Healthy Home, Healthy Living, Healing Spaces, Healthy Body by Ruan Living

Our Internal Pollution

chemicals in infants Mar 21, 2017

This write-up is especially meaningful for those that are pregnant, are thinking about starting a family, or those with young children, as well as pet owners or pet lovers.

An Average of 200 Toxic Chemicals Found In 10 Infants

In a study that was spearheaded by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) in collaboration with Commonweal, researchers at two major laboratories found an average of 200 industrial chemicals and pollutants in umbilical cord blood from 10 babies born in August and September of 2004 in U.S. hospitals.  Tests revealed a total of 287 chemicals in the group.  The umbilical cord blood of these 10 children, collected by Red Cross after the cord was cut, harbored pesticides, consumer product ingredients, and wastes from burning coal, gasoline, and garbage.

Among them are eight perfluorochemicals used as stain and oil repellants in fast food packaging, clothes and textiles — including the Teflon chemical PFOA, recently characterized as a likely human carcinogen by the EPA's Science Advisory Board — dozens of widely used brominated flame retardants and their toxic by-products; and numerous pesticides.

Of the 287 chemicals we detected in umbilical cord blood, we know that 180 cause cancer in humans or animals, 217 are toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 208 cause birth defects or abnormal development in animal tests. The dangers of pre- or post-natal exposure to this complex mixture of carcinogens, developmental toxins and neurotoxins have never been studied.

If you have the video capability, I'd recommend watching the YouTube videos below.  My write-up will not be as effective in delivering the important information.  The videos contain a good presentation by the Environmental Working Group.


In addition, below are notes from my research.  The notes are copied from the Environmental Working Group website with links to the specific article provided at the end of each section.

For those that cannot watch the videos above, some things that stood out to me as I watched the presentation:

  • Not long ago scientists thought that the placenta shielded cord blood — and the developing baby — from most chemicals and pollutants in the environment.  We now know that the umbilical cord carries not only the building blocks of life, but also a steady stream of industrial chemicals, pollutants and pesticides.
  • Showing video of a prenatal baby (who you can see smiling), we are reminded that a prenatal baby's brain-blood membrane is not fully formed, so that its brain bathes in the blood (and chemicals) of its mother without a filtration system.  This is true of babies' other developing and vulnerable organs and systems as well.
  • We're seeing major growth in diseases that we cannot explain through genetics alone.  Genes do not mutate quickly enough to explain rapid increase in various illnesses:
    • * 3-5% incidence of birth defects * Hypospadias doubled from 1968 to 1993, now 1 out every 125 baby boys * Cryptorchidism affects 3% of full term baby boys * 62% increase in acute lymphocytic leukemia in children, 1973-1999 * 40% increase in childhood brain cancer, 1973-1994 * Incidence of autism now 1 in 150 children (60% boys) * 1 out of every 15 children aged 5 to 17 has ADHD * About 7.3 million American couples have trouble becoming pregnant or carrying to full term, an increase of 20% in the last 10 years -- increasing most for women under age 25 * Decreased sperm count by 1% per year * 1 in 7 women will develop breast cancer * 1 in 3 women will develop cancer * 1 in 2 men will develop cancer
  • The "System" is not protecting the public sufficiently
    • In 1976, the Toxic Substances Control Act essentially deemed 63,000 existing chemicals "safe as used".  This law has not been improved or updated for nearly 30 years — longer than any other major environmental or public health statute.  The EPA has reviewed the safety of just 200 of these "old" chemicals.
    • 80% of all new chemicals are approved within 3 weeks
    • Only 5 chemicals have been banned or restricted by the EPA under the law
      • Asbestos was not banned at the court-level under the current law
  • Easy changes you can make:
    • * Buy organic. * Eat low-mercury fish. * Filter your tap water * Use cast iron or enameled cast iron instead of nonstick * Avoid fragrance.

For more written information, click on EWG 10 Americans to read more.


Study Finds Record High Levels of Toxic Fire Retardants in Breast Milk from American Mothers

The average level of bromine-based fire retardants in the milk of 20 first-time mothers was 75 times the average found in recent European studies.  Milk from two study participants contained the highest levels of fire retardants ever reported in the United States, and milk from several of the mothers in EWG's study had among the highest levels of these chemicals yet detected worldwide.

These results confirm recently published findings from University of Texas researchers, as well as other U.S. studies, that American babies are exposed to far higher amounts of fire retardants than babies in Europe, where some of these chemicals have already been banned. In the United States, only California and Maine have acted to restrict the use of these chemicals.

