Campaign for Safe Cosmetics Results in Decline in Toxic Phthalates Exposure
Exposure to certain toxic phthalates has substantially decreased in the American population according to a study led by researchers at UC San Francisco and published yesterday in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. Study authors suggest that the decrease may be due to a federal ban on phthalates in toys, as well as cosmetics companies moving away from the use of these chemicals in response to advocacy efforts led by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. Levels of some “regrettable substitution” phthalates are on the rise, however, including one that was recently added to California’s Proposition 65 list of chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects or reproductive toxicity.
“Kudos to the millions of conscientious consumers whose concerns about phthalates in kids’ toys and cosmetics are now being credited with helping to decrease the levels of phthalates in people,” said Janet Nudelman, policy director at the Breast Cancer Fund and co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, which was established in 2004 out of concerns about the presence of phthalates in personal care products.
Phthalates are industrial chemicals, which soften plastics that are used to make common consumer products including fragrances, cosmetics, plastics and building materials. Phthalates are endocrine-disrupting chemicals; exposure has been linked to early puberty, a risk factor for later-life breast cancer; reproductive harm in males; DNA damage to sperm and decreased sperm counts; and asthma.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
Due to their ubiquity in common consumer products and potential to harm reproduction, phthalates have long been a target of state and federal legislative and market-based advocacy campaigns. In 2008, the Breast Cancer Fund led a national campaign that resulted in a Congressional ban on six phthalates in children’s toys. The law permanently banned three phthalates: DEHP, DnBP (also abbreviated as DBP) and BBzP. According to the study, the levels of all three have gone down in people. Three other phthalates—DnOP, DiDP, and DiNP—were provisionally banned pending further study. Exposures to these phthalates have increased. Of particular note is exposure to DiNP, which increased nearly 150 percent. DiNP, which was recently added to California’s Proposition 65 list of carcinogens, is widely used to replace DEHP in plastics.
“Trading one toxic chemical for another in an endless and costly parade of regrettable substitutions is unacceptable,” said Cindy Luppi of Clean Water Action, a co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. “It’s time for strong laws and corporate policies that make safe products the industry standard.”
Consumer pressure has led more than 1,000 cosmetics and personal care companies to remove some dangerous chemicals, including phthalates, from their products. A 2008 report by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found a marked decline in the use of DEHP and DnBP by the cosmetics industry, compared to the findings of a 2002 Campaign study, which reported 72 percent of shampoos, deodorants, fragrances and other products contained these and other phthalates. Not surprisingly, the study also found a drop in levels of DEHP and DnBP in people.
“Women have historically had higher levels of phthalates in their bodies than men, so the steep decline of certain toxic phthalates in women is a good sign,” said Alexandra Scranton, director of science and research at Women’s Voices for the Earth. “However, we remain concerned that manufacturers may be swapping out high profile toxic phthalates for less well-known phthalates, meaning the potential for harm remains real and more research must be done to protect public health.”
The study, Temporal Trends in Exposure to Phthalates: Findings from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2001-2010, published online yesterday in Environmental Health Perspectives, reports on trends from 2001 to 2010, noting exposure to eight phthalates among 11,000 people who took part in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted by the U.S. Centers Disease Control and Prevention.
“We commend the researchers for this excellent study, which reinforces the important role policy and market decisions can have on reducing the levels of unsafe chemicals in people and protecting public health,” said Nudelman. “Our campaigns to encourage companies to make safer products and to convince the government to pass health-protective laws have clearly paid off.”
Visit EcoWatch’s HEALTH page for more related news on this topic.
The U.S. District Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 Tuesday saying that the Federal Environmental Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) failed to adequately review the environmental impacts of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of the fracked gas Sabal Trail pipeline, which runs more than 500 miles through Alabama, Georgia and Florida.
As ocean waters warm and acidify, corals across the globe are disappearing. Desperate to prevent the demise of these vital ecosystems, researchers have developed ways to "garden" corals, buying the oceans some much-needed time. University of Miami Rosenstiel School marine biologist Diego Lirman sat down with Josh Chamot of Nexus Media to describe the process and explain what's at stake. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What is killing coral?
I wish we had an easy, straightforward answer for what's killing corals. We know there are many, many different factors influencing coral abundance, diversity, distribution and health these days, but I think the specific answer varies based on where you are.
Temperatures play a major role at global scales, and then you have all of these other, more local factors like disease, physical impacts of storms, or ship groundings.
Researcher Stephanie Schopmeyer prepares to out-plant Staghorn coral onto a Miami reef. Rescue-A-Reef, UM Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science
We had the dredging of the Port of Miami channel a couple of years ago and that caused a lot of localized mortality due to sediment burial and sediment stress. You also have land-based sources of pollution that can damage by location and nutrient influence that causes algal overgrowth of corals.
