Consumer Product Safety Testing Overlooks Cancer Risk From Exposure to Multiple Chemicals
By Olga Naidenko
Mixtures of chemicals commonly found in consumer products are more likely to increase breast cancer risk than the same chemicals individually, according to a new analysis. But safety tests by government regulators don't routinely evaluate the combined effects of multiple chemical exposures.
For a study published in the peer-reviewed journal Toxicological Sciences, a team from the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute looked at how the combination of three widely used chemicals can cause healthy breast cells to behave more like cancer cells.
They tested the aggregate effect of BPA, a plastics additive; methyl paraben, a preservative in cosmetics and body care products; and PFOA, a non-stick chemical formerly used to make Teflon. BPA, PFOA, and methyl paraben are all found in the bodies of Americans, due to their presence in consumer products and drinking water.
In tests for the study, when all three chemicals were present together, they changed breast cell biology in a more profound and consequential way than each chemical individually. The scientists noted that the doses of three chemicals tested were close to the levels found in people, and suggested that in the body, these mixtures could increase breast cancer risk.
Although everyone is exposed to a mixture of many chemicals every day, federal and state health agencies look at safety testing for only one chemical at a time. The effects of individual chemicals in these daily mixtures add up, but at the moment, federal agencies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Food and Drug Administration do not determine the safety of chemicals on the basis of the aggregate effects of chemicals people come in contact with daily.
"It's been suspected for years that chemicals behave differently in mixtures than they do by themselves," said Dr. William Goodson, a senior author of the study. "The tragedy is that no regulations require that the effects of chemical mixtures be evaluated. With the existing consumer product safety testing, we are sailing blind into a perfect storm of chemicals with almost no knowledge of what to expect."
Exposure to mixtures of toxic chemicals often starts in the womb, and the developing fetus gets its first dose of chemical exposure before birth. BPA, parabens and PFOA are also found in the placenta and the umbilical cord blood, as demonstrated by research from EWG and other research organizations.
Getting rid of the most toxic chemicals in the marketplace is essential to advance cancer prevention and to protect future generations of children. Regulatory agencies must change their testing policies to reflect the reality that Americans are exposed not to one chemical at a time, but to multiple chemicals at once.
Olga Naidenko, Ph.D. is senior science advisor for children's environmental health at Environmental Working Group.
Sweden's reindeer have a problem. In winter, they feed on lichens buried beneath the snow. But the climate crisis is making this difficult. Warmer temperatures mean moisture sometimes falls as rain instead of snow. When the air refreezes, a layer of ice forms between the reindeer and their meal, forcing them to wander further in search of ideal conditions. And sometimes, this means crossing busy roads.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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