Our Stolen Futurea book by Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski, and John Peterson Myers
 
 

 

 

This file holds archives of new developments in 2002. Other archives hold material from 1999, 2000, 2001 and the first quarter of 2003. New Developments contains the most recent materials. For a broad overview of the scientific trends since OSF was published, see Broad Trends. And for pointers to a host of important new research results, organized by topic, visit Recent Important Studies.

28 December 2002. In an article published in Toxicological Sciences, Sherry Rier and Warren Foster review a series of studies that strongly link endometriosis to dioxin, through the contaminant's ability to interfere with hormone and immune system action. They also summarize data on human exposures, showing that people are exposed to dioxins at levels significantly above those inducing endometriosis in monkeys. While existing studies stop short of proving causation with certainty, what they reveal suggests it should no surprise that endometriosis forces more than 100,000 hysterectomies each year in the US alone, and has annual health care costs in excess of $1 billion. More...


28 December 2002. The Detroit News reports that a sweet-heart deal for Dow Chemical negotiated by out-going republican Governor John Engler fell apart when Dow would not accept language modified by the state's attorney general's office. Public health and environmental experts were pleased by the outcome, as the proposal that was scuttled would have created an exception in state regulations permitting a 9-fold higher level of dioxin contamination around Midland, where Dow has operated for decades. "Dow would have avoided potentially huge cleanup costs under the consent order language" that fell through. More...


27 December 2002. No, this isn't about endocrine disruption. But it is an astounding example of how the Bush Administration is willing to put public health at risk. In a remarkable investigative article for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, reporter Andrew Schneider reveals an outrageous intervention by John Graham (White House Office of Management and Budget) to prevent EPA from warning home owners around the country about significant health risks arising from the use of asbestos-contaminated insulation. The contamination is traceable to a vermiculite mine in Libby, Montana, owned and operated by W.R. Grace.

"In that town near the Canadian border, ore from a vermiculite mine was contaminated with an extremely lethal asbestos fiber called tremolite that has killed or sickened thousands of miners and their families. Ore from the Libby mine was shipped across the nation and around the world, ending up in insulation called Zonolite that was used in millions of homes, businesses and schools across America."

The EPA was prepared to issue a warning in April 2002, until Graham intervened. His nomination to head that office had been challenged by health and environment groups because of his past association with an industry-tainted research center.

EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman had made the decision to issue the alert. This is one more reason why she should resign.


27 December 2002. In his second major story on perchlorate in the Wall Street Journal in December, reporter Peter Waldman explores the disruptive impacts that perchlorate contamination is having on drinking water supplies. "Several of the nation's fastest-growing areas -- including Las Vegas, Texas and Southern California -- could face debilitating water shortages because of groundwater contamination by perchlorate, the main ingredient of solid rocket fuel." ... "Dozens of perchlorate-tainted wells have been shuttered nationwide, casting a pall on growth plans in several parched areas." According to Waldman, the chief concern about perchlorate arises from the fact it is an endocrine disrupter. More... (for earlier story see 16 Dec, below)


26 December 2002. Research in Sweden reveals a link between organochlorine levels in a mother's blood and the risk that her son will develop testicular cancer, decades after birth. The son's own contamination levels, measured at the time of cancer diagnosis, provide few insights into risk. These data are consistent with the proposal that testicular cancer in adulthood results from errors in fetal testicular development caused by hormone disruption. More...


23 December 2002. The New York Times editorialized in favor of the use of DDT against malaria in Africa, acknowledging that while it not risk free, the evidence against human effects is inconclusive. "The uncertainties must be weighed against a demonstrated effectiveness in fighting a disease that now kills 1 in 20 African children. DDT also costs one-quarter the price of the alternative, pyrethroids."

These are good and important points, and it is why the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants provided precisely for that use, with support of medical experts and a wide range of environmental organizations. Curiously, while the Times acknowledged support for this targeted use of DDT by medical experts, it omitted mention the support by environmental experts, which was widespread and vocal. That would have made its editorial point even stronger.

The real tragedy is that investments by first world governments in research on malaria have been so paltry that they have failed to provide effective, affordable and less risky methods to fight this dreadful disease.

This is increasingly important as uncertainties about DDT, cited by the Times, are narrowing with new research pointing to very real and large health impacts of DDT. More


16 December 2002. In a front page story in the Wall Street Journal, staff reporter Peter Waldman explores a controversy involving widespread contamination by perchlorate resulting from its use as a rocket fuel, and the possible health consequences of the toxin. The debate pits the Environmental Protection Agency against the Department of Defense, with the EPA focused on low level risks of perchlorate associated with its capacity to disrupt thyroid function. Relying on old data, DOD claims perchlorate is dangerous only at very high levels. A sidebar in the WSJ describes perchlorate as "one of a newly recognized group of toxins called endocrine disrupters." More...


12 December 2002. A study of men living in the Boston area suggests that adult exposure to phthalates can damage the DNA of human sperm. The damage was detected at phthalate exposure levels common within the American public. It is unknown whether the amount of DNA damage would lead to infertility or genetic problems in offspring. More...


10 December 2002. In an essay in San Francisco Medicine, John Peterson Myers describes the revolution now underway in scientific understanding of links between environmental exposures and health. Best understood as a series of conceptual shifts from traditional approaches in toxicology to one that integrates developmental and molecular biology with endocrinology and genetics, this revolution is rapidly outpacing a regulatory structure mired in an outdated paradigm. That old system profoundly outdated, and the new science makes starkly clear the fact that current laws do not protect public health. More...


9 December 2002. In an article written for UPI's end-of-year review, Science and Technology editor Dee Ann Divis describes a disturbing pattern in the approach the Bush Administration is taking to evaluate nominees for scientific committees. Candidates have been rejected for making contributions to Democratic candidates or for espousing positions at odds with certain industries and Bush's far-right constituency. Among the panels affected are a CDC's advisory committee, a panel on lead poisoning, and the Army Science Board. The article cites a letter to Science revealing that the political review extends even to peer-review study sections, thereby affecting the very nature of research approved for federal support. Several scientific organizations are raising objections, including the American Public Health Association.


26 November 2002. Brian Reid reports in the Washington Post about the controversy over use of phthalates in cosmetics. An industry-funded scientific panel,the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR), has concluded that existing evidence does not warrant removal of phthalates from nail polish, hair spray, and other cosmetic products that contain them. Public health and environmental groups, in contrast, assert that insufficient scientific evidence exists to establish the safety of current exposures to phthalates, especially considering the multiplicity of exposure sources, not just cosmetics. More on phthalates... And for information about which cosmetics contain phthalates (and which don't, visit "the virtual drugstore..."


19 November 2002. Writing in The New York Times, Carol Kaesuk Yoon describes a controversy boiling around published studies that indicate atrazine has dramatic effects at low levels on sexual development in frogs. Three papers published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Nature, and Environmental Health Perspectives by Tyrone Hayes's research group at Univ. Calif Berkeley, during the last 7 months report that atrazine induces hermaphroditism in the lab that is consistent with observations in the field. Industry-funded scientists in the employ/consultancy of atrazine's producer, led by Ron Kendall of Texas Tech (Lubbock, Texas) and EcoRisk, a firm that provides toxicological advice to agrochemical companies, have claimed they can't reproduce the results. More on the research...


18 November 2002. Measurements of maternal and fetal samples from Japan confirm that bisphenol A enters the human womb and reaches the fetus at concentration levels known to induce changes in experiments with animals. The highest concentrations were observed in the first trimester of pregnancy. More...


17 November 2002. Writing in the Baton Rouge Advocate, reporter Mike Dunne describes the controversy brewing around EPA's scheduled evaluation of atrazine. Several studies with frogs indicate atrazine causes harm to amphibians, and a study of workers at the main atrazine production facility in the US suggests a link to prostate cancer. These growing signs of adverse effects cauesd EPA to postpone the compound's interim reregistration decision from August 2002 to January 2003. A final decision is now scheduled for August 2003.


16 November 2002. According to a new study described in the Baltimore Sun and just released in the American Journal of Human Genetics, babies conceived using in vitro fertilization techniques (IVF) are more likely to be born with a rare genetic disorder called Beckwith-Wiedemann Syndrome. Children with this disorder at at higher risk for certain cancers before puberty and also tend to be born large with large tongues and poor closures of the abdominal wall, causing hernias that must be repaired surgically. Several researchers interviewed by the Sun cautioned that while the data are intriguing more research needs to be done before accepting the results.

