By Gwen Ranniger
Fertility issues are on the rise, and new literature points to ways that your environment may be part of the problem. We've rounded up some changes you can make in your life to promote a healthy reproductive system.
Infertility and Environmental Health: The Facts<ul> <li>Sperm count is declining steeply, significantly, and continuously in Western countries, with no signs of tapering off. Erectile dysfunction is on the rise, and women are facing increasing rates of miscarriage and difficulty conceiving.</li><li>Why? A huge factor is our environmental health. Hormones (particularly testosterone and estrogen) are what make reproductive function possible, and our hormones are increasingly being negatively affected by harmful, endocrine-disrupting chemicals commonplace in the modern world—in our homes, foods, and lifestyles.</li></ul>
What You Can Do About It<p>It should be noted that infertility can be caused by any number of factors, including medical conditions that cannot be solved with a simple change at home.</p><p><em>If you or a loved one are struggling with infertility, our hearts and sympathies are with you. Your pain is validated and we hope you receive answers to your struggles.</em></p><p>Read on to discover our tips to restore or improve reproductive health by removing harmful habits and chemicals from your environment.</p>
Edit Your Health<ul><li>If you smoke, quit! Smoking is toxic, period. If someone in your household smokes, urge them to quit or institute a no-smoking ban in the house. It is just as important to avoid secondhand smoke.</li><li>Maintain a healthy weight. Make sure your caloric intake is right for your body and strive for moderate exercise.</li><li>Eat cleanly! Focus on whole foods and less processed meals and snacks. Studies have found that eating a Mediterranean-style diet is linked to increased fertility.</li><li>Minimize negative/constant stress—or find ways to manage it. Hobbies such as meditation or yoga that encourage practiced breathing are great options to reduce the physical toll of stress.</li></ul>
Edit Your Home<p>We spend a lot of time in our homes—and care that what we bring into them will not harm us. You may not be aware that many commonly found household items are sources of harmful, endocrine-disrupting compounds. Read on to find steps you can take—and replacements you should make—in your home.</p><p><strong>In the Kitchen</strong></p><ul> <li>Buy organic, fresh, unprocessed foods whenever possible. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/clean-grocery-shopping-guide-2648563801.html" target="_blank">Read our grocery shopping guide for more tips about food.</a></li><li>Switch to glass, ceramics, or stainless steel for food storage: plastics often contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals that affect fertility. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/bpa-pollution-2645493129.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Learn more about the dangers of plastic here.</a></li><li>Ban plastic from the microwave. If you have a plastic splatter cover, use paper towel, parchment paper, or an upside-down plate instead.</li><li>Upgrade your cookware: non-stick may make life easier, but it is made with unsafe chemical compounds that seep into your food. Cast-iron and stainless steel are great alternatives.</li><li>Filter tap water. Glass filter pitchers are an inexpensive solution; if you want to invest you may opt for an under-the-sink filter.</li><li>Check your cleaning products—many mainstream products are full of unsafe chemicals. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/how-to-shop-for-cleaning-products-while-avoiding-toxics-2648130273.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Check out our guide to safe cleaning products for more info</a>.</li></ul><p><strong>In the Bathroom </strong></p><ul> <li>Check the labels on your bathroom products: <em>fragrance-free, paraben-free, phthalate-free</em> and organic labels are all great signs. You can also scan the ingredients lists for red-flag chemicals such as: triclosan, parabens, and dibutyl phthalate. Use the <a href="https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/" target="_blank">EWG Skin Deep database</a> to vet your personal products.</li><li>Ditch the vinyl shower curtain—that new shower curtain smell is chemical-off gassing. Choose a cotton or linen based curtain instead.</li><li>Banish air fresheners—use natural fresheners (an open window, baking soda, essential oils) instead.</li></ul><p><strong>Everywhere Else</strong></p><ul><li>Remove wall-to-wall carpet. If you've been considering wood or tile, here's your sign: many synthetic carpets can emit harmful chemicals for years. If you want a rug, choose wool or plant materials such as jute or sisal.</li><li>Prevent dust build-up. Dust can absorb chemicals in the air and keep them lingering in your home. Vacuum rugs and wipe furniture, trim, windowsills, fans, TVs, etc. Make sure to have a window open while you're cleaning!</li><li>Leave shoes at the door! When you wear your shoes throughout the house, you're tracking in all kinds of chemicals. If you like wearing shoes inside, consider a dedicated pair of "indoor shoes" or slippers.</li><li>Clean out your closet—use cedar chips or lavender sachets instead of mothballs, and use "green" dry-cleaning services over traditional methods. If that isn't possible, let the clothes air out outside or in your garage for a day before putting them back in your closet.</li><li>Say no to plastic bags!</li><li>We asked 22 endocrinologists what products they use - and steer clear of—in their homes. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/nontoxic-products-2648564261.html" target="_blank">Check out their responses here</a>.</li></ul>
Learn More<ul><li>For more information and action steps, be sure to check out <em>Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race</em> by EHS adjunct scientist Shanna Swan, PhD: <a href="https://www.shannaswan.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">available for purchase here.</a></li><li><a href="https://www.ehn.org/st/Subscribe_to_Above_The_Fold" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Sign up for our Above the Fold Newsletter </a>to stay up to date about impacts on the environment and your health.</li></ul>
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Casey Crownhart
Disinfectant use has exploded during the coronavirus pandemic as people try to keep their hands and surfaces clean. But one family of cleaning chemicals is receiving scrutiny for potential health concerns.
