Cancer Caused by Toxic Chemicals 'Grossly Underestimated' in U.S.
Mesothelioma is an aggressive and incurable form of cancer. It is almost always caused by inhaling tiny asbestos fibers, which pass through the lungs and become embedded in the mesothelium, a thin layer of tissue that surrounds the internal organs.
Some man-made chemicals also cause cancer, just as surely as asbestos does. In 2010, the President’s Cancer Panel reported that the amount of environmentally induced cancer in the U.S. has been “grossly underestimated.” And that is definitely bad news. The good news is that the number of cancer cases linked to chemical exposures and the resulting billions of dollars in health care expenditures could be significantly reduced if Congress were to pass legislation to fundamentally change the way toxic substances are approved for use.
Since 2005, legislation has been introduced in every Congress to force chemical companies to safety test their products and prove that they won’t cause harm before they end up as ingredients in items that fill our homes, schools and places of work. But Congress hasn’t passed any of those proposals.
There has been relatively little support in either the House or Senate for revamping the federal Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA, which for nearly 40 years has allowed industry to flood the marketplace with untested and noxious chemicals, including many that cause cancer. Neither the chemical industry nor a single Republican in Congress has ever supported previous reform proposals put forth (mostly) by the late Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, a Democrat from New Jersey and a pillar of public health protection.
All Lautenberg’s earlier bills had a very important element: no chemical would be allowed into commerce unless industry could show that there was a reasonable certainty that the substance would cause no harm to the environment or people, particularly children. And the bills wouldn’t have applied only to new chemicals. As important as it is to bar new toxic chemicals from coming on the market, it’s also essential to assess the tens of thousands of substances already in use to ensure with reasonable certainty that they, too, aren’t harmful. Getting that job done would obviously reduce everyone’s exposure to known or probable carcinogens.
Many members of the rogues’ gallery of cancer-causing chemicals could have been banned if any of Lautenberg’s proposals had become law. His reform bills would have given the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stronger authority to reduce human exposures to notorious carcinogens, among them asbestos, formaldehyde and hexavalent chromium.
Why mention these three in particular? They’re classic examples of how current law and regulation fails to protect the public.
Asbestos-related cancer alone is responsible for more than 10,000 U.S. deaths each year and more than 107,000 worldwide.
Formaldehyde is widely used in production of paper and plywood, but it is also used or released as a preservative in certain household cleaning products and some cosmetics. It is listed as a “known human carcinogen” by the federal government. Political interference has stalled the EPA restrictions on formaldehyde emissions from industrial sources and slowed the agency’s efforts to prevent construction materials from off-gassing formaldehyde.
Hexavalent chromium or chrome-6, made famous by the 2000 feature film Erin Brockovich, is used in manufacturing stainless steel, in textile dyes and in leather tanning. A notorious cancer-causer, chrome-6 contaminated the drinking water of the small Mojave Desert town of Hinckley, CA, resulting in a number of deaths. Pacific Gas and Electric paid a $333 million settlement, at the time the largest in U.S. history, to resolve a lawsuit brought by the town’s residents.
If Lautenberg’s original 2005 Kid-Safe Chemicals Act had become law back then, the EPA would have more power today to limit certain applications of asbestos, formaldehyde, chrome-6 and dozens of other widely used carcinogens.
A stronger EPA could also take decisive action on newly discovered problems. For example, tetrabromobisphenol A, or TBBPA, a widely used fire retardant, was recently found to cause aggressive uterine cancer in laboratory studies. This chemical is added to a variety of consumer electronics and children’s products. Concentrations of TBBPA exceed one percent in the playpens, car seats and baby swings made by Graco Children’s Products, and there is little evidence that it provides a safety benefit. The TBBPA cancer research will be finalized this fall, but there is no question that a stronger TSCA reform bill would speed the process of removing unnecessary and toxic chemicals like this from children’s products.
By contrast, the recently introduced “chemical safety” legislation titled the Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013, which has considerable support among Republicans and Democrats (including Lautenberg, shortly before his death) and unwavering enthusiasm from the chemical industry, would actually shield these cancer-causing agents and many others from stringent regulation. Under the bill, the EPA would have to conduct exhaustive and seemingly endless cost-benefit analyses every time it sought to restrict a substance, tying the agency’s hands whenever it took action to protect people from dangerous chemicals.
And any state that has its own more rigorous toxics protections, such as California’s Proposition 65, would likely find it choked off if the weaker federal bill were to become law, paralyzing states that want to protect their residents from harmful chemical exposures.
For Americans who live outside the Beltway, it may be hard to grasp why legislation designed to protect people, particularly children and pregnant women, from chemical carcinogens wouldn’t zip through Congress. It’s because common sense is often nowhere to be found in the legislative process, mostly as a result of intense and very expensive industry lobbying.