16 November 2002. Good news. Two new studies confirm two simple dietary changes that can significantly reduce exposures to environmental contaminants. While these changes already made common sense, these studies provide data supporting their wisdom. One documents decreases in blood levels of a potent neurotoxin, methylmercury, following reductions in the amount of large predatory fish like tuna and swordfish in the diet. The other shows that organic produce really works: children eating organic are less likely to be consuming inappropriate levels of organophosphate pesticides.


15 November 2002. In an important review published in Environmental Health Perspectives, two EPA toxicologists summarize the literature examining links between developmental exposure to endocrine disrupting compounds and subsequent cancer risk. Two clear patterns emerge: First, experiments with animals show clearly and repeatedly that early exposure to EDCs, particularly in the womb, can both cause cancer later in life as well as prolong periods of sensitivity to other carcinogens. Second, almost no studies of EDCs and people have incorporated these insights into study design. The toxicologists end their review with a question: In studies of people that almost invariably measure contamination after cancer is diagnosed, "could we be trying to correlate exposure and effect at the wrong time?" More...


12 November 2002. On the heels of a new scientific study reporting low sperm counts in Missouri men, reporter Jennifer Huget writes in the Washington Post about a new, over-the-counter kit to test whether a man's sperm count is high enough to be considered fertile. If the test shows a positive result, it indicates that the man's sperm is at least 20 million sperm per milliliter, a threshold for fertility criteria established by the World Health Organization. Roughly 40 percent of fertility problems that challenge more than 2 million couples in the US are due to reductions in male fertility. This kit will help identify men who may have difficulty conceiving. Factors other than low sperm count also undermine male fertility; this test will not provide information on these other problems.


11 November 2002. In the most sophisticated study of geographic variation in US sperm count yet conducted, scientists from four different geographic regions across America report they find important differences in sperm density and motility. Men in Missouri have the lowest sperm count compared to New York, Minneapolis and Los Angeles. The cause of these differences are not yet known. The scientists conducting the study hypothesize it may be related to the intensity of pesticide use in industrial agriculture in Missouri compared to the other, more urban areas. More...


10 November 2002. In the Sunday magazine, the New York Times carries a story about a vaccination scientist who took on his scientific colleagues by acknowledging that the use of a mercury-containing preservative in vaccines might increase the risk of neurological damage in children, including autism.


7 November 2002. Strong evidence against a link between vaccinations and autism was reported in the New England Journal of Medicine. A Danish reserach team examined the health records of all children born in Denmark between 1991 and 1998, with complete data on autism status and vaccination history. They found no elevation in risk of autism among vaccinated children. The study does not address whether autism is linked to thimerosal, the mercury-based preservative used in some vaccines, because this is not an additive to the MMR vaccination. More...

5 November 2002. In a detailed article in USA Today, reporter Anita Manning examines a new study of the health consequences of eating mercury-contaminated fish. The report, by a physician from the San Francisco area, examines health effects including hair loss, fatigue, depression, difficulty concentrating and headaches. The report concludes that anyone who consumes a lot of fish, especially large steak fish such as swordfish and shark, could be at risk. The article in USA Today also summarizes government recommendations for tuna consumption.  The low limits may surprise may parents whose children eat canned tuna regularly.

The same research was also covered by San Francisco Chronicle environmental reporter Jane Kay. Her story focused on the reversibility of mercury levels in the adult patients studied by Hightower, who commented: "We found that if people eat fish, the mercury goes up. They stop eating the fish, the mercury goes down. It's that simple." Kay cites "Tiburon resident Susie Piallat, a longtime patient of Hightower's, had been complaining for years of a flu-like feeling that she couldn't shake. When tested, her mercury level was 76 parts per billion -- more than 15 times the federal safety number..."It took almost a year for my level to drop. Now I feel so much better," said Piallat." [Note: Reversibility of fetal and early childhood effects is another matter and much less likely.]


4 November 2002. According to a story in the San Francisco Chronicle, UC Berkeley developmental biologist Tyrone Hayes was "not expected to become an eminent scientist." Yet now according his peers in science, "he's an outstanding scientist, one of the leaders in this field." And in that field he is challenging huge financial interests with information indicating that one of the world's most abundantly used herbicides, atrazine, is an extraordinarily powerful endocrine disruptor, severely undermining frog development at extremely low exposure levels. More on Hayes's research...


4 November 2002. Research in New York City involving African American and Dominican women living in Dominican Heights, Central Harlem and South Bronx reveals that higher levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are associated with adverse birth outcomes, including reduced head circumference and lower body weight. The study also reported adverse effects from exposure to a pesticide, chlorpyrifos. More...
2 November 2002. A study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute reveals that biases built into standard analyses of cancer incidence data were obscuring the fact that rates of breast, prostate and several other cancers continue to increase in the United States. The old methods had falsely indicated that these and other cancer rates were either flat or decreasing. More...

31 October 2002. A combined lab and field study of the leopard frog, Rana pipiens, implicates atrazine in widespread feminization of males during tadpole development and metamorphosis. The lab studies confirmed earlier findings from a different amphibian, the African clawed toad, that extremely low levels of atrazine causes significant gonadal abnormalities in male frogs. The field studies demonstrate widespread abnormalities in wild populations of the frog and link them to the geography of atrazine use. More...


24 October 2002. The Associated Press and Reuters both report on a special joint hearing of the health committees of the California State Senate and Assembly about breast cancer. Dr. Ana Soto, a specialist in breast cancer at Tufts Medical School, told the committees that "Breast cancer rates in the United States have increased from one in 22 in the 1940s to one in eight today, and the factors that are known to increase the risk of breast cancer -- reproductive history, genetics, exercise and alcohol use -- account for less than half of all cases. She added "it is high time to seriously consider environmental chemicals as the most likely cause of this sudden increase in risk." Dr. Gina Solomon, a senior scientist at the National Resources Defense Council, also testified. Dr. Solomon suggested that "drawing more links between environmental toxins and breast cancer could help to broaden understanding of who develops the disease and why."


23 October 2002. Katherine Ellison writes in the Washington Post about an epidemiological puzzle emerging from Marin County, California, where non-Hispanic white women "have received a diagnosis of breast cancer nearly 40% higher than the national norm." According to Kenneth Olden, the director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, "rates are higher here than anywhere else." Yet no explanation offered to date appears sufficient to explain the apparent epidemic. Olden, according to the article, consigns it to "demographics." One community activist, Fern Orenstein, responds "It's easy for them to say "demographcis," but--hello? There hasn't been enough research into what's in our air and in our soil and in the products we use."


20 October 2002. In an editorial, the New York Times comments on the "shocking report from California" indicating that the drastic upsurge in autism rates that had been discovered within that state is real rather than a statistical artifact. According to the Times, "California's self-examination has underscored the surprising lack of information about the prevalence of this relatively rare brain disorder elsewhere in the nation. Studies carried out by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in recent years found that the number of cases in metropolitan Atlanta and in one New Jersey township were significantly higher than previous estimates of prevalence would suggest. But nobody knows for sure what the nationwide trends are." Left unstated is the fact that this could be said for many other health trends affecting learning and behavior. In the meantime, comments the Times, "it could take years to unravel the widening mystery of autism." More on the study...


19 October 2002. Writing in the New Scientist, reporter Andy Coghlan describes intriguing new research indicating that sexual differentiation of the brain begins before the activation of a gene that determines whether an individual develops testes or ovaries. "Till now, the orthodoxy among developmental biologists has been that embryos develop ovaries and become female unless a gene called SRY on the Y chromosome is switched on. If this gene is active, it makes testes develop instead." New research by a group of California scientists has revealed sexual differences in gene activation in the brain before the SRY gene activity is initiated. This research may help understand the biological basis of "why some people feel trapped in a body of the wrong sex."


18 October 2002. In 1999, a study by the State of California revealed drastic increases in the rate of autism in California's children. Critics asserted the finding was incorrect, misled by changes in diagnostic criteria and other factors. A new study now rejects those explanations, and concludes that increases in the rate of autism in California over the past decade are real. The increase, which began in 1981, is too rapid for it to be due to genetic factors alone. More...


