reasonable levels of concern rather than demonstrated harm.
Any testing of chemicals should include the impact on women and children, including potential effects on reproduction and development.
Chemicals should meet safety standards similar to those met by pharmaceuticals or pesticide residues on food.
There should be post-marketing surveillance of chemicals, and the EPA must have the authority to remove a chemical if needed.
Federal funding should be provided for research to prevent, identify and evaluate the effects of chemicals on children’s health.

Related Resource

[Toxicology Resources] Especially for the Public (below are 2 links of 11)

          “What’s under your kitchen sink, in your garage, in your bathroom, and on the shelves in your laundry room?
Learn more about what’s in these products, about potential health effects, and about safety and handling.”

  • Tox Town  —Interactive guide to potentially toxic substances and environmental health issues in everyday places

April 26, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 1 Comment

Legally poisoned

Legally poisoned

UC Riverside professor outlines risks of daily exposure to toxicants and advocates regulatory changes to protect public health

From a January 24, 2011 Eureka news alert

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Americans are exposed to hundreds, if not thousands, of suspected toxic substances every day, substances that affect the development and function of the brain, immune system, reproductive organs or hormones. Children are the most vulnerable. But no public health law requires product testing of most chemical compounds before they enter the marketplace.

That must change, UC Riverside professor Carl Cranor argues in a new book, “Legally Poisoned: How the Law Puts Us at Risk from Toxicants” (Harvard University Press, 2011).

The current harm-based or risk-of-harm-based legal structure for regulating exposure to toxic substances is problematic, says Cranor, a professor of philosophy and longtime advocate of reforming U.S. regulatory policies. “Because most substances are subject to post-market regulation, the existing legal structure results in involuntary experiments on citizens. The bodies of the citizenry are invaded and trespassed on by commercial substances, arguably a moral wrong.”

Scientists are finding that every industrial chemical and pesticide produced today is capable of entering our bodies, says Cranor, who has served on science advisory panels for the state of California and on Institute of Medicine and National Academy of Sciences committees. For three decades he has studied U.S. regulatory policy and philosophic issues concerning risks, science and the law, as well as the regulation of carcinogens and developmental toxicants, and protection of susceptible populations from new and existing technologies and toxicants. His research has been supported by the National Science Foundation and University of California Toxic Substances Research and Teaching Program.

Cranor notes that the Centers for Disease Control has identified more than 200 toxicants in the bodies of average Americans, a number that he contends is low only because the CDC has not yet developed protocols to reliably identify other substances.  [See  National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals]

“The list is only going to grow over time,” Cranor says.

With the exception of pharmaceuticals and pesticides, the U.S. legal system permits most substances to come in without testing for toxicity, without knowing whether they cause cancer, birth defects, developmental effects, or reproductive effects. Only about 2 percent of 62,000 substances in commerce before 1979 have been reviewed at all for their toxicity by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, he says. Of the approximately 50,000 substances introduced since 1979, about 85 percent were allowed to market with no data concerning health effects.

Industrial, often toxic, chemicals are everywhere – bisphenol A used in plastic bottles and that lines cans of food; non-stick cooking surfaces or Gore-Tex material that contains perfluorinated compounds; curtains, baby car seats and TV sets manufactured with brominated flame-retardants; and countless cosmetic ingredients, industrial chemicals, pesticides, and other compounds, all of which enter our bodies and remain briefly or for years.

Chemical contamination is so prevalent, Cranor says, “that it will make future human studies more difficult; there will be no clean controls against which to compare people who are contaminated. We are all contaminated. It’s a question of more or less contamination. So it’s going to be increasingly difficult for the science to detect some of these effects in humans, when they exist.”

The legal process for identifying adverse health effects and removing the responsible substances from the marketplace is extremely slow, he says.

“The only way to reduce toxic contamination is to require testing of products before they come in to commerce,” he says. “If they appear to pose adverse health effects, they should not be permitted, or they should be required to be reformulated so the problems disappear.”

Related Resources

US Centers for Disease Control (especially headings under Environmental Health – Toxic Substances and Your Environment)

US Environmental Protection Agency (especially Learn the Issues)

US National Library of Medicine / US National Institutes of Health Resources, esp

**Toxnet – databases on toxicology, hazardous substances, and environmental health

**ToxTown – Interactive guide to toxic chemicals and environmental health risks. Also in Spanish (ToxTown en español).

January 27, 2011 Posted by | Public Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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