Bacterial Resistance<p>The pandemic has increased demand for products like Lysol wipes that use quats as active ingredients: sales of Lysol wipes were <a href="https://www.cnbc.com/2020/07/16/ceo-of-durex-condom-maker-intimate-occasions-down-during-pandemic.html" target="_blank">up</a> nearly 50 percent in spring of 2020 compared to 2019. Other cleaning products are also in high demand — aerosol disinfectant <a href="https://www.jpmorgan.com/solutions/cib/research/covid-spending-habits" target="_blank">sales as a whole have doubled</a> in 2020 in the U.S., a large fraction of which also contain quats.</p><p>All those additional sales mean quats are becoming more present in the environment. "We're in an era now where the concentration [of quats] is certainly higher than ever before," William Arnold, an environmental engineer at the University of Minnesota, told EHN. He published a <a href="https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.estlett.0c00437" target="_blank">paper</a> in June that revealed an increased load of quats may be ending up in wastewater plants, with some worrisome implications. Quats can end up in wastewater plants after they're flushed down the drain — at the levels of use during the pandemic, some plants can't keep up, so quats have the potential to pollute waterways. There, they might disrupt marine food chains, as quats have been found to be <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0269749115302025?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">toxic</a> to small invertebrates like plankton in lakes.</p><p>The ingredients also may be spurring antibiotic-resistant germs, Arnold said.</p><p>Bacteria are constantly working to shore up their defenses against the antiseptics we use. "We've had an 80- or 90-year head start, but we really need to keep innovating" to stay ahead of microbial evolution, <a href="http://kminbiol.clasit.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Kevin Minbiole</a>, a Villanova University chemist who studies how quats affect bacteria and <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7233851/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">viruses,</a> told EHN.</p><p>Quats work like spears, penetrating the shell on the outside of a bacteria or virus. But some bacteria are getting better at recognizing quats and getting rid of them, or becoming resistant, said Minbiole. He and his collaborator, Emory University chemist William Wuest, are experimenting with new antimicrobial ingredients and recently <a href="https://patents.google.com/patent/US20200277263A1/en" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">patented their own quats</a> that can mount multiple attacks on a single microbe. These quats are likely even more effective antiseptics than current quats on the market, but the new chemicals haven't yet been tested for safety, so it's not clear how their health or environmental impacts might differ, or not, from current quats, according to Wuest.</p>
Birth Defects and Infertility<p><a href="https://www.vcom.edu/people/theresa-hrubec" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Theresa Hrubec</a>, a biologist at Virginia Tech and the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, has also been publishing work on the potential risks of quats — work that started by accident. While she was using mice to study potential side effects of medications, she noticed that some mice in her control group, the mice that weren't exposed to any medication, were developing birth defects. After ruling out the possibility that she had switched the groups, she found a potential explanation: the facility had recently started using quats to disinfect her lab. The floors were mopped daily, the walls wiped down weekly, and anytime a box of mice was opened, it was wiped down with disinfectant. The mice were all being unintentionally dosed with quats, Hrubec told EHN. And she wasn't the only researcher who had seen problems with mice and quat disinfectants: <a href="https://smb.wsu.edu/faculty-trainees-and-staff/faculty/profile/pat-hunt" target="_blank">Patricia Hunt</a>, a researcher at Washington State University, had seen similar problems with her mice.</p><p>Hrubec and Hunt have since published several studies that link quats to health problems in mice, from <a href="https://www.ehn.org/the_cost_of_clean_disinfectants_cause_birth_defects_in_baby_mice-2497174322.html" target="_blank">birth defects</a> to <a href="https://www.ehn.org/quats-quagmire-common-disinfectants-cause-reproductive-problems-in-mice-study-says-2569921664.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">decreases in fertility</a>. For each of the studies, mice were fed a mixture of two common quat disinfectants at high doses for several weeks before being examined for either fetal birth defects or signs of decreased fertility.</p><p>Mice that were exposed to quats were more likely to develop neural tube defects, an early-stage birth defect. And doses of quats decreased the number and size of litters born as well.</p><p>How exactly quats might cause birth defects is still unknown, according to Hrubec. She has a few theories. Endocrine disruption might be to blame — Gino Cortopassi, who collaborated with Hrubec, found that one quat, although not the same chemical Hrubec used in her research, can <a href="https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/doi/10.1289/ehp1404" target="_blank">bind to hormone receptors</a>. The same lab also found that quats appear to affect how <a href="https://iovs.arvojournals.org/article.aspx?articleid=2623337" target="_blank">mitochondria function</a>, which can cause a litany of problems in cells.</p><p>Inflammation might be another possible explanation. Quats are suspected to cause occupational asthma — exposure to a toxic or irritating chemical that results in lung inflammation. Japanese researchers <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19762220/" target="_blank">found in 2010</a> that mice exposed to quats at high concentrations by inhalation saw cell death and increased levels of inflammation. However, human studies observing quat exposure and occupational asthma <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31832071/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">have had mixed results,</a> with some researchers arguing that quat exposure hasn't been definitively linked with lung problems.