16 October 2002. Reporting in the Wall Street Journal, Sharon Begley summarizes a new study by scientists at the National Cancer Institute revealing that recent cancer incidence statistics had misled public health officials into believing that the war on cancer was being won, when in fact the incidence of a number of cancers continued to rise. This new analysis, which takes into account time delays in reporting, shows that breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, melanoma, colorectal cancer and several other cancers have actually been increasing in the United States.

16 October 2002. Writing in the Boston Globe, reporter Sally Jacobs explores a brewing controversy over the widespread use of phthalates in a wide range of consumer products, including cosmetics. .

Accompanied by provocative advertising in the New York Times, a report issued in Summer 2002 by consumer and public health organizations brought attention to this practice and highlighted toxicological data from animals showing adverse effects caused by phthalates, particularly for male fetuses in the womb.
 

Now, according to the Globe, "many women are backing away from their vanity tables and worrying" that phthalate exposure may have damaged their children while in the womb. More...


 

16 October 2002. A ten-year study of the brain structure reports that children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have brains significantly smaller than normal. The size differences are apparent in early childhood, at the earliest ages examined in the study. The authors conclude that ADHD is a biologically-based disorder with clear structural differences, and that the events initiating ADHD are likely to occur in the womb. More...


14 October 2002. Russian male pesticide workers exposed to dioxin and dioxin-like compounds father fewer boys than would be expected on the basis of world-wide and regional sex ratios. Normally slightly more boys are born than girls, with a resulting sex ratio (# boys divided by # of total births) averaging 0.51. In Ufa, a town just west of the Urals where pesticides have been produced since the 1940s, the sex ratio of children born to exposed fathers was 0.38, and that of a highly exposed subgroup was 0.23. More...


13 October 2002. Using new analytical methods, a team of German scientists measured bisphenol A in the blood of pregnant women, in umbilical blood at birth and in placental tissue. All samples examined contained BPA, at levels within the range shown to alter development in laboratory experiments with animals. Thus widespread exposure to BPA at levels of concern is no longer a hypothetical issue. It is occurring. More...


8 October 2002. According to Reuters News, several class action lawsuits have been filed against companies producing or selling chromated copper arsenate treated wood. This product, also known as CCA wood, has been used for over 70 years. The treatment protects against insect destruction. In the past, individual consumers have filed--and won--a series of lawsuits, mostly against small, privately-held companies. The class action lawsuits represent a new phase, one which Reuters compares to the "recent legal nightmares including scores of asbestos claims that drove some US firms into bankruptcy." At least one of the class action suits is against Georgia-Pacific. Industry spokespeople interviewed by Reuters indicated they thought the suits "had no merit." More about recent action on CCA wood...


6 October 2002 A study by a distinguished group of experts on the effects of diethylstilbestrol, including Arthur Herbst, whose research first revealed DES's human toll, reports that exposure to DES in the womb elevates breast cancer risk beginning in a woman's fifth decade of life. The sample size remains small, because DES use was most prevalent in the '50s and '60s and therefore exposed "DES daughters" are only now reaching the age when breast cancer incidence rises substantially. Nevertheless, this new study clearly indicates that DES daughters over 40-yrs old are at greater risk to breast cancer than unexposed women of comparable age. More...


4 October 2002. Writing in Environmental Health Perspectives, reporter Tina Adler describes the increasing frequency of issue ads placed in prominent publications raising questions about environmental threats to health.

click on image to see ad series

For example, the Mount Sinai School of Medicine Center for Children’s Health and the Environment (CCHE) published a series of ads raising questions about whether current regulatory testing was adequate given what scientific research now suggests as links between different health disabilities and exposure to contamination. Each of the seven full-page ads placed by CCHE in the New York Times repeated variations on a common theme:

 

"We don’t allow food or drugs to be sold before being shown to be safe. Yet there are thousands of chemicals on the market that affect human biology and have never been tested. Most importantly, we must demand that new chemicals be tested for safety before being allowed on the market. We do not have a system that does that now."

 

Industry spokespeople from the "American Council on Science and Health" (ACSH) quoted by Adler indicated their dissatisfaction about the ad series, and indeed sent a protest letter to the Mt Sinai Board of Directors complaining about the advertisements. According to the EHP article, ACSH associate director Jeff Stier argued that studies published in legitimate scientific publications don't need advertisements.

This seemed somewhat ironic given the amount that the chemical industry spends to convince the public of the safety of their products, for example, an ad series run widely in the 1990s recommending that people think of plastic as "your sixth basic food group."

 

click image for higher resolution


4 October 2002. New results from scientific studies of people exposed to dioxin during the 1976 chemical plant explosion in Seveso, Italy, reveal that immune system suppression by dioxin continues on at least 2 decades following initial exposure. Higher levels of dioxin correlate strongly with lower levels of a key immune system defense component, immunoglobulin G. More...


3 October 2002. Writing in the Anchorage Daily News, Tom Kizzia reports on a new study finding high levels of PCBs in the blood of Alaskan natives living on islands in the Bering Sea. The study, carried out by an environmental health organization, Alaska Community Action on Toxics, on St Lawrence Island, found PCB levels up to 19 parts per billion and averaging 7.5 ppb. Nationwide, PCB burdens average 0.9 to 1.5 ppb. The study was prompted by villager concerns about increases in cancer and other health concerns such as miscarriages.


1 October 2002. Reuters reports on a scientific study finding that "health of polar bears and the indigenous peoples of the Arctic is at serious risk from man-made toxins being carried there by air and sea." The report released by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (a programme of the intergovernmental Arctic Council), summarizes data on pollution of the Arctic by heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants. In the cautious language of science:

  "Adverse effects have been observed in some of the most highly exposed or sensitive species in some areas of the Arctic. Several studies have now been completed on a number of Arctic species, reporting the types of effects that have been associated in non-Arctic species with chronic exposure to POPs, of which there are several examples. Reduced immunological response in polar bears and northern fur seals has led to increased susceptibility to infection. Immunological, behavioral, and reproductive effects as well as reduced adult survival has been found in glaucous gulls. Peregrine falcons have suffered from eggshell thinning and reproductive effects."  

and then specifically on human health:

  "Subtle health effects are occurring in certain areas of the Arctic due to exposure to contaminants in traditional food, particularly for mercury and PCBs. The evidence suggests that the greatest concern is for fetal and neonatal development."
 

26 September 2002. In research sponsored by the Endometriosis Association and the US National Institute of Health, scientists report that women with endometriosis are far more likely to suffer from other endocrine and immune system disorders. Infertility is high compared to women in the general US public, and the incidence of lupus, chronic fatigue syndrome, hypothyroidism and several other diseases is greatly elevated. This research may assist in treatment of these diseases and also help shed light on their causes. More...


26 September 2002. The BBC reports that scientific concerns are mounting over increasing contamination of wildlife by brominated flame retardants in the Arctic. Levels are rising quite sharply and they appear to be associated with impacts on polar bears and sea gulls, which already bear significant PCB contamination. According to a Norwegian scientist quoted by BBC, Dr. Dr Hans Wolkers, brominated flame retardant concentrations are now doubling every five years.

More on brominated flame retardants...


17 September 2002. Research conducted at the University of Wisconsin reveals that a commercial mixture of lawn chemical herbicides including 2,4-D causes fetal loss in mice. A story about this research in the LA Times reports that the scientists who conducted the study obtained the herbicides by simply going to a local hardware store and buying a common brand.

Tests are usually conducted on pure components of such brands, instead of the actual mixtures sold. Tests with the pure components had indicated exposure at levels used in these experiments should not have caused effects. In fact, the lowest level used in the experiments, which caused significant fetal loss, was one-seventh the level allowed by EPA in drinking water.

These results indicate that mixtures must become a focus of regulatory testing for toxicology, and that current standards are not adequate. More...


17 September 2002. Picking up on a story first carried by Science Magazine, Rick Weiss writes in the Washington Post that the Bush Administration is packing key scientific panels with industry advocates. One of the affected committees advises the US Centers for Disease Control on the health impacts of environmental exposures to chemicals. While an administration spokesperson claimed that "no litmus test" was used in selecting new committee members, a candidate was rejected after he answered a series of questions about cloning, embryo cell research, and physician assisted suicide. The interviewer told him that the position would go to someone else because his views did not match Bush's.

