Recycling plastics resulting in toys and other items being saturated with flame retardants harmful substances

European study exposing toxic e-waste chemicals in children’s products spurs calls for policy to end recycling exemptions for hazardous waste

Brussels, 16.10.2018 – Environmental health researchers released alarming evidence  that toxic brominated flame retardants, hazardous chemicals from electronic waste that are known to disrupt thyroid function and cause neurological and attention deficits in children, are contaminating recycled plastics in consumer products across Europe.

The International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics World Congress 2018

XXII FIGO 2018, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The FIGO World Congress of Gynecology and Obstetrics is the single largest global congress on maternal and infant health, bringing together obstetricians, gynecologists and related health professionals from around the world.

The #FIGO2018 XXII FIGO World Congress of Gynecology and Obstetrics will take place in the beautiful city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from 14-19 October 2018.

Environmental threats to human health

FIGO Media Briefing, Environmental Health, London, 1 October, 2018

In the last 40 years, there has been a global increase in human exposure to a variety of potentially toxic chemicals in the environment.

Research shows that whether we are concerned with reproductive health, cancer, infertility, neonatal and childhood health or neurodevelopment; toxic exposures are implicated.

World leaders have acknowledged that minimising environmental threats to human health and reproduction is a necessity if we are to substantially reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water and soil pollution and contamination, and therefore progress towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs).

“We are at the very beginning of a tsunami that will require local leadership: California has placed a priority on energy independence which can improve air quality and reduce birth defects, prematurity, asthma and heart disease. The European Union has limited exposure to endocrine disruptors. China instituted a host of measures in 2013, so that by 2018 there has been a reduction of air particulate matter by 32%. They declared a war on pollution and are winning!”

Jeanne Conry, MD, PhD, Co-Chair, FIGO Working Group on Reproductive and Developmental Environmental Health, USA.

91% of the world’s population lives in places where air quality exceeds WHO guideline limits. Air pollution is a major environmental risk to health. By reducing air pollution levels, countries can reduce the burden of disease from stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and both chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma. The lower the levels of air pollution, the better the cardiovascular and respiratory health of the population will be, both long- and short-term.

“Our first challenge is awareness: Most clinicians are not aware that environmental exposures impact health. Most of us assume that the chemicals released into the environment, that we are exposed to as we apply make-up, prepare food, or breathe air, have been studied. They have not. Clinicians need to understand that the lack of research doesn’t mean they are safe, and makes the burden of proof very difficult, because our patients are exposed repeatedly to many chemicals in many ways through many types of exposure”.

Jeanne Conry, MD, PhD, Co-Chair, FIGO Working Group on Reproductive and Developmental Environmental Health, USA

This month, October 14 – 19, over 10,000 health professionals are attending FIGO World Congress 2018 in Rio de Janiero. Environmental Health is a core theme throughout the event, with key sessions being covered include:

  • Impact of Environmental Toxics on Global Women’s Health
  • Environmental Reproductive Health and the Heath Care Provider: Evidence based approaches to providing advice
  • Research agenda to illuminate how the environment affects reproductive and developmental health
  • “Training the Trainers” to talk with their patients and the public about environmental impacts on health

“Our challenge is priorities: When we are faced with maternal mortality, cancer, and violence, it may seem we do not have the “band width” or capacity to discuss the environment. BUT we need to help clinicians understand they are equipped to discuss this subject and lead their patients in awareness, and that advocacy for change is essential”.

Jeanne Conry, MD, PhD, Co-Chair, FIGO Working Group on Reproductive and Developmental Environmental Health, USA.

Reference.

Much pollution can be eliminated, and pollution prevention can be highly cost-effective

How to control and mitigate the effects of pollution on public health ; The Lancet Commission on pollution and health

Pollution is the world’s largest environmental cause of disease and premature death. The Lancet Commission on pollution and health brought together leaders, researchers and practitioners from the fields of pollution management, environmental health and sustainable development to elucidate the full health and economic costs of air, water, chemical and soil pollution worldwide.

By analysing existing and emerging data, the Commission reveals that pollution makes a significant and underreported contribution to the global burden of disease, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.

The Commission also provides six recommendations to policymakers and other stakeholders looking for efficient, cost-effective and actionable approaches to pollution mitigation and prevention, Science for Environment Policy reports.

Six Lancet Commission recommendations

  1. Make pollution prevention a high priority nationally and internationally and integrate it into country and city planning processes.
  2. Mobilise, increase and focus the funding and international technical support dedicated to pollution control.
  3. Establish systems to monitor pollution and its effects on health.
  4. Build multi-sectoral partnerships for pollution control.
  5. Integrate pollution mitigation into planning processes for NCDs.
  6. Research pollution and pollution control.

Read The Lancet Commission on pollution and health, October 19, 2017.

Fracking chemicals entering the food chain

Accumulation of Marcellus Formation Oil and Gas Wastewater Metals in Freshwater Mussel Shells

Radioactive fracking chemicals dumped in the Allegheny River a decade ago are still showing up in mussels, Environmental Health News
reports. Chemicals from fracking wastewater dumped into Pennsylvania’s Allegheny River before 2011 are still accumulating in the bodies of freshwater mussels downstream, according to a new study.