</p><p>Most of the research by Hrubec and her collaborators is done in mice, so quats may not have the same effects on humans. Figuring out how quats might be impacting humans is a much more complicated job. In a <a href="https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.07.15.20154963v1" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pre-print</a>, published last year but not yet reviewed by outside experts for accuracy, Hrubec and her collaborators performed a monitoring study of a small group, 43 people. They detected quats in 80 percent of the study participants, and quat levels in the blood were associated with higher levels of inflammation and decreased mitochondrial function. The results are still preliminary, but it is among the first research to attempt monitoring quat levels in humans.</p>
Dose Disagreement<p>Not everyone agrees about how the research is being done. In a<a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25500365/" target="_blank"> letter to the editor</a> in response to one of Hrubec's<a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25483128/" target="_blank"> early studies</a>, Keith Hostetler, an industry representative, raised concerns about the experiment's design. One critique was the dose level — according to Hostetler, the level of disinfectant fed to the mice would be the equivalent of a 155-pound adult drinking about 1.5 quarts of disinfecting solution daily.</p><p>But toxicology studies are pretty typically performed with high doses at first, before being extrapolated down to more realistic doses, according to<a href="https://patisaullab.wordpress.ncsu.edu/" target="_blank"> Heather Patisaul</a>, a biologist at North Carolina State University who studies toxicological effects of hormone-disrupting compounds. She was not involved in Hrubec's studies.</p><p>"Complaining that the dose is too high and the sample size is too low is a common industry response," Patisaul told EHN via email. In this case, she said the dosage was particularly high for some groups. However, Patisaul also notes that Hrubec saw birth defects in fetuses when the father was fed less than 1/15 the dose Hostetler mentioned, which she said is more compelling evidence that quats might cause harm.</p><p>Still, "neither [dose] is anywhere near a human-relevant range," Patisaul said, so the results do not definitively show that quats could harm human health with normal levels of use.</p><p>The doses were high in order to determine whether quats warrant more research, said Hrubec, adding that many mice that were not fed quats, but were merely present in rooms where quats were used, were also found to develop birth defects. To her, this suggests that the disinfectants present in the lab from regular disinfecting were still enough to trigger health problems.</p>
States Take Notice<p>Hrubec has been a constant figure at regulatory meetings on quats. She presented her research during a<a href="https://biomonitoring.ca.gov/events/biomonitoring-california-scientific-guidance-panel-meeting-march-2020" target="_blank"> March 2020 meeting</a> with California's Biomonitoring Program. During the meeting, other researchers also presented data on quat's potential for causing<a href="https://biomonitoring.ca.gov/sites/default/files/downloads/WRAPPcomments030420.pdf" target="_blank"> occupational asthma</a> and <a href="https://biomonitoring.ca.gov/sites/default/files/downloads/Xu030420.pdf" target="_blank">endocrine disruption</a>.</p><p>After considering data from researchers and industry, the advisory panel for Biomonitoring California voted unanimously to add quats to the list of chemicals that could be considered for biomonitoring studies, and they plan to discuss quats as potential high-priority chemicals in March 2021, according to<a href="https://agency.calepa.ca.gov/staffdirectory/detail.asp?UID=61347&BDO=6&VW=DET" target="_blank"> Shoba Iyer</a>, a toxicologist for the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment who works with the biomonitoring program.</p><p>The program's board does not have the authority to ban quats — the purpose of adding quats to the monitoring list and completing biomonitoring studies is to learn more about chemical exposures and inform public health policies and regulations, Iyer told EHN.</p><p>Officials from one agency in Massachusetts also have their eye on quats — and they say the pandemic and the resulting increase in disinfectant use has caused them to examine the chemicals more closely. "That's why we finally decided to take up [quats], because people are using it constantly to try to keep themselves and their workers and customers safe," <a href="https://www.turi.org/About/Staff_List/Harriman_Liz" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Liz Harriman</a>, Deputy Director of the Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI) in Massachusetts, told EHN.</p><p>Massachusetts state law requires companies that manufacture certain chemicals, or use them to make products, to report use levels of the chemicals and submit plans for safe use. The Scientific Advisory Board for TURI makes recommendations to state agencies on which chemicals to examine, and they are focusing on two classes of quats, both of which are used in surface cleaners, according to<a href="https://www.turi.org/About/Staff_List/Tenney_Heather" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> Heather Tenney</a>, who heads the board.</p><p>In January, the advisory board discussed several categories of research on quats, including birth defects and respiratory conditions like<a href="https://erj.ersjournals.com/content/38/Suppl_55/p4936" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> asthma</a>, as well as<a href="https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.estlett.0c00437" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> environmental effects</a> of quats like the potential for microbial resistance. The board did not reach a vote, and will reconvene in March to continue discussing potential action on quats.