According to the Post, new members of the CDC advisory panel include "Roger McClellan, former president of the Chemical Industry Institute of Toxicology, a North Carolina research firm supported by chemical company dues; Becky Norton Dunlop, a vice president of the Heritage Foundation who, as Virginia's secretary of natural resources, fought against environmental regulation; and Lois Swirsky Gold, a University of California risk-assessment specialist who has made a career countering environmentalists' claims of links between pollutants and cancer. The committee also includes Dennis Paustenbach, the California toxicologist who served as an expert witness for Pacific Gas and Electric when the utility was sued for allowing poisonous chromium to leach into groundwater. The case was made famous in the movie "Erin Brockovich."


16 September 2002. According to the Canadian Broadcast Corporation, a government study of meat and dairy products imported to Canada from the US discovered dioxin contamination levels far exceeding internationally accepted health standards. The contaminated foods included beef, pork and cheese. While the government agency that sponsored the study, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, discounted any dangers, the CBC interviewed Armand Tremblay, professor of veterinary medicine at the University of Montreal, who reached a very different conclusion, saying that any products with dioxin contamination at levels reported by the agency should be pulled from shelves. "I was stunned and concerned at the test results," said Tremblay.


15 September 2002. A multi-country collaboration of scientists studying male reproductive abnormalities reports that trends in sperm quality in four countries in the Nordic-Baltic region of Europe are consistent with predictions from the testicular dysgenesis syndrome theory. This theory proposes that four male reproductive maladies—testicular cancer, hypospadias, cryptorchidism and poor sperm quality—are all part of the same syndrome, with many cases due to environmental causes. More...


13 September 2002. Dutch scientists report that boys exposed prenatally to higher levels of PCBs and dioxin are more likely to show demasculinized play behaviors. Girls and boys exposed to modestly elevated dioxin levels demonstrate more feminized play behaviors. The scientists suggest that that these alterations in play result from endocrine disruption of the development of sex-specific behaviors. More...


 

13 September 2002. Scientific experts on the health effects of mercury have concluded that sufficient evidence is now available to justify a international action to reduce mercury exposures. One option under consideration is a legally-binding international convention sponsored by the United Nations. Press...
UN Environment Programme Global Mercury Assessment.


31 August 2002. In an editorial, the New York Times argues that "it is time to rein in this fruitless quest" for an environmental cause of breast cancer on Long Island, based on the recent negative findings reported by by the Long Island Breast Cancer Study Project. Unfortunately, for the Times conclusion, you can't rule out an association using a study whose design precluded being able to find one in the first place. The study's conclusions were limited by two design flaws:

  • First, it examined chemical levels at the time of cancer diagnosis, not at the time of breast cancer initiation. Current research indicates that this may take place decades before breast cancer detection, with periods of maximum sensitivity proposed to occur in the womb and around puberty.
  • Second, its statistical design was inappropriate for examining chemicals interacting in mixtures, in which they always occur, particularly when the chemicals are hypothesized to act through a common mechanism, which in this case they are (estrogenicity).

For more extensive, accurate and balanced coverage of this report, see Newsday's in-depth coverage.

More...


[even at very low levels, arsenic is an endocrine disruptor]

29 August 2002. In February 2002, EPA announced a 3-year phaseout of chromated copper arsenic (CCA) wood. In EPA's advisory, it asserted that it "does not believe there is any reason to remove or replace arsenic-treated structures, including decks or playground equipment," although no data were provided to substantiate that statement. Now, in the largest study ever conducted of installed CCA wood in decks and playground structures, the Environmental Working Group and the University of North Carolina-Asheville report that old structures leach virtually as much arsenic as new structures, and that sealed structures leach significant amounts within 6 months of coating.

   

The study also reported on arsenic levels in the soil around the arsenic-treated wood structures. They found that 38% of sites had arsenic levels at SuperFund levels or above (20 ppm).

According to the Washington Post, the report "strongly challenges the government's recent assertion that older playground equipment, decks and outdoor furniture made of arsenic-treated lumber poses less of a threat than newer, similarly treated wood products that are being phased out."

The amount of leaching is clearly within a range that can be harmful to children after only a few minutes contact, transfering to their hands more arsenic than is allowed per liter in drinking water (10 ppb). And even at level beneath the current standard, arsenic is an endocrine disruptor, interfering with glucocorticoid activation of a tumor suppressing gene. Current arsenic standards do not reflect this new science.


27 August 2002. Research carried out by a team of scientists in Japan raises the intriguing possibility that weight regulation may be vulnerable to endocrine disruption. In a series of cell culture studies, they found that bisphenol A increases the rate at which fat cells are formed and increases the amount of fat stored in them. Their results open up a new front of research into the causes of the world-wide epidemic of obesity. More...


24 August 2002. Research published in May 2002 demonstrates that bisphenol A, the basic building block of polycarbonate plastic, inititiates proliferation of androgen-independent prostate cancer cells. This finding suggest that BPA may undermine one of the main weapons against prostate cancer, hormone therapy that forces androgen-dependent cancer cells into remission. More...


17 August 2002. A study by the Northern California Childhood Leukemia Study (NCCLS) adds new strength to suspected links between pesticides and childhood leukemia. Pesticide use in the home had its largest effect on childhood leukemia risk during pregnancy. Pesticide application by professionals did not appear to help. In fact, professional pest applications were associated with a more-than-doubling of risk. More frequent applications led to greater risk, also. Bottom line: avoid home pesticide use if you want to minimize the risk of childhood leukemia in your family. More...


17 August 2002. New Scientist reports (subscription required for link) that at the annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Reproduction in Baltimore, Md, data were presented indicating that atrazine and nonylphenol dramatically enhance the conversion of testosterone to estrogen by aromatase at levels "typically found in US waterways." The effect was seen in the brains of fish larvae during the developmental process that leads to sexual differentiation. The observation, by scientists from the University of Maryland's Center of Marine Biotechnology, suggests that these common chemicals may be contributing to widespread fish feminization even though they do not interact with the estrogen receptor. A similar effect of atrazine on aromatase activity was proposed by Hayes et al. as the mechanism by which atrazine demasculinizes frogs.


16 August 2002. In an opinion piece on the Fox News website arguing that DDT should be used to combat West Nile Virus, "junkscience" commentator Steven Milloy makes it clear that main source of junk in his writing is his own uninformed analysis. More...


13 August 2002. Research from England shows conclusively that mixtures matter. Published in the journal of the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, these new findings reveal that even minute quantities of "xenoestrogens" --levels beneath the concentrations at which they appear to have effects individually, combine in mixtures with one another and natural estrogen, 17ß-estradiol, to dramatically increase the impact of the natural hormone. These results definitively refute the oft-heard criticism that xenoestrogens are so weak and dilute compared to natural hormones that they can't possible have an effect. More...


13 August 2002. Web magazine TomPaine.com features an article by reporter Cynthia Cooper on an emerging alliance of environmental health advocates and reproductive rights campaigners. Their common agenda is to reduce exposures to chemicals that could be causing reproductive damage. Cooper quotes Compton Foundation Executive Director Edith Eddy on why this alliance is emerging: "Nothing could be more potent in motivating us to change our ways than not being able to reproduce, or having our children being unable to reproduce."
Newest research on fertility and chemicals...
Recent important findings...

Background...


12 August 2002. As reported by the BBC, the London Independent and other news sources, The World Health Organization released its final version of a global assessment of the animal and human impacts of endocrine disruption. The report concludes that wildlife effects are extensive and well documented, but that more studies are needed to establish or reject human impacts. Lab and wildlife studies with animals give plausibility to widespread human effects, but the studies that would be capable of proving or disproving effects in people have not been done. It should be noted that the WHO criteria for establishing endocrine disruption in humans were extremely stringent, requiring detailed knowledge of the mechanism before accepting the evidence as definitive. Commenting on cautiousness of the WHO report, WWF-UK toxicologist Gwynne Lyons observed "It is worth remembering that epidemiological research in 1952 demonstrated that smoking caused lung cancer, but the probable causal mechanism was not found until 1996, and even this is still not universally accepted."

In essence, the WHO report confirms the scientific validity of the issues we raised initially in 1996 in Our Stolen Future. More on the WHO synthesis...