Local factors are superimposed on regional factors directly related to global climate change. Changes in temperature, more temperature extremes, acidification of the water, changes in storm frequency and sea level rise— all are at different scales — but they all combine to cause coral mortality.
Factors vary both spatially and temporally, but the outcomes are all the same. Regardless of where you are, we've lost a tremendous amount of coral.
Nursery-raised Staghorn coral out-planted onto a reef by a citizen scientist.
In the face of all those threats, can restoration work?
Historically, restoration was developed and used for acute disturbances. A ship runs aground, and so then there's a recovery, and funds are allocated to recovering the reef structure at a given location, and then corals are planted on top of that. But as global conditions decline for coral reefs, there's now a need to scale up. So, we're not just dealing with the localized impact—we're looking at species declining throughout their range.
We need other tools at larger scales, and that's where coral reef gardening has come into play, because it works at larger scales compared to just dumping cement and rebuilding reef structures, costly endeavors that recover just a very small footprint. We're growing and planting these organisms.
Do you worry about planted coral dominating the reefs?
Initially, these techniques were developed for fast-growing corals. The genus that we're focusing on, Acropora, is threatened, so these are very important reef-building species.
When abundant, they monopolize shallow environments. They form thickets, extensive areas of high-density colonies. That's the way they used to grow, until about three to four decades ago when they got wiped out by disease and other factors. The branching corals that we're working with grow between 10 and 15 cm per branch per year, so that's very fast growth.
Through recent advances in coral aquaculture, we're now also able to grow massive species, the ones that grow very slowly. Mote Marine Lab has developed microfragmentation techniques where they can cut coral colonies very, very small and make them grow very, very fast. Although we focused on branching corals initially, now most of the programs, especially here in Florida, are expanding onto other threatened species.
Citizen scientists plant coral. Rescue-A-Reef, UM Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science
Can these efforts solve the problem, or are they a placeholder until climate stabilizes?
You hit the nail on the head. One of the early criticisms of reef restoration was the scale issue and spending a lot of resources working on a very small footprint.
We've dealt with that now, over the past 10 years we've expanded to the point where we're growing thousands and thousands of corals—we're planting thousands and thousands of corals—so that issue of scale is no longer a valid criticism.
The other major criticism is that, even though we're planting a lot of corals, we're planting them onto environments where the same stressors that caused their initial mortality are in place. Now there is ocean acidification and increased temperatures, so things have gotten, in some cases, progressively worse.
Staghorn corals create a sustainable source of corals for use in restoration. Rescue-A-Reef, UM Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science
That is a valid concern if we were just planting corals, but we're not just doing that. We're still concentrating on all of the other aspects of reef restoration, setting up marine protected areas to protect fish stocks and coral impacts, working to curb land-based sources of pollution, and setting up sedimentation and nutrient controls. And then, on a much larger scale, we're all trying to curb carbon emissions, trying to limit the greenhouse impacts and acidification impacts. All these tools just help us buy time.
We're also doing a lot of genomics work to see how corals can increase their resilience. A colleague of mine here at the Rosenstiel School at University of Miami, Andrew Baker, is stress-hardening corals. He works on coral symbiosis, and he found that by applying a little bit of non-lethal stress, he can make corals shuffle their Zooxanthellae, which are the endosymbiotic microalgae that provide energy to the corals. In that process, they're able to uptake Zooxanthellae that are more thermally tolerant. So, through the forced shuffling of symbionts, you may be able to buy these corals one or two degrees of tolerance, so that they become more tolerant to bleaching in future years. That is cutting-edge science.
We're trying to actually find out what makes corals survive, and trying to beef up their defenses and their resilience over time. And that's because we have access to all these coral genotypes through the active propagation from coral gardening.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Nexus Media.
By Karen Perry Stillerman
This job has responsibility for scientific integrity at the USDA, as well as oversight of the department's various research arms and multi-billion dollar annual investments in agricultural research and education that are essential to farmers and eaters alike.
The Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club lodged formal comments with the federal government Monday opposing a massive gas fracking project that spans 220 square miles of public land in Wyoming south of Yellowstone National Park.
The Normally Pressured Lance gas field would destroy wildlife habitat and worsen ozone pollution, a major cause of childhood asthma, in areas already suffering from extreme air pollution.
Sierra received complete surveys from a record-breaking 227 schools—in 36 states, the District of Columbia, and for the first time ever, Canada.
By Andy Rowell
The decades-long struggle for social and environmental justice in the Niger Delta continues, largely unseen by the wider world.
On Aug. 11, hundreds of people from the Niger Delta stormed the Belema flow station gas plant owned by Shell in the Rivers State region of the Delta. The plant transports crude oil to the Bonny Light export terminal, from where it is shipped overseas.
The National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine said in a statement the Interior Department has directed it to cease its study on the potential health risks for people living near surface coal mines in Central Appalachia.
The Interior Department, which committed more than $1 million to the study last year, has begun an agency-wide review of grants over $100,000 because of the "Department's changing budget situation."