Choose cosmetics which are free from harmful chemicals

#DitchTheJunk – your guide to safer cosmetics

To reduce your risk of exposure to chemicals that may be linked to breast cancer, try to avoid products containing the chemicals shown here. Natural cosmetics, free from harmful substances, are readily available, or you can make your own.

Urban air pollution: high levels of magnetite found in human brain tissues

Toxic Air Pollution Can Penetrate the Brain

Magnetite pollutants found in polluted urban areas can infiltrate the brain through the olfactory nerve, potentially contributing to degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, a new research says.

The study lead by Yinon Rudich, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel, adds to growing evidence showing how even low levels of air pollution harm human health.


Biologically formed nanoparticles of the strongly magnetic mineral, magnetite, were first detected in the human brain over 20 years ago. Magnetite can have potentially large impacts on the brain due to its unique combination of redox activity, surface charge, and strongly magnetic behavior.

Magnetite pollution nanoparticles in the human brain, pnas, September 6, 2016.

Brain by greenflames09.

We used magnetic analyses and electron microscopy to identify the abundant presence in the brain of magnetite nanoparticles that are consistent with high-temperature formation, suggesting, therefore, an external, not internal, source. Comprising a separate nanoparticle population from the euhedral particles ascribed to endogenous sources, these brain magnetites are often found with other transition metal nanoparticles, and they display rounded crystal morphologies and fused surface textures, reflecting crystallization upon cooling from an initially heated, iron-bearing source material. Such high-temperature magnetite nanospheres are ubiquitous and abundant in airborne particulate matter pollution. They arise as combustion-derived, iron-rich particles, often associated with other transition metal particles, which condense and/or oxidize upon airborne release. Those magnetite pollutant particles which are <∼200 nm in diameter can enter the brain directly via the olfactory bulb. Their presence proves that externally sourced iron-bearing nanoparticles, rather than their soluble compounds, can be transported directly into the brain, where they may pose hazard to human health.

Rac1 protein to take a key role in stopping cancer spreading?

Pac-Man like protein which eats dead cells could help in the fight against cancer

Scientists at the University of Sheffield have identified a protein which causes cells to eat their dying neighbours, helping to prevent inflammation – something which is vital in the fight to stop cancer spreading.

Researchers discovered the Pac-Man like Rac1 protein switches cell function and causes cells to respond to ‘eat me’ signals omitted from their dying neighbouring cells and clears them away efficiently to minimise damaging inflammation which is linked to a variety of diseases including cancer.


Rac1 Controls Both the Secretory Function of the Mammary Gland and Its Remodeling for Successive Gestations, Developmental Cell, 12 September 2016.

An important feature of the mammary gland is its ability to undergo repeated morphological changes during each reproductive cycle with profound tissue expansion in pregnancy and regression in involution. However, the mechanisms that determine the tissue’s cyclic regenerative capacity remain elusive.

Pac-Man like protein which eats dead cells could help in the fight against cancer, University of Sheffield, 09 September 2016.

We have now discovered that Cre-Lox ablation of Rac1 in mammary epithelia causes gross enlargement of the epithelial tree and defective alveolar regeneration in a second pregnancy. Architectural defects arise because loss of Rac1 disrupts clearance in involution following the first lactation.

We show that Rac1 is crucial for mammary alveolar epithelia to switch from secretion to a phagocytic mode and rapidly remove dying neighbors. Moreover, Rac1 restricts the extrusion of dying cells into the lumen, thus promoting their eradication by live phagocytic neighbors while within the epithelium. Without Rac1, residual milk and cell corpses flood the ductal network, causing gross dilation, chronic inflammation, and defective future regeneration.

The revolving doors between EU Commission and big business

Ask the EU Commission to put public interest before private pockets

Following the high-level appointment of former European Commission President José Manuel Barroso to Goldman Sachs, an alliance of pro-transparency NGOs has launched a citizens’ petition demanding stricter rules for ex-EU commissioners’ revolving door moves.

Identification of candidate anti-cancer molecular mechanisms of compound kushen injection using functional genomics

Study shows how Chinese medicine kills cancer cells

Australian researchers at the University of Adelaide, Department of Genetics and Evolution, School of Biological Sciences, have shown how a complex mix of plant compounds derived from ancient clinical practice in China – a traditional Chinese medicine – works to kill cancer cells.


