Widely Used Fire Retardant Could Trigger Cancer
Earlier this year a disturbing study showed that the brominated fire retardant TBBPA, which is widely used in consumer products, triggers cancer in lab animals. Now a new study suggests that the chemical may do so by interfering with the hormone system and may stimulate estrogen activity in much the same way as the toxic flame retardant it replaced.
TBBPA was introduced as an alternative to some uses of PDBEs, a class of fire retardants that were phased out because of evidence that they persisted in the environment and interfered with hormone signaling in the body. The troubling new studies suggest that chemical manufacturers may have simply swapped out one toxic chemical for another that has the same biological effect.
TBBPA is now the most heavily manufactured brominated fire retardant in the world, with global production currently topping 200,000 tons a year. It is routinely used in electronic circuit boards and in plastic piping, automotive parts and appliances such as refrigerators. As a result of its widespread production and use in consumer products, TBBPA is now detectable in the environment, in house dust and in people—including in umbilical cord blood and breast milk.
Concerns about the safety of TBBPA spiked when the National Toxicology Program released a two-year study that showed that it induced aggressive uterine cancer in rodents.
It’s not known how the chemical causes cancer in animals or whether it would do so in humans. But the new study by researchers at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Cancer Institute might give us a clue.
Using an imaging technique called x-ray crystallography, which can show how molecules interact at the atomic level, the researchers were able to observe that TBBPA attached to the enzyme “estrogen sulfotransferase” (EST for short), which plays an important role in regulating estrogen signaling in people. This kind of interaction can escalate estrogen’s activity, which has been linked in other research to excessive growth of the endometrium (the lining of the uterus), and to cancer. Abnormal EST activity in itself is also associated with uterine cancer. These results suggest how TBBPA may be inducing tumors.
The federal researchers also noticed that the interaction between the TBBPA fire retardant and the EST enzyme was similar to what occurred with the PBDE flame retardants that have been phased out.
Meanwhile global production of TBBPA has continued to climb, a trend that will likely continue, and human exposure may also rise. It is troubling that a chemical we now know can cause tumors is being produced in greater quantities than any other brominated flame retardant. These studies raise new questions about the safety of TBBPA and call into serious question once again the outdated federal system for regulating toxic chemicals, which allows widespread production of substances that have never undergone adequate safety testing.
The TBBPA story is one more reason that legislation to update the outdated Toxic Substances Control Act must provide for safety testing of new and existing chemicals.
Visit EcoWatch’s HEALTH page for more related news on this topic.
By Itai Vardi
A recent intensification in protests against Williams Partners' planned Atlantic Sunrise pipeline in Pennsylvania prompted a state senator to propose legislation aimed at limiting demonstrations.
Last month, Pennsylvania Sen. Scott Martin (R-Norman) announced his intention to introduce legislation that would pass the costs of law enforcement responding to protests onto the demonstrators. Martin also helped introduce a different bill that would criminalize protests at natural gas facilities.
The so-called "first and last mile" problem is one of the biggest hurdles with public transportation. How do you encourage more people to take Earth-friendlier commutes when their homes are miles away from the train or bus station?
One solution, as this Estonian electric scooter company proposes, is to simply take your commute with you—literally. Tallinn-based Stigo has developed a compact e-scooter that folds to the size of a rolling suitcase in about two seconds.
[Editor's note: I'm still in shock after hearing the news that Lucia Grenna passed away in her sleep last week. When we first met in April of 2014 at a Copenhagen hotel, I was immediately taken by here powerful presence. We spent the next couple days participating in a Sustainia climate change event where Lucia presented her audacious plans to connect people to the climate issue. I had the chance to partner with Lucia on several other projects throughout the years and work with her incredible Connect4Climate team. I was always in awe of her ability to "make the impossible possible." Her spirit will live on forever. — Stefanie Spear]
It is with a heavy heart that Connect4Climate announces the passing of its founder and leading light, Lucia Grenna. Lucia passed peacefully in her sleep on June 15, well before her time. We remember her for her leadership and extraordinary ability to motivate people to take on some of the greatest challenges of our time, not least climate change.
By Stacy Malkan
Neil deGrasse Tyson has inspired millions of people to care about science and imagine themselves as participants in the scientific process. What a hopeful sign it is to see young girls wearing t-shirts emblazoned with the words, "Forget princess, I want to be an astrophysicist."
As Trevor Noah noted during The Daily Show episode last night (starts at 2:25), the real reason Trump has these rallies is to "get back in front of his loyal crowds and feed of their energy." Noah believes that "Trump supporters are so on board with their dude he can say anything and they'll come along for the ride."
By Katie O'Reilly
Two years ago—long before coal became one of the most dominant and controversial symbols of the 2016 presidential election—Bloomberg Philanthropies approached production company RadicalMedia with the idea of creating a documentary exploring the U.S. coal mining industry. Last spring, they brought on Emmy-nominated director Michael Bonfiglio, tasked with forging a compelling story out of the multitudes of facts, statistics and narratives underlying the declining industry.