</p><p>Hostetler, the industry representative who has published letters challenging Hrubec's research, also presented at both the March Biomonitoring California presentation and the TURI meeting in January. At the TURI board meeting, he emphasized that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has independently concluded that quats do not have effects on developmental or reproductive health, based on tests that follow agency guidelines.</p><p>Manufacturers maintain that their disinfecting products available for purchase have been tested extensively. "They've done a lot of research on their formulations. What they put on the market, they know to be safe and efficacious," James Kim, a Vice President of the American Cleaning Institute, a trade organization that represents manufacturers, told EHN.</p>
Alternatives Are Available<p>Despite increased attention from states, quats will likely remain available on the market in surface disinfectants for the foreseeable future. But for consumers looking to avoid quats in their <a href="https://www.ehn.org/how-to-shop-for-cleaning-products-while-avoiding-toxics-2648130273.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cleaning supplies</a>, alternatives are available.</p><p>"Given the huge concern for reproductive toxicity and birth defects in humans, it really makes sense to take a precautionary approach,"<a href="https://www.ewg.org/experts/samara-geller.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> Samara Geller</a>, a research analyst for Environmental Working Group (EWG), an advocacy organization that pushes for regulation of chemicals in consumer products, told EHN.</p><p>While a large portion of disinfectants on the market include either quats or bleach as their main ingredient, there are other options available. Geller said EWG recommends products that contain citric acid, lactic acid, or hydrogen peroxide as their main ingredients. EWG also publishes <a href="http://ewg.org/guides/cleaners/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a guide</a> to cleaning products that aggregates safety data where consumers can check for options.</p><p>Consumers can reference the EPA's <a href="https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-coronavirus-covid-19" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">list </a>of disinfectants that are expected to be effective against coronavirus, which lists products by active ingredient.</p><p>Liz Harriman, the Massachusetts TURI official, said she also urges the public to consider alternative products to those that contain quats. "It's not so much that we're dead set against quats," said Harriman, "But if there are safer alternatives you can use to accomplish the same thing, why wouldn't you use those?"</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.ehn.org/quats-health-covid-disinfectant-2650608215.html" target="_blank">Environmental Health News</a>.</em></p>
Like many other plant-based foods and products, CBD oil is one dietary supplement where "organic" labels are very important to consumers. However, there are little to no regulations within the hemp industry when it comes to deeming a product as organic, which makes it increasingly difficult for shoppers to find the best CBD oil products available on the market.
Charlotte's Web<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDcwMjk3NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MzQ0NjM4N30.SaQ85SK10-MWjN3PwHo2RqpiUBdjhD0IRnHKTqKaU7Q/img.jpg?width=980" id="84700" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a2174067dcc0c4094be25b3472ce08c8" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="charlottes web cbd oil" data-width="1244" data-height="1244" /><p>Perhaps one of the most well-known brands in the CBD landscape, Charlotte's Web has been growing sustainable hemp plants for several years. The company is currently in the process of achieving official USDA Organic Certification, but it already practices organic and sustainable cultivation techniques to enhance the overall health of the soil and the hemp plants themselves, which creates some of the highest quality CBD extracts. Charlotte's Web offers CBD oils in a range of different concentration options, and some even come in a few flavor options such as chocolate mint, orange blossom, and lemon twist.</p>
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COVID-19 is having disproportionate impacts on our nation's two million farmworkers, who as essential workers continue to toil in the fields despite numerous deadly outbreaks and no federal COVID-related workplace protections.
A Dangerous Regulatory Rollback<p>One key way the Biden Administration can start to correct the course is by enforcing and safeguarding the Worker Protection Standard (WPS), the main federal regulation that protects workers from pesticide exposure. Pesticide exposure weakens the respiratory, immune, and nervous systems — exacerbating farmworkers' COVID-19 risks.</p><p>Unfortunately, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Trump Administration made various efforts to weaken or eliminate key provisions of the WPS, which had been revised and improved at the end of the Obama Administration. The WPS is an outlier in occupational health standards – because pesticides, although they are a workplace hazard, are regulated by the EPA, instead of by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which covers occupational health in every other industry. This is just one example of how farmworkers are exempted from basic protections afforded to other workers.