Compound Kushen Injection (CKI) has been clinically used in China for over 15 years to treat various types of solid tumours. However, because such Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) preparations are complex mixtures of plant secondary metabolites, it is essential to explore their underlying molecular mechanisms in a systematic fashion.

Identification of candidate anti-cancer molecular mechanisms of compound kushen injection using functional genomics, Impact Journals, September 1, 2016.

Red leaves by by wallygrom.

We have used the MCF-7 human breast cancer cell line as an initial in vitro model to identify CKI induced changes in gene expression. Cells were treated with CKI for 24 and 48 hours at two concentrations (1 and 2 mg/mL total alkaloids), and the effect of CKI on cell proliferation and apoptosis were measured using XTT and Annexin V/Propidium Iodide staining assays respectively. Transcriptome data of cells treated with CKI or 5-Fluorouracil (5-FU) for 24 and 48 hours were subsequently acquired using high-throughput Illumina RNA-seq technology. In this report we show that CKI inhibited MCF-7 cell proliferation and induced apoptosis in a dose-dependent fashion.

We integrated and applied a series of transcriptome analysis methods, including gene differential expression analysis, pathway over-representation analysis, de novo identification of long non-coding RNAs (lncRNA) as well as co-expression network reconstruction, to identify candidate anti-cancer molecular mechanisms of CKI. Multiple pathways were perturbed and the cell cycle was identified as the potential primary target pathway of CKI in MCF-7 cells. CKI may also induce apoptosis in MCF-7 cells via a p53 independent mechanism. In addition, we identified novel lncRNAs and showed that many of them might be expressed as a response to CKI treatment.

Fracking chemicals exposure linked to altered hormone levels, ovarian development

EDCs exposure and adverse reproductive and developmental outcomes in female mice

Washington, DC – Prenatal exposure to chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, may threaten fertility in female mice, according to a new study published in the Endocrine Society’s journal Endocrinology.

The study was the first to find a link between chemical exposure and adverse reproductive and developmental outcomes in female mice. Scientists exposed the mice to 23 chemicals commonly used in fracking, as well as oil and gas development, to study their effects on key hormones.

Fracking Chemicals Exposure May Harm Fertility in Female Mice, Endocrine Society, August 25, 2016.

Adverse Reproductive and Developmental Health Outcomes Following Prenatal Exposure to a Hydraulic Fracturing Chemical Mixture in Female C57Bl/6 Mice, Endocrine Society Endocrinology, July 05, 2016.

Researchers have previously found that these chemicals are endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that mimic or block the body’s hormones—the chemical messengers that regulate respiration, reproduction, metabolism, growth and other biological functions. More than 1,300 studies have found links between EDCs and serious health conditions such as infertility, diabetes, obesity, hormone-related cancers and neurological disorders, according to the Endocrine Society’s 2015 Scientific Statement.

The study’s senior author, Susan C. Nagel, PhD, of the University of Missouri in Columbia, MO., said:

“The evidence indicates that developmental exposure to fracking and drilling chemicals may pose a threat to fertility in animals and potentially people.

Negative outcomes were observed even in mice exposed to the lowest dose of chemicals, which was lower than the concentrations found in groundwater at some locations with past oil and gas wastewater spills.”

The researchers mixed 23 oil and gas chemicals in four different concentrations to reflect concentrations ranging from those found in drinking water and groundwater to concentrations found in industry wastewater. The mixtures were added to drinking water given to pregnant mice in the laboratory from day 11 of pregnancy until they gave birth. The female offspring of the mice that drank the chemical mixtures were compared to female offspring of mice in a control group that was not exposed.

The mice exposed to the drilling chemicals had lower levels of key hormones related to reproductive health—prolactin, follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone— compared to the control group. Mice exposed to smaller doses of the chemicals had fewer ovarian follicles, or pockets where egg cells are stored, which suggests they have a reduced number of eggs and may have a shorter fertile period than other mice. In contrast, the mice exposed to the highest chemical dose had an increase in the primary follicle number, which could signal inappropriate follicle activation and ultimate follicle death.

The mice exposed to the chemicals in utero also tended to weigh about 10 percent more at 21 days of age than mice that were not exposed to chemicals. The mice that were exposed to chemicals had increased heart weights and other indicators for abnormal thickening of the heart muscle, which were not seen in the control group.

“Female mice that were exposed to commonly used fracking chemicals in utero showed signs of reduced fertility, including alterations in the development of the ovarian follicles and pituitary and reproductive hormone concentrations.