In the 2012 election cycle, for example, chemical companies and industries that that buy and use their products collectively spent more than $33.6 million on campaign contributions to candidates for Congress. Of that, all but $7,000 went to conservative candidates, while less than $2,300 was given to liberals, according to Federal Elections Commission records analyzed by the Center for Responsive Politics, a watchdog group.
That enormous gap in giving could be one reason not a single Republican senator ever co-sponsored any of Sen. Lautenberg’s earlier TSCA reform proposals. And in the case of Republican Sen. Vitter (R-LA), the lead sponsor of the weak “chemical safety” bill that’s currently pending, the chemical industry’s large footprint and influence in his home state of Louisiana ratchets up the pressure to produce legislation that does little, if anything, to rein in the use of toxic materials. Louisiana is home to many chemical plants, as well as to “fence line” communities that suffer abnormally high rates of disease, including cancer, linked to persistent chemical exposures.
If Vitter’s bill becomes law without significant improvements, chemicals that cause cancer are destined to continue to be widely used and current and future generations of Americans, including children, will keep on being exposed to substances that will threaten their lives and cut some short.
Visit EcoWatch’s HEALTH page for more related news on this topic.
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By Dr. Kate Raynes-Goldie
Of all the plastic we've ever produced, only 9% has been recycled. So what happened to all that plastic you've put in the recycling bin over the years?
Triangle of Mistruths<p>The myth created around plastic recycling has been one of simplicity. We look for the familiar triangle arrows, then pop the waste in the recycling bin so it can be reused.</p><p>But the true purpose of those triangles has been misunderstood by the general public ever since their invention in the 1980s.</p><p>These triangles were actually created by the plastics industry and, according to a report provided to them in July 1993, <a href="https://www.npr.org/transcripts/912150085" target="_blank">were creating "unrealistic expectations"</a> about what could be recycled. But they decided to keep using the codes.</p><p>Which is why many people still believe that these triangular symbols (also known as a <a href="https://sustainablepackaging.org/101-resin-identification-codes/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">resin identifier code</a> or RIC) means something is recyclable.</p><p>But according to the American Society for Testing and Materials International (ASTM) – which controls the RIC system – the numbered triangles "<a href="https://www.astm.org/Standards/D7611.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">are not recycle codes</a>." In fact, they weren't created for the general public at all. They were made for the post-consumer plastic industry.</p><p>In other words, the symbols make it easier to sort the different types of plastics, some of which cannot be recycled – <a href="https://www.ecobin.com.au/understand-recycling-codes/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">depending on the recycling facility</a>.</p><p>"Unfortunately, just placing your plastic into the recycling bin doesn't mean it will get recycled," says Lara Camilla Pinho. She is an architect and lecturer at the UWA School of Design who is researching novel uses of plastic waste.</p><p>"The recycling system is complicated and often dictated by market demand. Not all plastic is recyclable. We cannot recycle plastic bags or straws for example."</p>
Behind the Scenes<p>So, what makes recycling plastics so difficult?</p><p>"Essentially, there are two types of plastics – thermoplastics and thermosets. While thermoplastics can be re-melted and re-molded, thermosets contain cross-linked polymers that cannot be separated meaning they cannot be recycled," says Lara.</p><p>"Even thermoplastics have a limit to the amount of times we can recycle them, as each time they are recycled they downgrade in quality."</p><p>Even when plastics are recyclable, it is <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/oct/13/war-on-plastic-waste-faces-setback-as-cost-of-recycled-material-soars" target="_blank">often more costly</a> than simply making new plastics.</p>
Sugar, Seaweed and Mushrooms<p>If the conventional recycling system isn't working, what else can we do with all the plastic we've created?</p><p>Lara is looking for ways to add value to recycled plastics such as using it in the design and development of architectural products. She hopes to use these architectural products to help underserved communities that are disproportionately affected by plastic waste.</p><p>In addition to recycling, we also need to find ways to reduce our use of virgin petroleum-based plastics.</p><p>Bioplastic is one such product that has been getting a lot of hype over the last few years. And although they're better than petroleum-based plastics, bioplastics also come with their own <a href="https://phys.org/news/2017-12-truth-bioplastics.html" target="_blank">set of challenges</a>.</p><p>"There are already a lot of bio-based alternatives to plastic, such as bagasse – a byproduct of sugar cane processing," says Lara.</p><p><a href="https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/the-mycelium-revolution-is-upon-us/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mycelium</a>, a type of fungi we most often associate with mushrooms, are also providing an interesting plastic alternative.</p><p>"In the field of architecture, mycelium is starting to be used as an alternative to plastic insulation, but also as compostable packaging and bricks," says Lara.</p><p>"The bricks take around five days to make and are strong, durable, water resistant and compostable at the end of their use."</p><p><a href="https://www.arup.com/news-and-events/hyfi-reinvents-the-brick" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Hy-Fi Tower</a>, created by <a href="http://www.thelivingnewyork.com/living_about.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Living</a>, is an example of a building made from these bricks.</p><p>And finally, there's seaweed.</p><p>"[Seaweed is] cheap and can reproduce itself quickly without fertilizers. In architecture, there is use for seaweed as an alternative to plastic insulation but also as cladding," says Lara.</p>
More Money, More Problems<p>While all these alternatives are great, the main cause of our plastic dilemma is not scientific or technological, but economic.</p><p>As long as it remains <a href="https://engineering.mit.edu/engage/ask-an-engineer/why-is-it-cheaper-to-make-new-plastic-bottles-than-to-recycle-old-ones/" target="_blank">cheaper to create new plastics</a> from fossil fuels rather than from bioplastics or from recycling, we're going to be stuck with plastic garbage islands floating in our oceans.</p><p>The true cost to our health and our environment has yet to be included in the equation. But once it is, maybe that is when the real shift will happen.</p>
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Plain Naturals is making waves in the CBD space with a new product line for retail customers looking for high potency CBD products at industry-low prices.