9 August 2002. According to Science Magazine, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences first issued and then withdrew a gag order instructing senior cancer toxicologist Dr. James Huff to stop public criticism of the institute. According to Science:

 

"The NIEHS agreement would have required Huff "not to send any letters, emails or other communications that are critical of NIEHS as an Institute or its scientific work to the media, scientific organizations, scientists, administrative organizations, or other groups or individuals outside NIEHS." It also states that if Huff violates the agreement and can't provide a satisfactory explanation to the NIEHS director, he must retire or resign "voluntarily" within a week, and that he must retire by December 2003 in any case. Francine Little, an NIEHS administrator whose name appears on the memo, declined to comment on it, describing it as a "confidential personnel matter." But she noted that it was part of a negotiation and not "a done deal."

 

NIEHS administrators comment in Science that the disagreement with Huff arises over his unwillingness to review an area of cell biology in a timely manner. This would seem an odd stimulus for a gag order. More likely, it would seem, is Huff's outspoken criticism last year of a funding collaboration between the NIEHS and the American Chemistry Council. Questions were raised on this website about that arrangement when it was announced. The deal involved $1M in ACC money and $3M from NIEHS in a jointly managed research program on human developmental and reproductive effects.


8 August 2002 Danish scientists combine information from several different sources to challenge the conventional demographic interpretation of why fertility rates are falling in industrialized countries. In a paper published in the scientific journal Human Reproduction, they propose that the decline may not be due solely to voluntary choices made by women about how many children they should have. In addition, they argue that involuntary factors may also be involved, specifically the increasing percentage of men whose sperm density is sufficiently low to impair fertility. More...


1 August 2002. An ambitious, federally funded study of breast cancer on Long Island found few apparent links between breast cancer risk and a suite of organochlorines, including DDT and PCBs. Limitations in the study design, however, limit the strength of any conclusions. More...


28 July 2002. Anticipating the release of a federally-funded study on links between high breast cancer rates on Long Island, New York, and exposure to organochlorine chemicals, Newsday runs a remarkable 3-part series about the research, written by Dan Fagin. The series tracks the study from its origins in the hands of breast-cancer activists lobbying Congress through to its disappointing conclusions.

From Newsday:

 

"Known as the Long Island Breast Cancer Study Project, the research promised groundbreaking techniques and held out the hope of momentous results. Elated activists were told they would have unequalled access to the scientists and would help make key decisions about how the studies would be designed and carried out."

"Today, the optimism and camaraderie ... are a distant memory. ... the federal research project they fought so hard for is years behind schedule and is almost unrecognizable compared with what the activists and their congressional sponsors had envisioned a decade ago. In trying so hard to please the scientists and the activists, the project's administrators at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md., instead have left both groups profoundly frustrated and disappointed."

...

"The biggest of the 12 studies -- an $8-million one involving more than 3,000 Long Island women -- is expected to be published next week, more than four years behind schedule. For undisclosed reasons, two high-profile scientific journals have refused to publish the study. When the results finally do come out, one of the researchers said, they "are not going to be earth-shattering.”

"None of the studies will be able to answer the burning environmental questions that prompted Congress to mandate the research project in 1993. Instead of scrutinizing chemicals in wide use, for example, the studies are focused on a handful of banned chemicals no longer regarded as the prime suspects they were a decade ago."

 

 

In contrast to Newsday's extensive coverage by Fagin, the New York Times ran an op-ed by Gina Kolata. A key passage: "And even if there is a link [between contamination and breast cancer], several experts said, it may be beyond the capacity of science to find it." This is an important observation and consistent with the limits of what can be concluded from the study, yet Kolata goes on to mischaracterize the key findings, writing: " those who got breast cancer were no more likely to have been exposed to the chemicals than those who didn't."

In fact, the study found that current levels of specific organochlorine levels in the women's blood are not associated with an elevated risk of breast cancer. This is not the same as Kolata's reinterpretation, because current levels may not accurately reflect past exposures. An unresolved question is whether contamination levels at the time of diagnosis accurately reflect exposure levels at the time of biological impact of the contaminant, which may have been decades earlier. As the authors of the study note: "These data do not rule out the possibility, however, that breast cancer risk is elevated by high organochlorine exposures several decades earlier."

More on the research itself and the limitations of epidemiology...


26 July 2002. An independent scientific panel appointed by the US Food and Drug Administration admonished the FDA to put strong warnings on tuna because mercury contamination levels in canned and fresh tuna are high enough to pose a threat to the developing fetus and children. The panel concluded that current FDA recommendations, no more than 2 cans of tuna per week, were too weak. Even at very low contamination levels, mercury can interfere with brain development.

FDA representatives said that developing new recommendations were now a high priority. Ten states including Michigan, Wisconsin and Maine already have tuna advisories more restrictive that the FDA's.

The panel's recommendation received widespread coverage in the press (e.g., Mobile Register, San Francisco Chronicle, Associated Press, etc.)

The scientific review was forced in April 2002 by scandalous revelations that the tuna industry had undue influence on FDA's decision-making process.


23 July 2002. An elegant series of field and laboratory experiments with wood frogs reveals that pesticides (atrazine, malathion and esfenvalerate) at very low levels damage the frogs' immune system and thereby impair their ability to resist infection by parasites. The parasite cysts imbedded in the growing tadpole then cause limb deformities. It thus appears that what had thought to be two competing ideas about why deformities have become so common—parasites vs. pesticides— are actually working in concert together. More...


 

12 July 2002. The US Food and Drug Administration issued a recommendation that certain medical equipment containing the phthalate DEHP (diethylhexyl phthalate) should be avoided in procedures that involve newbord male babies, pregnant women who are carrying male fetuses, and boys around the age of puberty. The recommendation is based upon animal experiments demonstrating that DEHP interferes with the normal development of the male reproductive tract, at levels comparable to DEHP levels leaching out of medical equipment like PVC-based intravenous (IV) bags and tubing, umbilical artery catheters, blood bags and infusion tubing. FDA's finding come after a long, public debate between industry and public health experts, which at one point even had Dr. C Everett Koop on the side of industry. Koop and the industry front group, American Council on Science and Health, organized a sham review of DEHP in an attempt to quash a move toward stronger standards. This decision by the FDA repudiates that panel.

The FDA recommends that when possible, DEHP-free devices be used, and points to The Sustainable Hospitals Project (based at the Lowell Center for Sustainable Production, Univ. Mass) as a source of information about alternatives.


12 July 2002. Results from Taiwan provide strong support for earlier studies suggesting that exposure prior to adulthood to dioxin-like compounds will decrease the likelihood of fathering male offspring. This effect of contamination may be contributing to declines in the proportion of boys born in a number of industrialized countries. More...

5 June 2002. The Center for Children's Health and the Environment of Mt Sinai Hospital School of Medicine (New York) began running a series of opinion-advertisements (op-ads) about environmental contamination and children's health. The op-ads summarized research on a range of problems linked to contamination—learning disabilities, childhood cancers, reproductive tract anomalies—and asked, given that these links are highly plausible even if not absolutely certain, why can't there be stronger protections in place. A recurring theme in the op-ad series is that current testing standards of both old and new chemicals are inadequate to protect human health. "Wouldn't we all be better off if chemicals had to be tested for safety before they were put on the market." Mt Sinai also published a companion website, www.childrenvironment.org, to present the scientific basis for its op-ad series. PDF files of the ads are also available at the site.

More on the inadequacy of current testing...


28 May 2002. Research published in the US Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences indicates that genistein, an abundant phytoestrogen in soy, and thus in soy-based infant formula, has adverse effects on the immune system of mice. These effects appear at serum levels comparable to those regularly experienced by infants feeding on soy-based formula. It would be prudent for the US to follow Britain's lead, and restrict the use of soy-based formula exclusively to cases that are medically-required. More...


18 May 2002. Rep. Louise Slaughter (D, NY) introduced legislation on 9 May that would authorize the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the U.S. Geological Survey to spend up to $500 million on endocrine disruption over five years beginning in 2003. The bill, "The Hormone Disruptor Research Act of 2002" (HR 4709) currently has no co-sponsors. At a press conference announcing the bill, Slaughter indicated that if it does not pass this year she will re-introduce it in the next legislative session. The legislation would encourage more research on low dose effects of endocrine-disrupting compounds. The Congressional findings that justify the bill include:

 
  • "Many compounds found or introduced into the environment by human activity are capable of disrupting the hormone system of humans and animals. The consequences of such disruption can be profound because of the crucial role hormones play in controlling development. No standardized and validated screens or tests have been developed to routinely and systematically assess chemicals for disruptive effects on hormone systems."
  • "In the last 30 years, the United States has experienced an increase in the incidence of such human disorders as childhood cancers, testicular cancer, hypospadias, juvenile diabetes, attention deficit-like hyperactivity disorders, autism, thyroid disorders, and auto-immune disorders. Exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals may be contributing to these increases. The impact on children's health as a result of prenatal exposures in particular needs further research."
 