These findings build on our previous research, which found exposure to the same chemicals was tied to reduced sperm counts in male mice. Our studies suggest adverse developmental and reproductive health outcomes might be expected in humans and animals exposed to chemicals in regions with oil and gas drilling activity.”

Nagel said.
Fracking image via danielfoster.

Endocrine Society Experts Concerned EU Chemical Criteria Will Not Protect Public

European Commission’s proposal ignores state of science on endocrine disruptors

Washington, DC – The European Commission’s narrow criteria for endocrine-disrupting chemicals will make it nearly impossible for scientists to meet the unrealistically high burden of proof and protect the public from dangerous chemicals, the Endocrine Society said in a response sent to the Commission.

More than 1,300 studies have found connections between endocrine-disrupting chemical (EDC) exposure and serious health conditions such as infertility, diabetes, obesity, hormone-related cancers and neurological disorders, according to the Endocrine Society’s 2015 Scientific Statement.

The European Union is the largest single economy with a regulation specific to EDCs. In order for it to be enforced, this regulation requires the European Commission to propose criteria to identify EDCs, similar to those used for the identification of carcinogens or other health hazards.

Endocrine Society Experts Concerned EU Chemical Criteria Will Not Protect Public, Endocrine Society, July 27, 2016.

Despite the body of evidence, the European Commission’s proposed criteria call for waiting until a chemical is known to cause adverse effects relevant to human health before taking action. Since it can take years or even generations for the health effects of EDCs to become apparent, this approach would allow chemicals to cause significant harm to populations before the chemicals could be regulated. When research shows that a given chemical is harmful to animals or human cells, that scientific evidence needs to be taken into account.

“The European Commission’s restrictive definition defeats the purpose of the regulations—to shield the public from endocrine-disrupting chemicals that pose a threat to human health,”

said Rémy Slama, PhD, a member of the Society’s European Union Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals Task Force.

“By adopting these criteria, the Commission has set the European Union on a course to abandon the precautionary principle. Regulation of chemicals should err on the side of protecting the public and the environment from harm. Asking for an even stronger level of scientific evidence for endocrine disruptors than for carcinogens, for which the level of proof required is already very high, would be going in the wrong direction.”

The Society submitted a public comment responding to the European Commission’s criteria. As the oldest and largest global membership organization representing scientists and physicians who are experts on the body’s system of glands and hormones, the Society has been advocating on the European Union’s definition of EDCs since 2013.

EDCs can mimic, block or interfere with hormones that regulate key biological functions, including brain development, reproduction, metabolism and growth. Bisphenol A and other EDCs can be found in common products, including food containers, plastics, cosmetics and pesticides.

Failure to effectively regulate EDCs comes with a high price tag. Recent studies have found that adverse health effects from EDC exposure cost the European Union more than €163 billion each year in healthcare expenses and lost productivity.

The Society has supported a tiered regulatory approach that would rank EDCs based on available scientific evidence. As the European Parliament and member countries consider whether to implement the European Commission’s criteria, the Society will continue to advocate for criteria that reflect the state of the science

Demand EU transparency and ethics rules now

Say No to the power of lobbies, ask for stronger ethics regulation

Join ALTER-EU to demand MEPs vote for tough new rules to ban conflicts of interest and promote full lobby transparency.

MEPs in the European Parliament, led by Sven Giegold, have drafted a report on “Transparency, integrity and accountability in the EU institutions”, and it includes many proposals to promote cleaner decision-making in Brussels. On 12 September, members of Committee on Constitutional Affairs (AFCO) will vote on this report – but not all MEPs agree that there needs to be a change to business as usual.

We have one week left to convince MEPs that excessive corporate lobbying and unethical politics – like the recent move by former Commission President Barroso to the investment bank Goldman Sachs – are a threat to our democracy.

Demand EU transparency and ethics rules now, Corporate Europe Observatory, September 6th 2016.

ALTER-EU (the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation), Democracy International and Transparency International are asking EU citizens to contact MEPs to demand they vote for:

  1. Banning MEPs from having side jobs with groups or companies involved in lobbying of the EU institutions.
  2. A stronger Parliament ethics committee with the powers to initiate its own investigations into alleged conflicts of interests and share with the public its recommendations for sanctions.
  3. A legislative footprint – so we can see who is lobbying on specific policies and laws.

Tell your MEP to take action to control the influence of big business over EU politics.

The Influence of Big Business and Lobby Groups in the EU Policy Making

Lobby Land, by Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO)

Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) is a research and campaign group working to expose and challenge the privileged access and influence enjoyed by corporations and their lobby groups in EU policy making.

