Sunday, November 21, 2010

Chemicals are in us

I recently became aware of a podcast series put out by the friendly folks at Environmental Health Perspectives (a monthly journal of peer-reviewed research and news on the impact of the environment on human health, published by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences). I started listening to some of these podcasts today. Very. Scary. Stuff.

Here is one about long-term effects of in utero exposure to BPA. A quote from the scientist who was interviewed:
NEWBOLD: BPA is still a compound that we just don’t know that much about, and we really need to be concerned about this, because we know from studies from the CDC that over 90% of the population actually has been exposed to BPA because we’re picking it up in the urine. We also know that it’s in a lot of different plastics, so the potential for exposure is quite high. So we need to know the long-term effects—if there are truly any adverse effects. And right now the animal studies are leaning toward that direction.
Here is one on flame retardants, know as PDBEs

AHEARN: So they’re in almost 100% of Americans. How did they get there? How did they get into our bodies?

STAPLETON: That’s a big area of research that scientists are still trying to understand. We know for a fact that PBDEs are ubiquitous. They are found in a lot of our food products. They’re found in the air in our home. They’re found in the dusts in our home at fairly high levels relative to levels in the outdoor environment. There is definitely an exposure pathway from the presence of these products in our home and through our diet. Research definitely shows we’re getting exposure from both avenues.

Here's a third podcast, on breast milk:

Ernie Hood: Dr. Goldman, what do you recommend that we do to make human milk even safer than it is today? Are there actions on a macro level that we can take to reduce the presence of these contaminants we’ve been discussing?

Dr. Goldman: Yes, I think so. I think on a macro level, what we need to do is develop policies where we are much more vigilant about avoiding the use of persistent chemicals and pesticides. We do not want to have anything that’s persistent and going to build up in the environment or in our bodies in our food supply, in the air we breathe, in the water we drink. Because we’ve learned over and over and over again that these persistent substances, if they do have adverse health effects, then over time there’s very little we can do about them. So, many of the chemicals that are found in human milk are no longer used today. Many of them were banned as much as 20 or 30 years ago and yet we still find them. And yet when these chemicals are persistent we can’t simply dial down the exposure levels, because some of them have half-lives that last many, many years.

Um...yup. That's the problem in a nutshell.


mother in israel said...

Thanks--I tweeted your post. Very sad.

Unknown said...

thanks, Adena, for providing all this information, and for writing that article.....