Additional details are available at the Library of Congress's website. Scientists should convey their sense of the importance of this research investment to their Congressional representative.



16 May 2002. The Daily Herald (suburban Chicago) reports that demonstrators picketed the annual stockholder meeting of Stericycle to protest the company's medical waste incinerators. Led by DC-based Health Care Without Harm (HCWH), the protestors wore plaster casts of pregnant bellies to draw attention to the presence of dioxin, mercury and other reproductive toxicants in emissions from hospital incinerators. Based in Lake Forest, IL, Stericycle is the world's largest medical waste disposal company. The demonstrators are urging Stericycle to shift to waste management methods that do not use incineration. According to the Daily Herald, Stericycle barred a newspaper reporter from the annual meeting, and the hotel in which the meeting was taking place unexpectedly ejected HCWH from a room it had rented for a press conference.


15 May 2002. An international team of epidemiologists published a study of women exposed to dioxin during the 1976 chemical plant explosion in Seveso, Italy. Their results indicate that the risk of breast cancer is increased by exposure to dioxin. Their research is especially valuable because the assessment of chemical exposure is based on blood samples gathered shortly after the explosion, and because now over two decades have passed since exposure, allowing for impacts with long latencies to be manifest. This is very unusual in studies of breast cancer and adds to the importance of their findings. More...


8 May 2002. On the Scripps Howard News Service, reporter Joan Lowy describes a new global review of research on endocrine disruption which concludes that the strength of the animal data on endocrine disruption justifies concerns about human health. To date, however, human data are weak... key studies have simply not been conducted. The review was conducted by the International Programme on Chemical Safety (IPCS) in collaboration with the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. IPCS itself is sponsored by the World Health Organization, the United Nations Environment Programme, and the International Labor Organization. Two companion articles by Lowy examined links between chemicals and hypospadias and an effort by one California family to reduce exposures. More on the global review... More on hypospadias


8 May 2002. A study published in the scientific journal Food Additives and Contaminants reports that, contrary to the assertions of several chemical industry advocates (including John Stossel of ABC), organic food carries demonstrably and significantly lower pesticide contamination than conventionally-grown produce or produce grown using integrated pest management techniques. This reassuring but unsurprising result will help establish the baseline against which further improvements mandated by the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996 in conventional and IPM-based agriculture can be compared. More...


7 May 2002. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports on as-yet unpublished reports that an Orca (killer whale) that was found on a beach on the Olympic Peninsula's Dungeness Spit in January 2002 contains the highest levels of PCB ever measured in an Orca, or close thereto: 1,000 parts per million in its fat tissue, or one part per thousand. This level was so high that the equipment had to be recalibrated after a first run was unable measure such intense PCB contamination. The report quotes a scientist involved in the study,Gina Ylitalo from the National Marine Fisheries Service: "She basically knocked our instruments off. We had no idea we'd see these levels."

Previous study of this Orca population had revealed high levels of PCB contamination, but nothing that approached the load in this female.

 


source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer

 


5 May 2002. In the latest in a remarkable investigative series by reporter Ben Raines, the Mobile Register reveals that EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman gave Senator Richard Shelby (R, AL) misleading and inaccurate information. Since July 2001, Raines has been reporting on new discoveries about high level mercury contamination in the Gulf of Mexico. In this new article, Raines reports on a March 2002 letter from Whitman to Shelby in which she asserts that EPA studies from the 1980s established that mercury contamination is not a health problem in Gulf of Mexico fish. It turns out that the studies to which she referred were not conducted by EPA, were based upon out-of-date methodologies, and offer no basis on which to dismiss concerns about mercury in Gulf fish.


4 May 2002. Newly published research in the scientific journal "Ecological Monographs" demonstrates a strong link between the distribution of trematode parasites in the American west and the pattern of occurrence of deformities in frogs and salamanders. Combined with earlier laboratory work demonstrating that trematode infestions can induce limb and other malformations, this new study establishes conclusively that trematodes are an important, if not the primary, cause of amphibian deformities in the American west. Two questions remain: why have trematode-induced malformations become so common so recently, and what is happening in the North American mid-west and east, where the current data do not support a strong link between parasites and deformities? More...


 

2 May 2002. According to the Orlando Sentinel, an as yet-unidentified contaminant is leaking from one of the country's oldest Superfund sites into the Florida Aquifer, Central Florida's primary source of drinking water. The leak is at the Tower Chemical site near Lake Apopka that has become infamous through Louis Guillette's studies of reproductive impairment of alligators living in the lake. EPA had ended cleanup of the site a decade ago, concluding that additional spread of the contamination was unlikely and that natural breakdown processes would gradually reduce the contaminants' toxicity. What was not suspected at that time was that a sinkhole penetrated from surface through a clay layer that had been thought to protect the Florida Aquifer from surface contamination. New sampling has confirmed that a contaminant of unknown identify and uncertain toxicity has reached the aquifer and is beginning to spread.


2 May 2002. Summarized in Environmental Science and Technology, data from sampling sites downstream of cattle feedlots reveals significant levels of hormonally-active compounds and fish with altered sexual development. Almost all of the tens of millions of cattle in feedlots in the US receive some form of pharmaceutical treatment for growth enhancement. One common treatment is trembolone acetate, a powerful androgenic growth enhancer. Heretofore very little attention has been paid to the fate of synthetic hormones in the environment after use in cattle feed lots. The assumption has been that they were deactivated metabolically before excretion. According to Louis Guillette, one of the scientists studying the impacts on fish downstream of feedlots: "“Once it comes out the tail end of a cow we haven’t been interested. Now we need to reconsider our assumptions.”


26 April 2002. The LA Times describes research on transpacific transport of air pollution from Asia via an "atmospheric conveyor belt." Especially during spring, large quantities of relatively undiluted pollution reach North America via air currents. Contaminants in the traveling air masses include mercury, ozone and pesticides, as well as dust. The LA Times quotes Dr. Rudolf Husar, director of the Center for Air Pollution Impact and Trend Analysis at Washington University in St. Louis: "Once the pollution gets on that conveyor belt, it often doesn't run into clouds or weather systems and doesn't mix or fall out of the air, so you have largely undiluted pollution arriving in North America." [more on related research]


24 April 2002. A report in Toronto's Globe and Mail describes scientific research at the University of Waterloo, in Ontario Canada, indicating that low level exposure to some pesticides can reduce a frog's ability to resist disease very dramatically. DDT and malathion both reduced antibody levels to only 1 or 2 percent, comparable to the impact of a drug used in medicine to suppress immune systems in humans, cyclophosphamide. According to the The Globe and Mail, the lead researcher on the study, Brian Dixon "was "shocked" that negligible amounts of pesticides were so biologically active." The scientists found that doses of DDT as low as 75 parts per billion caused immune system problems in frogs. Malathion and dieldrin also had deleterious effects. The researchers also found that frogs living in different places in Ontario had major differences in immune system effectiveness that reflected the intensity of pesticide use in different areas. The study will be published later in the year in the scientific journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.


20 April 2002. In a Congressional hearing on Capitol Hill, a bipartisan team of Senators blasted the EPA as well as the Alabama Department of Environmental Management and Monsanto/Solutia in hearings about massive PCB contamination in Anniston, Alabama, according to reports the Washington Post and the Anniston Star. The Post quotes Alabama Republican Senator Richard Shelby: "You've botched this. The EPA does not have the trust or confidence of this committee, and we're your funding committee." Reviewing the facts that two senior EPA officials have ties to industry in Alabama (EPA deputy administrator Linda Fisher was formerly a Monsanto lobbyist), Senator Barbara Mikulski observed "this is just loaded with conflicts of interest. I'm very troubled. Who's going to be able to do anything about this if everyone's recused?" According to the Star, Mikulski observed that it was "uncharacteristic" for the EPA administrator to appoint officers with a major conflict of interest.