Chemicals risk assessment: more monitoring of emerging pollutants is needed

The dilemma in prioritizing chemicals for environmental analysis: known versus unknown hazards

Although chemicals have improved people’s quality of life in many ways, they have, in some cases, put the health of ecosystems and of people at risk. To protect the environment, the EU’s REACH regulation requires all substances for which over 1 tonne is produced in (or imported to) the EU every year to be registered. Under REACH, the hazards posed by registered substances to human health and the environment are evaluated, and restrictions on placing them on the market and on their use are imposed if appropriate.

In order to enable sound management of chemicals, with the aim of reducing the risks associated with their use, their effects in the environment should be known and their occurrence should be monitored. However, it is not feasible to do this for the millions of chemicals in use. It is, therefore, important to prioritise the chemicals of highest concern — a major challenge currently facing regulatory bodies.

Chemicals risk assessment: Baltic study recommends more monitoring of emerging pollutants, Science for Environment Policy, 02 September 2016.

Musa Bay, earthobservatory.nasa.

This study investigates how chemicals are prioritised for environmental analysis, using the Baltic Sea as a case study. The Baltic Sea is heavily polluted both by chemicals currently emitted, such as certain pharmaceuticals, and also by ‘legacy’ pollutants — i.e. pollutants released extensively years ago, but still of concern due to their persistence and hazardous properties.

To investigate which of these chemicals have been analysed (not specifically for regulatory purposes), the researchers looked at which chemicals were detected in Baltic Sea fish between 2000 and 2012. The focus on fish was for several reasons, including that contamination of fish in the Baltic Sea is a well-known and serious problem, which has led to restrictions on the European market in the trading of herring caught in the Baltic Sea, and that herring, a prominent fish species in the Baltic Sea, is very lipid rich, which facilitates the detection of organic pollutants in its tissue. The researchers collected data from screening programmes in Sweden, which borders the Baltic Sea, and from scientific journals.

In total, 105 different substances/groups of substances were analysed in Baltic Sea fish. The most studied substances were polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs) and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs) (more commonly known as dioxins), and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), another type of persistent organic pollutant (POP). POPs were by far the most studied substances; almost three quarters (72%) of all analyses were related to a POP-type substance. The majority (87%) of the analyses focused on the same 20% of substances, and almost half of substances were analysed only once.

Next, the researchers determined how many of these chemicals are regulated under the following:

  • Regulation EC 1272/2008 on classification, labelling and packaging (CLP) of substances and mixtures, which provides hazard information on chemicals.
  • The Stockholm Convention (Annexes A, B and C) — an international agreement to protect human health and the environment from POPs.
  • Regulation EC 1907/2006 concerning the registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals (REACH), which provides two important risk-management measures: authorisation and restriction:
  • Directive 2008/105/EC (as amended by Directive 2013/39/EU) on environmental quality standards (EQS). This Directive sets EQS in EU waters for a list of priority substances identified as posing a significant risk to the environment, or to human health via the environment, with the aim of achieving good chemical status.

More than two thirds of substances (70%) were covered by at least one regulation, or selfclassified by industry according to CLP environmental hazard criteria. Some of the nonregulated chemicals included certain metals, perfluorinated compounds (present in waterresistant materials and flame retardants), phenolic substances (widely used in industry) and phthalates (used to make plastics more flexible), although many chemicals in these groups are regulated.

Overall, the results show that the majority of analyses of fish in the Baltic Sea are focused on a small number of already regulated chemicals. Although regulated and some other known hazardous chemicals pose a high risk, the bias towards them could be diverting policymakers from identifying risks posed by other toxic chemicals.

The researchers suggest several ways of improving this situation, including using non-target screening techniques, such as chromatography combined with high-resolution mass spectrometry, which uses a more open-ended approach to screening for pollutants and can detect not only known hazardous chemicals (traditionally detected by using reference substances) but also potentially overlooked harmful chemicals. The researchers also recommend using biological tools, such as biomarkers, which measure the toxicity of chemicals via the physiological effects they have on organisms, such as effects on growth, reproduction or gene expression.

They also say that more open communication between regulatory activities, such as between risk assessment under REACH and monitoring under the Water Framework Directive, could be beneficial. Finally, they recommend that environmental agencies consider the chemicals contained in consumer products as emerging pollutants. They say these products are a major source of toxic substances, but are covered to a limited extent by current regulation.