</p><p><span></span>Many of the Trump Administration's efforts to weaken the WPS were thwarted by advocacy and litigation by environmental and farmworker groups. However, one of the Trump Administration's proposed rollbacks of the WPS remains: the gutting of the Application Exclusion Zone (AEZ), which required pesticide handlers to stop applying pesticides if someone is near the area being sprayed. If the final Trump AEZ rule goes into effect, farmworkers in neighboring fields, children in school playgrounds or in their backyards, and rural residents going about their day may be in close proximity to where pesticides are being sprayed, as long as they're not on the same property, without any requirement that the applicator suspend spraying. <a href="https://www.usgs.gov/centers/oki-water/science/pesticides?qt-science_center_objects=0#qt-science_center_objects" target="_blank">More than 1 billion pounds</a> of pesticides, designed to kill insects, weeds, and other pests, are applied to U.S. agricultural fields every year. In addition to acute poisonings, pesticides are also associated with <a href="https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-worker-safety/pesticide-poisoning-handbook-section-v-chronic-effects" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">long-term health harms</a> including various cancers, developmental and reproductive harm, and neurological damage, for both farmworkers and community members who are chronically exposed to pesticides.</p><p>In December 2020, Farmworker Justice and Earthjustice, acting on behalf of a coalition of groups including Migrant Clinicians Network, <a href="https://earthjustice.org/news/press/2020/groups-challenge-epas-move-to-gut-pesticide-spraying-safeguards?fbclid=IwAR3Od3YPk0BSdwxys27EQkc8PKOufVywlPX8g0i852iJ-PSBkqYPW4ZbB4g" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">sued the EPA to stop these changes</a>. An injunction is currently in place preventing the changes from being implemented as the case proceeds – but the Biden Administration has a responsibility to protect these workers, rather than rely on courts. And the issue of pesticide drift on nearby properties is just one of the many challenges that farmworkers face when it comes to pesticide exposure.</p>
An Opportunity to Right Wrongs<img lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTYyOTExMS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NjM2ODAzM30.szhrn2C7P9UtiBUNzlPOl4OPhcQdCAak_QA2ThsW0mQ/img.png?width=980" id="17a13" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="88f88bae616b22aae8238fa01dc075ca" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1250" data-height="732" />
Pesticide spray in Utah. Pesticide exposure is associated with various cancers, developmental and reproductive harm, and neurological damage. Aqua Mechanical / Flickr<p>These hard-working farmworkers, upon whom we all depend for the food we eat, deserve immediate and effective protections. The new Administration has a unique opportunity to take advantage of renewed public understanding of the exploitation of farmworkers, to provide long-overdue workplace protections to keep essential workers safe, and to transform our food systems to ensure healthy workplaces, neighborhoods, and the environment, by:</p><ul><li>Rejecting the Trump Administration's attempt to weaken the Application Exclusion Zone requirements;</li><li>Increasing the monitoring and enforcement of the WPS, including, but not limited to, provisions such as the minimum age of 18 for applying pesticides, adequate training for workers in a language that they understand, and worker access to information about pesticides being applied;</li><li>Requiring drift protections on pesticide labels for drift-prone pesticides, to better protect workers, bystanders, and communities;</li><li>Requiring that all pesticide label instructions be written in Spanish and/or other languages spoken by workers so they have the information they need to protect themselves and their families;</li><li>Banning highly toxic pesticides such as chlorpyrifos;</li><li>Using accurate scientific methods for determining pesticide risk, including taking into account farmworkers' potential long-term exposure, when making determinations about pesticide safety and the registration of pesticide products;</li><li>Including farmworkers and farmworker-serving organizations as key stakeholders at EPA, with a focus on environmental justice.</li></ul><p>These are just some of the essential steps the new administration can take to protect farmworkers from the extreme hazards of their workplaces. Much more needs to be done about the myriad factors that negatively impact farmworker health, like poverty, immigration status, language barriers, and fear of retaliation.</p><p>COVID-19 has shown that a strong public health system and a functional food system require basic health and human rights for all of our neighbors, especially those typically left out. The Biden Administration has a duty and an opportunity to improve our systems – and consequently improve our nation's health and well-being.</p><p><em>Amy K. Liebman is Director of Environmental and Occupational Health for </em><a href="http://www.migrantclinician.org/" target="_blank"><em>Migrant Clinicians Network</em></a><em>, a nonprofit focused on creating practical solutions at the intersection of vulnerability, migration, and health. </em></p><p><em>Iris Figueroa is the Director of Economic and Environmental Justice for </em><a href="http://www.farmworkerjustice.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Farmworker Justice</em></a><em>, a nonprofit that seeks to empower migrant and seasonal farmworkers to improve their living and working conditions, immigration status, health, occupational safety, and access to justice.</em></p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.ehn.org/farmworkers-deserve-pesticide-protections-2650404972/" target="_blank">Environmental Health News</a>. </em></p>
"Prevention is the cure for child/teen cancer." This is the welcoming statement on a website called 'TheReasonsWhy.Us', where families affected by childhood cancers can sign up for a landmark new study into the potential environmental causes.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) failure on food chemical safety has left consumers at risk of chronic diseases.