Perhaps Senator Mikulski should take a look throughout the Bush Administration. For example, the NYT reports on links between Bush energy appointees and the energy industry.

The biggest conflict is likely to be in the person of John Graham, administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at the Office of Management and Budget. According to the NYT:

 

this "powerful department advises the president on regulatory change, particularly on environmental and public health issues. Mr. Graham is the founding director of the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, a nonprofit organization financed by some of the country's largest energy and chemical companies, including ExxonMobil and Dow Chemical. The center's benefactors include the nation's biggest producers of dioxins, a substance widely thought to be carcinogenic, environmental groups said.

 

 

19 April 2002. The Sacramento Bee reports that EPA has agreed to settle a lawsuit with environmental organizations over the effects of 18 commonly-used pesticides on salmon and woodland plants. The settlement requires EPA to analyze possible impacts of the pesticides on 7 salmon and 33 plant species, and to take steps to "minimize the pesticides' effects." Pesticides covered by the consent decree include including chlorpyrifos, diazinon, atrazine, Roundup, and 2,4-D. The suit was brought in August 2000 by Californians for Alternatives to Toxins, The Environmental Information Protection Center, and the Humboldt Watershed Council. The settlement will become final after a public comment period to be announced on EPA's website.
[recent research on salmon and pesticides]


18 April 2002. Toronto's Globe and Mail reports on a study conducted by a consortium of Canada's cancer registries that concludes cancers in young adult Canadians are increasing. "The incidence of thyroid cancer among young people leads the way, a report says, with a 6.6-per-cent rise among women and a 4.4-per-cent rise among men. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is affecting 3.5 per cent more women and 4 per cent more men." According to the Globe and Mail, "older Canadians still account for the vast bulk of cancer diagnoses, [the report] called the rise among younger people troubling."
[research links non-Hodgkin's lymphoma to contamination]


17 April 2002. The NYT and SF Chronicle report on Tyrone Hayes' research on atrazine and frogs (next story, below), The Times quotes Stan Dodson from Univ. Wisconsin: "the most important paper in environmental toxicology in decades." The Chronicle gives more details of the study, and writes: "Despite the many unknowns, scientists said they were troubled by evidence of reproductive defects in animals exposed to extraordinarily low concentrations of atrazine -- down to as little as 0.1 part per billion." Additional coverage also in Science and Nature.


15 April 2002. Research by scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, reveals that the most abundantly used herbicide in the world, atrazine, disrupts the development of frogs at extraordinarily low levels of exposure. Over 15% of males of the classic "laboratory rat" of the frog world, Xenopus laevus, developed hermaphroditic reproductive tracts when exposed, during development, to 0.1 parts per billion atrazine. The researcher team, led by Dr. Tyrone Hayes,also noted demasculinization of secondary sexual characteristics and alterations in serum hormone levels. More...


12 April 2002. In comments to the press and on Capitol Hill, US EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman announced that the Bush Administration will support Senate ratification of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, except for a section in the Convention that provides for adding additional chemicals to the Convention on the basis of new science. The Convention, signed in May 2001, details steps to be taken to reduce and eliminate production of 12 contaminants that meet a set of stringent scientific criteria about their persistence, bioaccumulative nature and toxicity.

A provision in the treaty established a process by which additional chemicals could be added as scientific evidence warranted. This provision had already been watered down signficantly from early drafts because of maneuvering by the US during the final hours of treaty negotiations in May 2001. US efforts had also attacked this provision in an early round of negotiations, in December 2000. Whitman's announcement takes that one step farther, revealing that the Administration's proposed enabling legislation will simply omit that provision altogether, even though the Administration had accepted the final negotiated version and signed the treaty.

As reported in the Los Angeles Times, the Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, James Jeffords (I, VT), criticized the Administration's action and offered alternative legislation which includes support for the provision for adding new chemicals to the treaty. In a statement to the press, Jeffords said "To send up this proposal without the ability to regulate new harmful substances is shortsighted and does not fulfill our commitment to this global treaty."


10 April 2002. In a collaborative assessment of current scientific understanding of the risks of endocrine-disrupting chemicals, the US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the World Health Organization conclude (Chapter 1.7):

  "Overall, the biological plausibility of possible damage to certain human functions (particularly, reproductive and developing systems) from exposure to EDCs seems strong when viewed against the background of known influences of endogenous and exogenous hormones on many of these processes. Furthermore, the evidence of adverse outcomes in wildlife and laboratory animals exposed to EDCs substantiates human concerns. The changes in human health trends in some areas (for some outcomes) are also sufficient to warrant concern and make this area a high research priority, but non-EDC mechanisms also need to be explored." (emphasis added)  

More...


4 April 2002. Scientists from Canada report that polybrominated diphenyl ether levels are now increasing exponentially in Arctic seal tissues, tracking exponential increases in PBDE production volumes. The rate of increase of brominated flame retardants in the Arctic is so rapid that they will overtake PCBs as the most prevalent persistent bioaccumulative organohalogen contaminant in that region by 2050, even though PBDE contamination is currently only 1/50th that of PCBs. More...


28 March 2002. A research team led by CDC chemist John Brock reports on a pilot study of children in the Imperial Valley, California, finding that all children sampled contained metabolic residues of phthalates in their urine, some at levels significantly above adult exposures reported previously. The types of phthalates detected suggest that exposure is via consumer products such as fragrance-containing soaps, shampoos and perfumes, as well as nail polish and beauty products. The presence of the metabolic byproduct of diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) indicates that another route of exposure was via DEHP-containing toys. More...


26 March 2002. Nonylphenols were discovered in the late 1980s to be estrogen mimics. Now a team of German scientists reports that nonylphenols are present in a wide variety of foods bought in German marketplaces, everything from gooseberry marmalade to liver sausage to chocolate crumble to doublecream cheese and baby foods. All samples exampled contained measurable amounts of nonylphenols. More...


23 March 2002. Elizabeth Bluemink writes in the Anniston Star that Congress has scheduled for 19 April a review of the EPA consent decree that requires Solutia and Monsanto to pay for clean-up of massive PCB contamination in the Anniston area. The hearing will be hosted by the Senate subcommittee on Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development and Independent Agencies. According to the Star, Solutia is attempting to use the consent decree as a reason to dismiss a lawsuit against it by 3,500 residents of the Anniston area. A related story (24 March) in the Washington Post reports:

  "Now Solutia is arguing that since it has signed a consent decree with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Department, the Alabama judge has no business ordering additional cleanup measures. Donald Stewart, an attorney for 3,500 residents suing Solutia, described the settlement as a "sweetheart deal" and attacked the Bush administration for overruling state environmental officials who have joined his lawsuit.  

19 March 2002. According to a report in the Anniston Star, the judge overseeing the Anniston, Alabama PCB case against Solutia/Monsanto accused Monsanto lawyers of making false statements in depositions.


17-18 March 2002. A provocative series in the London Independent covers concerns in Britain about increases in birth defects, decreases in fertility and the presence of feminizing chemicals in British waterways. In one part of the series, Health Editor Jeremy Laurance describes research in Britain indicating that the numbers of babies with birth defects has risen by 50% in the last 5 years. The research was conducted by The Birth Defects Foundation (BDF). Its calculations indicate that the total number of birth defects in British infants is "six times higher than the Government's own figures for neonatal abnormalities and amounts to one in 16 of all births. However, the Office of National Statistics admits its own figures do not reflect the scale of the problem." While BDF reports that some types of birth defects are declining in frequency, there has been a sharp rise in three specific defects – cleft lip or palate, gastroschisis (abnormality of the abdominal wall) and hypospadias (abnormality of the genitals).

A second piece by reporters Geoffrey Lean and Richard Sadler summarizes data obtained by the British Environment Agency indicating "that half of all the male fish in lowland rivers are changing sex as a result of pollution."

In the third story, titled "British Men are less fertile than hamsters," reporters Geoffrey Lean and Richard Sadler examine evidence of reduced male fertility in England. They refer to an investigation by the BBC's Countryfile and The Independent on Sunday which "shows that artificial oestrogens, used in contraceptive pills and emitted through sewage works, appear to be changing the sex of half the fish in Britain's lowland rivers... Scientists and environmentalists fear that the powerful chemicals are getting into drinking water and affecting human fertility. One third of Britain's drinking water comes from rivers; most of it is taken from below sewage works."


