What's the Relationship between Childhood Obesity and Chemicals?
By Margie Kelly
It’s well established that childhood obesity is linked to poor nutrition and a lack of exercise. First Lady Michelle Obama has launched the “Let’s Move” initiative to combat childhood obesity by providing access to healthier foods at homes and schools, and helping kids get more physical activity each day. Improving kids’ access to healthy food and exercise is something we all can support.
But new evidence shows a toxic chemical used to infuse shampoos and lotions with fragrance may also play a role in the soaring rates of childhood obesity.
A type of phthalate present in personal care products was found at high levels in overweight children, according to a recent study published by the Children’s Environmental Health Center at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
Researchers tested the urine of nearly 400 Black and Hispanic New York City children between the ages of 6 and 8. Monoethylene phthalate or MEP was associated with greater body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference in children. BMI in overweight girls with the highest exposure to MEP was 10 percent higher than those with the lowest MEP exposure, according to a press release from Mount Sinai.
MEP is a breakdown product of diethyl phthalate or DEP, which is widely used as an ingredient for fragrance in shampoos, soaps, deodorants, lotion and other personal care products, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
Phthalates are endocrine-disrupting chemicals, which interfere with regular hormone functioning. Health and safety concerns about certain phthalates have led the U.S. Congress to ban their use in specific products intended for babies and children, including soft toys. The Mount Sinai study directs a new, harsh light on phthalates, as it’s the first evidence of their link to childhood obesity.
Since the chemical industry is clearly signaling it won’t give up phthalates without a fight, it’s up to consumers to find a way to avoid the ubiquitous chemicals. Check out these tips from Lori at Groovy Green Livin’.
How to avoid phthalates:
1. Avoid fragrance. Fragrance mixtures are considered a trade secret or proprietary information and this enables companies to get away with not disclosing their “secret” ingredients. If a product lists “fragrance,” steer clear.
2. Use EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Database to check the safety level of your personal care products. Find safe alternatives for nail polish and other cosmetics with toxic chemicals. Avoid buying plastic as much as possible. Get to know your plastics and stick with numbers 2 or 5. Avoid plastic shower curtains and #3 plastic.
3. Make your own cosmetics. This is the only way you will know with certainty what was used in your product.
4. Check the HealthyStuff.org database for toys bought before 2009—they may contain phthalates.
5. Look for products labeled “Phthalate Free."
6. Read the ingredients. Avoid anything with:
- DBP (di-n-butyl phthalate) and DEP (diethyl phthalate) are often found in personal care products, including nail polishes, deodorants, perfumes and cologne, aftershave lotions, shampoos, hair gels and hand lotions (BzBP, see below, is also in some personal care products.)
- DEHP (di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate or Bis (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate is used in PVC plastics, including some medical devices.
- BzBP (benzylbutyl phthalate) is used in some flooring, car products and personal care products.
- DMP (dimethyl phthalate) is used in insect repellent and some plastics (as well as rocket propellant)
For more information, click here.
By Simon Montlake
For more than a decade, Susan Jane Brown has been battling to stop a natural gas pipeline and export terminal from being built in the backcountry of Oregon. As an attorney at the nonprofit Western Environmental Law Center, she has repeatedly argued that the project's environmental, social, and health costs are too high.
All that was before this month's deadly wildfires in Oregon shrouded the skies above her home office in Portland. "It puts a fine point on it. These fossil fuel projects are contributing to global climate change," she says.
Moderates Feeling the Heat<p>If elected, Mr. Biden has vowed to stop new drilling for oil and gas on federal land and in federal waters and to rejoin the 2015 Paris climate accord that President Donald Trump gave notice of quitting. He would reinstate Obama-era regulations of greenhouse gas emissions, including methane, the largest component of natural gas.</p><p>The Biden climate platform also states that all federal infrastructure investments and federal permits would need to be assessed for their climate impacts. Analysts say such a test could impede future LNG plants and pipelines, though not those that already have federal approval. </p><p>Climate change activists who pushed for that language say much depends on who would have oversight of federal agencies that regulate the industry. Some are wary of Biden's reliance on advice from Obama-era officials, including former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who is now on the board of Southern Company, a utility, and a former Obama environmental aide, Heather Zichal, who has served on the board of Cheniere Energy, an LNG exporter. </p>
The Push for U.S. Fuel Exports<p>As vice president, Biden was part of an administration that pushed hard for global climate action while also promoting U.S. oil and gas exports to its allies and trading partners. As fracking boomed, Obama ended a 40-year ban on crude oil exports. In Europe, LNG was touted both as an alternative to coal and as strategic competition with Russian pipelines.</p><p>That much, at least, continued with President Trump. Under Energy Secretary Rick Perry, the agency referred to liquified U.S. hydrocarbons as "<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/29/us/freedom-gas-energy-department.html" target="_blank">freedom gas</a>."</p><p>Mr. Trump has also championed the interests of coal, oil, and gas while denigrating the findings of government climate scientists. He rejected the Paris accord as unfair to the U.S. and detrimental to its economy, but has offered no alternative path to emissions cuts. </p><p>Still, Trump's foreign policy has not always served the LNG industry: Tariffs on foreign steel drove up pipeline costs, and a trade war with China stayed the hand of Chinese LNG importers wary of reliance on U.S. suppliers. </p><p>Even his regulatory rollbacks could be a double-edged sword. By relaxing curbs last month on methane leaks, the U.S. has ceded ground to European regulators who are drafting emissions standards that LNG producers are watching closely. "That's a precursor of fights that will be fought in all the rest of the developed world," says Mr. Hutchison. </p><p>Indeed, some oil-and-gas exporters had urged the Trump administration not to abandon the tougher rules, since they undercut their claim to offer a cleaner-burning way of producing heat and electricity. "U.S. LNG is not going to be able to compete in a world that's focused on methane emissions and intensity," says Erin Blanton, a senior research scholar at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. </p>
Stepping on the Gas<p>In July, the Department of Energy issued an export license to Jordan Cove's developer, Canada's Pembina Pipeline Corp. In a statement, Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said the project would provide "reliable, affordable, and cleaner-burning natural gas to our allies around the world."</p><p>As a West Coast terminal, Jordan Cove offers a faster route to Asia where its capacity of 7.8 million tons of LNG a year could serve to heat more than 15 million homes. At its peak, its construction would also create 6,000 jobs, the company says, in a stagnant corner of Oregon.</p><p>But the project still lacks multiple local and state permits, and its biggest asset – a Pacific port – has become its biggest handicap, says Ms. Blanton. "They are putting infrastructure in a state where there's no political support for the pipeline or the terminal, unlike in Louisiana or Texas," she says. </p><p>Ms. Brown, the environmental lawyer, says she wants to see Jordan Cove buried, not just mothballed until natural gas prices recover. But she knows that it's only one among many LNG projects and that others will likely get built, even if Biden is elected in November, despite growing evidence of the harm caused by methane emissions. </p>
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