Is More CBD Really Better?<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDU2ODQyNC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMzYxMDMzN30.6B08i5QYW_Iq5bUf3qtm8oK8o6FKsRUZ74gdakgJ_TY/img.jpg?width=980" id="0ef5b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="bac86abf3ce246742b18b0dc4052f4dd" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Plain Naturals offers a 5000mg CBD oil tincture in 30ml bottle for $99.99.<p>Consumers have gotten used to paying high prices for low amounts of cannabidiol. Plain Naturals is beginning to change that. There are myriad <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5569602/%23:~:text=Chronic%2520use%2520and%2520high%2520doses,be%2520well%2520tolerated%2520by%2520humans.&text=Nonetheless%252C%2520some%2520side%2520effects%2520have,vitro%2520or%2520in%2520animal%2520studies." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer nofollow">studies</a> showing that low doses of CBD (less than 50mg per day) are ineffective for many users. And many clinical <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5569602/%23:~:text=Chronic%2520use%2520and%2520high%2520doses,be%2520well%2520tolerated%2520by%2520humans.&text=Nonetheless%252C%2520some%2520side%2520effects%2520have,vitro%2520or%2520in%2520animal%2520studies." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer nofollow">studies</a> have shown effective dosages of 100 - 800mg per day to be effective for many conditions ranging from <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5569602/%23:~:text=Chronic%2520use%2520and%2520high%2520doses,be%2520well%2520tolerated%2520by%2520humans.&text=Nonetheless%252C%2520some%2520side%2520effects%2520have,vitro%2520or%2520in%2520animal%2520studies." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer nofollow">anxiety and depression to Parkinson's disease and cancer</a>. And several <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5569602/%23:~:text=Chronic%2520use%2520and%2520high%2520doses,be%2520well%2520tolerated%2520by%2520humans.&text=Nonetheless%252C%2520some%2520side%2520effects%2520have,vitro%2520or%2520in%2520animal%2520studies." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer nofollow">studies</a> published by the National Institutes of Health have shown up to 1500mg per day to be consistently "well-tolerated" by adults. </p><p>Now it is always recommended to begin with a lower dosage and increase until an effective dose has been reached. But the advantage of starting with a higher potency CBD oil is that it is much easier to use less to start with and increase over time than to buy very low dose CBD oil and ultimately end up buying more and more stronger products. To start at 50mg per dose of a 5000mg oil, you would simply use ⅓ dropper or about 10-12 drops.</p>
The Truth About CBD Product Potency<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDU2ODMyNC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNDc2NTg1N30.OAm3iOTO_pKZLXi7KdJ7n0DGOFMdOmIYuG4ArGooFC4/img.jpg?width=980" id="d657c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ee016a81b29caa699b9185b64ce345d6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
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Towards the end of the final presidential debate of the 2020 election season, the moderator asked both candidates how they would address both the climate crisis and job growth, leading to a nearly 12-minute discussion where Donald Trump did not acknowledge that the climate is changing and Joe Biden called the climate crisis an existential threat.
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By Zheng Chen and Darren H. S. Tan
As concern mounts over the impacts of climate change, many experts are calling for greater use of electricity as a substitute for fossil fuels. Powered by advancements in battery technology, the number of plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles on U.S. roads is increasing. And utilities are generating a growing share of their power from renewable fuels, supported by large-scale battery storage systems.