16 March 2002. The US EPA has reached an agreement with Monsanto/Solutia over a consent decree that will force the companies to clean up PCBs dumped by Monsanto during decades in the Anniston AL environment. According to coverage in the Anniston Star, "the PCBs have been found to have polluted the air, ditches and yards in low-income neighborhoods as well as rural and urban creeks, recreational lakes and a 40-mile stretch of floodplain." The consent decree will allow the EPA to avoid declaring the contaminated region a SuperFund site, unless Monsanto/Solutia back away from the stipulated plans for clean-up. If Solutia cannot afford the costs, Monsanto and Pharmacia (Monsanto's parent company) must supply additional funding. While EPA officials touted the agreement as "one of the best" we've ever had, environmentalists, Anniston city officials and public health specialists challenged the adequacy of the arrangement, according to further coverage in the Anniston Star. The judge overseeing a suit by local citizens and the city of Anniston both indicated they are likely to seek additional remedies beyond those sought by EPA.


23 February 2002. A jury found Monsanto/Solutia guilty of "outrageous behavior" for releasing tons of PCBs into the city of Anniston and then covering up its actions for decades. According to reports in the Washington Post, the New York Times and the Anniston Star, the jury held Monsanto and its corporate successors liable on all six counts of the allegations: negligence, wantonness, suppression of the truth, nuisance, trespass and outrage. The finding of outrage is especially telling, as the standards of Alabama law require behavior "so outrageous in character and extreme in degree as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency so as to be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in civilized society."


13 February 2002. EPA has reached an agreement with manufacturers of chromated copper arsenate treated wood for a partial phase-out of the product, to be spread over 2 years, according to a report in the Washington Post. The companies settled in the face of class-action lawsuits brought against retailers, distributors and manufacturers of CCA-treated wood products, such as playground structures. The lawsuits allege that the companies failed to inform consumers of the health risks created by the lumber. According to the EPA, this agreement speeds the pace at which CCA products will be removed from consumer products because it shortcuts a evaluation by EPA of CCA related risks,which together with a subsequent phase-out could have taken as long as 5 years.

While praising the move, environmental and health groups are critical of the fact that this settlement allows for continuing sales in the near-term and does nothing to address the millions of installed products in homes and playgrounds around the country, which create ongoing exposure risks for children. According to the National Coalition against the Misuse of Pesticides: "while the groups welcome any action that reduces continued exposure to these chemicals, which are linked to cancer, nervous system damage and birth defects, they say that there is no justification to allow continued public exposure because alternative materials are available."

Visits to retail stores such as Home Depot and Lowes in weeks after the agreement was reached confirm that sales of CCA wood continue to consumers. Small, obscure labels now carefully identify each piece of CCA wood--no doubt to limit liability--but there is no signage of any scale to caution customers nor, beyond the small labels, any suggestion that protective measures should be taken while handling the wood. In Charlottesille, Virginia, at the local Lowes, customers seemed oblivious to the phase-out, and allowed children to clambor on CCA wood piled in carts as parents took it toward the check-out counter. Lowes employees made no attempt to stop the behavior.

Kits to test for the presence of arsenic on wood structures are available via the Environmental Working Group.


9 February 2002. Research published in the American Journal of Epidemiology finds inconclusive support for the hypothesis that DDE acting as an anti-androgen causes reproductive tract birth defects in boys. The study assayed umbilical blood stored since the 1960s for DDE and looked for statistical associations between birth outcome and DDE level. Their analysis found indications of elevations in risk but the results remained ambigous. More...


3 February 2002. A report in the Los Angeles Times describes growing scientific concerns about potential health and ecological risks caused by a widespread type of chemical flame retardant,polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE). According to the Times, "Swedish scientists first documented the increase of PBDE in humans. For 30 years, Sweden has sampled the breast milk of nursing mothers to track exposure to dioxin, PCBs and other pollutants that accumulate in body fat...In 1998, Swedish scientists reported that levels of PBDE in breast milk had increased 40-fold since 1972." While the toxicity of PBDE is poorly understood, preliminary indications are that it is potent thyroid disruptor and thus capable of undermining brain development. The LA Times story quotes Swedish toxicologist Per Eriksson: "What we have seen in our developmental neurotoxicity studies . . . is that PBDEs can be as toxic as the PCBs." In fact the preliminary indications, above, indicate PBDE is likely to be worse than PCBs.



28 January 2002. A report by a panel convened by Health Canada, the Canadian equivalent of the US Food and Drug Administration, recommends steps be taken to reduce exposure to di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) during medical procedures. The recommendation was based on experimental evidence from laboratory animals that DEHP is a reproductive toxicant. Specific recommendations focused on reducing exposure to several demographic groups:

  • nursing women and pregnant mothers
  • newborns and males before puberty undergoing surgical procedures, transfusions, etc.
  • adult males undergoing heart surgery and hemodialysis

The panel recommended that products containing DEHP be labelled. It did conclude, however, that DEHP use in blood-bag storage should be continued because of it extends the shelf-life of stored blood.

 


6 January 2002.In a front page story in the Anniston Star, reporter Elizabeth Bluemink describes the case being prepared by victims of Monsanto's massive PCB contamination of the Anniston area:

  "They claim property damages, personal injuries, fraud, mental anguish or a combination of these and other related claims. They ask the judge to order dredging of the waterways and removal of two old landfills, one of which contains an estimated excess of 10 million pounds of PCBs, which are probable carcinogens. Also, they ask the jury to assess punitive damages against the company. It is a complicated case, with, reportedly, more than a half-billion dollars at stake."

 

Monsanto and Solutia (which took over Monsanto's chemical operations) continue to claim they acted responsibly. Yet even as recently as March 2001, in an exchange published by the Anniston Star, Solutia's environmental officer belittled health concerns about PCBs. More...

Also see the Anniston Star's PCB archives
Front page Washinton Post story (1 January 2002)


6 January 2002. Detailed analysis of the Philip Morris document file by PRWatch.org reveals the tobacco origins of three websites currently involved in attacks on environmental protection, www.junkscience.com, www.guestchoice.com and www.activistcash.com. The explicit purpose of these sites, funded by the tobacco, chemical, restaurant and related industries, is to undermine support for public health protections. More...


3 January 2002. Solutia stock was hammered after a Washington Post story (see below) about PCB contamination drew attention to a civil suit seeking damages on behalf of 3,600 people in and around Anniston, Alabama. The stock fell 10% on 2 January and another 26% on 3 January. Monsanto sold its chemical business in 1997 to Solutia. More...


And now Monsanto wants the public to trust it on biotechnology issues...

1 January 2002. The Washington Post reports in a front page article on devastating PCB and mercury contamination in Anniston, Alabama, a result of years of pollution by Monsanto. Internal documents from Monsanto reveal that the company was aware of the extent of the pollution but for decades engaged in a cover-up. From the Post:

 

In 1966, Monsanto managers discovered that fish submerged in that creek turned belly-up within 10 seconds, spurting blood and shedding skin as if dunked into boiling water. They told no one. In 1969, they found fish in another creek with 7,500 times the legal PCB levels. They decided "there is little object in going to expensive extremes in limiting discharges." In 1975, a company study found that PCBs caused tumors in rats. They ordered its conclusion changed from "slightly tumorigenic" to "does not appear to be carcinogenic."

Monsanto enjoyed a lucrative four-decade monopoly on PCB production in the United States, and battled to protect that monopoly long after PCBs were confirmed as a global pollutant. "We can't afford to lose one dollar of business," one internal memo concluded.

 

A second article in the Post tells the story of Ruth Mim's, an Anniston resident whose blood levels of PCBs are among the highest ever recorded in someone contaminated by PCBs who was not exposed in the workplace.

for an editorial on Monsanto's gift to Anniston, invited by the Anniston Star, 25 Feb 2001...
for Solutia's published reponse to the editorial...
for a published response to Solutia's statement...
More information available at The Chemical Industry Archives...


1 January 2002. An article in the November 2001 issue of the American Journal of Public Health reveals that the Chemical Manufacturers Association assisted tobacco company Philip Morris in funding The Advancement for Sound Science Coalition, a sham operation designed to undermine the use of epidemiology in setting public health standards. It turns out that the "junkscience" website is nothing more than part of a tobacco ploy to avoid public health regulations. More...

 

 

 
     
     

 

 

 

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