We Are Sick<p>A lot of us are affected by chronic health conditions. <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/research/reports/children-diabetes-rates-rise.html" target="_blank">Diabetes in children</a> and <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr123-508.pdf" target="_blank">adults</a>; <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_10/sr10_258.pdf" target="_blank">attention</a>, learning and memory disorders; <a href="https://www.childstats.gov/americaschildren/obesity.asp" target="_blank">obesity in children</a> and <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr122-508.pdf" target="_blank">adults</a>; thyroid dysfunction; and the list goes on. Experts call them non-communicable diseases because, unlike pathogens like bacteria and viruses, we do not pass them from one person to another. <a href="https://www.who.int/nmh/publications/ncd-status-report-2014/en/" target="_blank">Global public health experts</a> linked tobacco use, physical inactivity, alcohol abuse, and unhealthy diets to increases in the risk of non-communicable diseases.</p><p>Unhealthy diets are usually associated with calorie-dense nutrient-poor foods, often called ultra-processed foods, due to their ingredients resulting from a series of industrial processes, many requiring sophisticated equipment and technology (sweet and savory snacks, reconstituted meats). In addition to industrially produced ingredients (high-fructose corn syrup, protein isolates, hydrogenated oil), such food also contains numerous additives including dyes, flavors, emulsifiers, thickeners, and artificial sweeteners. Further, industrial chemicals used in packaging manufacturing and food processing equipment —such as bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates, PFAS, perchlorate— are also found in these foods.</p><p>These intentional uses of chemical additives number in the thousands, and many have been linked to endocrine disruption, neurological and behavioral problems, cancer, and heart and liver disease.</p>
Congress Added Guardrails Against Chronic Health Effects<p>In the U.S., approximately <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1541-4337.2011.00166.x" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">10,000 chemicals</a> can be purposely added to food or enter the food supply through processing equipment and packaging, and 60 percent of the calories ingested are from ultra-processed foods. In 1958, Congress gave the FDA authority to regulate chemicals intentionally added to food or to food contact materials, commonly known as food additives, to ensure their use is safe. <a href="https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=170.3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Safe</a> means the potential toxic health effects of a new additive that becomes part of the diet must be assessed in combination with other substances already present and are expected to have similar health effects. Thus, the cumulative assessment of health effects by a class of related substances prevents the addition of intentional new or expanded uses of chemical additives that would increase chronic disease. Moreover, this approach, together with systematic review of prior safety decisions results in health risk reduction.</p>
FDA Neglected Its Responsibility to Follow the Law<p>We wanted to investigate whether and how food manufacturers and the FDA had implemented the cumulative effect requirement. To do that, <a href="https://www.edf.org/media/lack-key-considerations-fda-food-chemical-safety-process-leaves-consumers-risk-chronic" target="_blank">we downloaded and reviewed all 877 safety determinations</a> contained in the Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) <a href="https://www.fda.gov/food/generally-recognized-safe-gras/gras-notice-inventory" target="_blank">notifications inventory</a>. These notices were voluntarily submitted by food manufacturers to the FDA between 1997, when GRAS notification program began, and March 24, 2020. We looked at GRAS notices because they are publicly available and FDA rules require that food manufacturers include in the notice an explanation of how they considered the cumulative health effect of a new additive. Unfortunately, our investigation showed that both the FDA and the food manufacturers appeared to have ignored this crucial safety requirement.</p><p>We searched the documents for terms "cumulative effect" and "pharmacological" presuming that any analysis of the cumulative effect of chemical or pharmacologically related substances would include those terms. We evaluated every positive finding for context and reviewed the document more closely when warranted. We found that in only one of 877 GRAS notices did a food manufacturer consider the cumulative effect requirement in a meaningful way. Notably, that one notice stopped short of establishing a safe exposure for the class as required by regulation. And we found no evidence that the agency either recognized this single attempt to follow the law or had objected to the omissions in the 876 other notices.</p><p>To better understand how these blatant omissions happened, we also reviewed the FDA's relevant guidance for industry documents to determine if they contain information to help industry understand how to consider the cumulative effect of the substance as required by law and regulations. We used the agency's online research tool and identified 21 documents related to food chemicals. For each document, we searched for key terms including "cumulative effect", "chemically related", "pharmacological effects", and "pharmacologically related". We also searched for references to key regulations or statutory provisions directly related to the cumulative effect requirement. We found next to nothing and what information was there was either incomplete or confusing.</p><p>Ten documents did not mention the legal requirement and two simply restated it. Four documents created confusion by using terms such as 'cumulative exposure' or 'cumulative intake.' Five documents provided incomplete and potentially misleading information. For example, excluding the requirement from the definition of safety or paraphrasing the safety requirement in a manner that limited the assessment to a single chemical instead of related substances in the diet.</p>
The Unknown Cost of FDA’s Six Decades of Failure<p>This is an obvious failure by the FDA and food manufacturers that has significant consequences for public health, particularly for communities already facing significant health and socio-economic disparities and for <a href="doi:%20https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2018-1408" target="_blank">children</a>, who are uniquely susceptible to dietary exposures to multiple chemicals. It is known that fetal and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1186/1476-069X-11-42" target="_blank">early life exposures</a> have been associated with long-term diseases or disorders that usually manifest later in life. Development of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fct.2014.05.003" target="_blank">neurological, immune, reproductive</a>, and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1210/er.2015-1010" target="_blank">endocrine systems</a> have been shown to be particularly susceptible to chemical exposures. For example, several <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/jech-2014-203980" target="_blank">food additives and contaminants</a> in common foods – including nitrates, perchlorate, thiocyanate, BPA, phthalates, potassium bromate, synthetic dyes – all harm the thyroid's ability to produce a hormone essential to brain development. The common-sense preventative measure to reduce exposures is to treat chemicals in the diet with related health effects as a class – as Congress mandated in 1958.</p><p>The healthcare costs of long-lasting health conditions, especially when they arise during <a href="https://doi.org/10.1586/erp.11.93" target="_blank">childhood</a>, as well as the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/S2213-8587(20)30128-5" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">economic benefits</a> of preventing exposures to substances that disrupt the normal function of the endocrine system have been documented.</p><p>How can this be remedied?</p>
Solutions<p>First, the FDA needs to add definitions of key terms such as "cumulative effect", "chemically related", "pharmacologically related" and "pharmacological effect." This should not be a heavy lift. For instance, the agency's own Center for Drug Evaluation and Research has already <a href="https://www.fda.gov/media/77834/download" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">established definitions</a> for pharmacologically related substances and pharmacological effects; food additive regulators could also implement this. We are not implying that additives be regulated as drugs; rather, that the body does not identify whether a chemical that binds to a hormone receptor is a pharmaceutical or a food additive. But it certainly may have a similar biological response with potentially different health consequences depending on the dose, duration of exposure and life-stage of the individual.</p><p>Second, the FDA should review the requirement for all forms industry must complete when submitting petitions or notifications to the agency for review of their products' safety assessment. FDA should provide clear and specific guidance to industry on what it is expected and how to accomplish it. And, of course, the agency needs to ensure compliance with the law.</p><p>Medical and scientific societies together with health and environmental organizations have formally submitted <a href="https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=FDA-2020-P-2003" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a petition to the FDA</a> to revise its food and color additive regulations and associated guidance to ensure compliance with the requirements in law. Safe food is fundamental to protect the health and well-being of all Americans. Putting into action the protections already available in the law and regulations would also restore the confidence in the FDA's mission to protect the public health by assuring the safety of our nation's food supply.</p><p>Lastly, these efforts should be conducted without delay so we begin to curb the epidemic of chronic diseases that continue to inflict personal and financial pain in so many families and worsen an already strained healthcare system.</p>
By Kasra Zarei
Microplastic particles exposed to freshwater or saltwater environments are more likely than original, non-exposed particles to be taken up into an animal's cells, according to new research.