Brominated fire retardants impair attention, learning, memory, and behavior in laboratory animals at surprisingly low levels.  The most sensitive time for toxic effects is during periods of rapid brain development.  Fire retardants in breast milk are one measure of the chemicals that a mother passes on not only to her nursing infant, but more importantly, to the unborn fetus, which is most vulnerable to impacts from neurotoxic chemicals.

Brominated fire retardants are in hundreds of everyday products, including furniture, computers, TV sets and automobiles.  Studies worldwide have found them to be building up rapidly in people, animals and the environment, where they persist for decades.  Research on animals shows that fetal exposure to minute doses of brominated fire retardants at critical points in development can cause deficits in sensory and motor skills, learning, memory and hearing.  Levels of particularly toxic and bioaccumulative types of brominated fire retardants, known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), are by far highest in the United States and Canada compared to levels in any other country.  Together, the US and Canada account for almost half of global PBDE use.

Please click on PBDEs in Human Breast Milk to read more.

Up to 48 Toxic Chemicals in 5 Women

An unprecedented two-year study commissioned by the Environmental Working Group and conducted by four independent research laboratories in the United States, Canada and the Netherlands has documented up to 481 toxic chemicals in the blood of five minority women leaders in the environmental justice movement.

The study, sponsored by EWG in conjunction with Rachel's Network, a nationwide organization of women environmental leaders, tested the five women last year for 75 chemical contaminants.

Testing was targeted toward compounds that are heavily used in everyday consumer products but that have escaped effective regulation under the antiquated Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  The results underscore the widespread and systemic failure of current law to protect the public from chemicals, many of which persist in the environment for decades or far longer, that are associated in animal studies with cancer, reproductive problems and behavioral effects.

All of the women were contaminated with flame retardants, Teflon chemicals, synthetic fragrances, the plastics ingredient bisphenol A and the rocket fuel component perchlorate.  Click Polluted Women to read more.

Adolescent Exposure To Cosmetic Chemicals of Concern

Environmental Working Group (EWG) detected 16 chemicals from 4 chemical families - phthalates, triclosan, parabens, and musks - in blood and urine samples from 20 teen girls aged 14-19.  Studies link these chemicals to potential health effects including cancer and hormone disruption.

This work represents the first focused look at teen exposures to chemicals of concern in cosmetics, exposures that occur during a period of accelerated development.  Adolescence encompasses maturation of the reproductive, immune, blood, and adrenal hormone systems, rapid bone growth associated with the adolescent "growth spurt," shifts in metabolism, and key changes to brain structure and function.  Alterations in an array of sex hormones, present in the body at levels as low as one part per billion (ppb), or even one part per trillion (ppt), guide this transformation to adulthood.  Emerging research suggests that teens may be particularly sensitive to exposures to trace levels of hormone-disrupting chemicals like the ones targeted in this study, given the cascade of closely interrelated hormonal signals orchestrating the transformation from childhood to adulthood.

Click on Teens' Chemical Exposure to read more.

Polluted Pets

In the first study of its kind, Environmental Working Group found that American pets are polluted with even higher levels of many of the same synthetic industrial chemicals that researchers have recently found in people, including newborns.

Just as children ingest pollutants in tap water, play on lawns with pesticide residues, or breathe in an array of indoor air contaminants, so do their pets.  But with their compressed lifespans, developing and aging seven or more times faster than children, pets also develop health problems from exposures much more rapidly.  The National Research Council has found that sickness and disease in pets can inform our understanding of our own health risks (NRC 1991).  And for anyone who has lost a pet to cancer or another disease potentially linked to chemical exposures, this sentinel role played by pets becomes a devastating personal loss.

Dogs and cats were contaminated with 48 of 70 industrial chemicals tested, including 43 chemicals at levels higher than those typically found in people, according to our study of plastics and food packaging chemicals, heavy metals, fire retardants, and stain-proofing chemicals in pooled samples of blood and urine from 20 dogs and 37 cats collected at a Virginia veterinary clinic.

Average levels of many chemicals were substantially higher in pets than is typical for people, with 2.4 times higher levels of stain- and grease-proof coatings (perfluorochemicals) in dogs, 23 times more fire retardants (PBDEs) in cats, and more than 5 times the amounts of mercury, compared to average levels in people found in national studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and EWG (Figure).

This study is the most comprehensive investigation of the chemical body burden of companion animals conducted to date, with 23 chemicals reported in pets for the first time.  The results reinforce findings from prior studies showing that pets’ unique behaviors may place them at risk for elevated exposures and health risks from chemicals pollutants in the home and outdoors, in air, water, food, soil, and consumer products for people and pets.

Please click on Polluted Pets to read more.


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