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OlgaMiltsova / iStock / Getty Images Plus
By Gwen Ranniger
In the midst of a pandemic, sales of cleaning products have skyrocketed, and many feel a need to clean more often. Knowing what to look for when purchasing cleaning supplies can help prevent unwanted and dangerous toxics from entering your home.
1. Fragrance – Avoid It<p>One of the fastest ways to narrow down your product options is immediately eliminating any product that promotes a fragrance, or parfum. That scent of "fresh breeze" or lemon might initially smell good, but the fragrance does not last. What does last? The concoction of various undisclosed and unregulated chemicals that created that fragrance.</p><p>Many fragrances contain phthalates, which are linked to many health risks including reproductive problems and cancer.</p>
2. With Bleach? Do Without<p>Going scent-free should have narrowed down your options substantially – now, check the front of the remaining packaging. Any that include ammonia or chlorine bleach ought to go, as these substances are irritating and corrosive to your body. While bleach is commonly known as a powerful disinfectant, there are safer alternatives that you can use in your home, such as sodium borate or hydrogen peroxide.</p><p>While you're at it, check if there are any warnings on the label – "flammable," "use in ventilated area," etc. – if the product is hazardous, that's a red flag and should be avoided.</p>
3. Check the Back Label<p>Flip to the back of the remaining contenders and check out that ingredient list. Less is more, here. Opt for a shorter ingredient list with words you recognize and/or can pronounce.</p><p>You may notice many products do not have ingredient lists – while this doesn't necessarily mean they contain toxic ingredients, transparency is key. Feel free to look up a list online, or stick to products that are open about their ingredients.</p>
4. Ingredients to Avoid<p>We already mentioned that cleaners containing fragrance or parfum, and bleach or ammonia should be avoided, but there are other ingredients to look out for as well.</p><ul><li>Quaternary ammonium "quats" – lung irritants that contribute to asthma and other breathing problems. Also linger on surfaces long after they've been cleaned.</li><li>Parabens – Known hormone disruptor; can contribute to ailments such as cancer</li><li>Triclosan – triclosan and other antibacterial chemicals are registered with the EPA as pesticides. Triclosan is a known hormone disruptor and can also impact your immune system.</li><li>Formaldehyde – Causes irritation of eyes, nose, and throat; studies suggest formaldehyde exposure is linked with certain varieties of cancer. Can be found in products or become a byproduct of chemical reactions in the air.</li></ul>
Cleaning Products and Toxics: The Bottom Line<p>Do your research. There are many cleaning products available, but taking these steps will drastically reduce your options and help keep your home toxic-free. Protecting your home from bacteria and viruses is important, but make sure you do so in a way that doesn't introduce other health risks into the home.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.ehn.org/how-to-shop-for-cleaning-products-while-avoiding-toxics-2648130273.html" target="_blank">Environmental Health News</a>. </em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649054624#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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By Gwen Ranniger
The grocery store is a wonderful place: thousands of ingredients and products at your fingertips available to combine, cook, and eat. However, that choice can be overwhelming: while shoppers in the 1970s chose from a mere 9,000 products, shoppers today choose from more than 47,000.
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By Gwen Ranniger
Deciding what household products and foods to buy is tricky.
There are thousands of products out there. Many do the exact same thing, or are nearly identical with slight nuance. But some products contain toxic compounds that can harm us or our children. Even the simple task of choosing a toothpaste can give us anxiety!
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By Hannah Seo
If you've been considering throwing out that old couch, now might be a good time. Dust in buildings with older furniture is more likely to contain a suite of compounds that impact our health, according to new research.
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By Brian Bienkowski
Fish exposed to endocrine-disrupting compounds pass on health problems to future generations, including deformities, reduced survival, and reproductive problems, according to a new study.
Low Levels Lead to Generational Impacts<p>Researchers exposed inland silverside fish to bifenthrin, levonorgestrel, ethinylestradiol, and trenbolone to levels currently found in waterways.</p><p>"Our concentrations were actually on the low end" of what is found in the wild, DeCourten said, adding that it was low amounts of chemicals in parts per trillion.</p><p>Bifenthrin is a pesticide; levonorgestrel and ethinylestradiol are synthetic hormones used in birth controls; and trenbolone is a synthetic steroid often given to cattle to bulk them up.</p><p>Such endocrine-disruptors have already been linked to a variety of health problems in directly exposed fish including altered growth, reduced survival, lowered egg production, skewed sex ratios, and negative impacts to immune systems. But what remains less clear is how the exposure may impact future generations.</p><p>For their study, DeCourten and colleagues started the exposure when the fish were embryos and continued it for 21 days.</p><p>They then tracked effects on the exposed fish, and the next two generations.</p>
Inherited Problems<p>DeCourten said the altered DNA methylation is one of the plausible ways that future generations would experience health impacts from previous generations' exposure. Hormone-disrupting compounds have been shown to impact DNA methylation, which is an important marker of how an organism will develop.</p><p>"Methyl groups are added to specific sites on the genome, [the exposure] is not changing the genome itself, but rather how the genome is expressed," she said. "And that can be inherited throughout generations."</p><p>In addition, Brander said there are essentially different "tags" that exist on DNA molecules, which tell genes how to turn on and off. She said the exposure to different compounds may be "influencing which methyl tags get taken on or off as you proceed through generations."</p><p>The researchers said the study should prompt future toxics testing to consider impacts on future generations.</p><p>"The results … throw a wrench in the current approach to regulating chemicals, where it's often short-term testing looking at simple things like growth, survival, and maybe gene expression," Brander said.</p><p>"These findings are telling us we really at least need to consider" the next two generations, she added.</p>
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Europe's chief policy-making body Wednesday called for a safer, more sustainable chemicals market, plotting a zero-tolerance approach that nearly eliminates hormone mimicking compounds.
Five Main Thrusts<p>The new European plan, dubbed the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability, is part of the broader Europe Green Deal, a sweeping proposal for the European Union to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, eliminate pollution, and promote a sustainable economy.</p><p>The strategy released Wednesday has five main thrusts:</p><ol><li>Tighter scrutiny of hormone-mimicking compounds, along with an early warning system for chemical risks before such compounds hit the market.</li><li>A "one substance, one assessment" approach to increase chemical testing transparency.</li><li>Incentives for green chemistry and non-toxic materials development.</li><li>Information and tools for citizens to understand chemical risks.</li><li>Pressure on international markets to improve chemical safety globally.</li></ol><p>At its core, the strategy makes use of the precautionary principle—forcing companies or manufacturers to prove chemicals are safe before they go to market, and making them pay when there is pollution.</p>
Concern From Business<p>While environmental and health advocates lauded the move, business interests cautioned it will stifle commerce and innovation.<br></p><p>"Production cycles and supply chains are complex ... (and) not always well understood by decision makers," wrote EuroCommerce, representing the continents' retail and wholesale business sectors, in a position paper as the policy was being crafted this summer. "We ask the Commission to keep a close eye on the impact of individual initiatives, and its cumulative effects on the retail and wholesale sector and how it affects their economic viability."</p>
Contrast With United States<p>The Commission's plan stands in sharp contrast to the United States. Despite decades of warnings from academic scientists, U.S. regulators have largely ignored independent, non-industry science about the dangers of chemicals that impact our hormones, often at very low doses.<br></p><p>Endocrine-disrupting compounds are a particular concern, based on science from research labs worldwide. The compounds—added to a broad range of products such as plastics, toys, cosmetics, food packaging—have been linked to myriad health problems, including birth defects, obesity, diabetes, certain cancers, as well as impacts to the brain and reproductive and immune systems.</p><p>The highest profile—and highest dollar— effort by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to get on the same page of academic scientists and Europe on endocrine disruptor science has only deepened divides. An <a href="https://www.ehn.org/is-bpa-dangerous-for-health-2641153205.html" target="_blank">EHN investigation</a> of the FDA's effort on just one chemical, BPA, found the agency stacked the deck against findings from independent scientists studying BPA. It also found that many chemicals used to replace BPA in "BPA-free" products have the same adverse health impacts as the original chemical.</p>
Separate Focus on PFAS<p>Also released Wednesday was an EU strategy that specifically takes aim at PFAS, compounds so persistent they're called "forever chemicals." PFAS, used in products including firefighting foam, non-stick cookware and some clothing, have been found in the water of roughly 2,230 U.S. communities in 49 states, affecting more than 100 million people.<br></p><p>The new European strategy would only allow for PFAS use when the chemicals are "essential for society." In addition, it will fund research for safe alternatives and for monitoring and cleanup.</p>
Toward 'Zero Pollution'<p>The framework stems from political guidelines laid out at the end of 2019 by European Union President Ursula von der Leyen that pointed Europe toward "zero pollution."</p><p>"I will put forward a cross-cutting strategy to protect citizens' health from environmental degradation and pollution, addressing air and water quality, hazardous chemicals, industrial emissions, pesticides and endocrine disruptors," President von der Leyen wrote <a href="https://op.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/43a17056-ebf1-11e9-9c4e-01aa75ed71a1" target="_blank">in the report.</a></p><p>The Commission plans to release a Zero Action Pollution Action Plan on air, water and soil next year to complement the chemicals strategy.</p>
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