Abstract

For several decades, high-salinity water brought to the surface during oil and gas (O&G) production has been treated and discharged to waterways under National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits.

In Pennsylvania, USA, a portion of the treated O&G wastewater discharged to streams from 2008 to 2011 originated from unconventional (Marcellus) wells.

We collected freshwater mussels, Elliptio dilatata and Elliptio complanata, both upstream and downstream of a NPDES-permitted facility, and for comparison, we also collected mussels from the Juniata and Delaware Rivers that have no reported O&G discharge.

We observed changes in both the Sr/Cashell and 87Sr/86Srshell in shell samples collected downstream of the facility that corresponded to the time period of greatest Marcellus wastewater disposal (2009–2011). Importantly, the changes in Sr/Cashell and 87Sr/86Srshell shifted toward values characteristic of O&G wastewater produced from the Marcellus Formation. Conversely, shells collected upstream of the discharge and from waterways without treatment facilities showed lower variability and no trend in either Sr/Cashell or 87Sr/86Srshell with time (2008–2015).

These findings suggest that

  1. freshwater mussels may be used to monitor changes in water chemistry through time and help identify specific pollutant sources
  2. and O&G contaminants likely bioaccumulated in areas of surface water disposal.

The Dangers of Plastic Food Packaging : Food Additives and Child Health Report

Chemicals in Food May Harm Children, Pediatricians’ Group Says

In their Policy Statement and Technical Report, the American Academy of Pediatrics is urging families to limit the use of plastic food containers, cut down on processed meat during pregnancy and consume more whole fruits and vegetables rather than processed food.

Such measures would lower children’s exposures to chemicals in food and food packaging that are tied to health problems such as obesity, Roni Caryn Rabin reports. Featured image credit Fancycrave.com from Pexels.

2018 Technical Report Abstract

Increasing scientific evidence suggests potential adverse effects on children’s health from synthetic chemicals used as food additives, both those deliberately added to food during processing (direct) and those used in materials that may contaminate food as part of packaging or manufacturing (indirect). Concern regarding food additives has increased in the past two decades in part because of studies that increasingly document endocrine disruption and other adverse health effects. In some cases, exposure to these chemicals is disproportionate among minority and low-income populations. This report focuses on those food additives with the strongest scientific evidence for concern. Further research is needed to study effects of exposure over various points in the life course, and toxicity testing must be advanced to be able to better identify health concerns prior to widespread population exposure. The accompanying policy statement describes approaches policy makers and pediatricians can take to prevent the disease and disability that are increasingly being identified in relation to chemicals used as food additives, among other uses.

The Dangers of Plastic Food Packaging : Food Additives and Child Health Statement

Chemicals in Food May Harm Children, Pediatricians’ Group Says

In their Policy Statement and Technical Report, the American Academy of Pediatrics is urging families to limit the use of plastic food containers, cut down on processed meat during pregnancy and consume more whole fruits and vegetables rather than processed food.

Such measures would lower children’s exposures to chemicals in food and food packaging that are tied to health problems such as obesity, Roni Caryn Rabin reports. Featured image credit Fernanda Rodríguez.

2018 Policy Statement Abstract

Our purposes with this policy statement and its accompanying technical report are to review and highlight emerging child health concerns related to the use of colorings, flavorings, and chemicals deliberately added to food during processing (direct food additives) as well as substances in food contact materials, including adhesives, dyes, coatings, paper, paperboard, plastic, and other polymers, which may contaminate food as part of packaging or manufacturing equipment (indirect food additives); to make reasonable recommendations that the pediatrician might be able to adopt into the guidance provided during pediatric visits; and to propose urgently needed reforms to the current regulatory process at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for food additives. Concern regarding food additives has increased in the past two decades, in part because of studies in which authors document endocrine disruption and other adverse health effects. In some cases, exposure to these chemicals is disproportionate among minority and low-income populations. Regulation and oversight of many food additives is inadequate because of several key problems in the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. Current requirements for a “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) designation are insufficient to ensure the safety of food additives and do not contain sufficient protections against conflict of interest. Additionally, the FDA does not have adequate authority to acquire data on chemicals on the market or reassess their safety for human health. These are critical weaknesses in the current regulatory system for food additives. Data about health effects of food additives on infants and children are limited or missing; however, in general, infants and children are more vulnerable to chemical exposures. Substantial improvements to the food additives regulatory system are urgently needed, including greatly strengthening or replacing the “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) determination process, updating the scientific foundation of the FDA’s safety assessment program, retesting all previously approved chemicals, and labeling direct additives with limited or no toxicity data.

Stress and depression higher among people living near fracking sites

Associations of unconventional natural gas development with depression symptoms and disordered sleep in Pennsylvania

People who live near unconventional natural gas operations such as fracking are more likely to experience depression, Environmental Health News reports.
Featured image credit frackfreeryedale.org.

Abstract

Environmental and community factors may influence the development or course of depression and sleep problems.

In this study, we evaluated the association of unconventional natural gas development (UNGD) with depression symptoms and disordered sleep diagnoses using the Patient Health Questionnaire-8 and electronic health record data among Geisinger adult primary care patients in Pennsylvania.
Participants received a retrospective metric for UNGD at their residence (very low, low, medium, and high) that incorporated dates and durations of well development, distance from patient homes to wells, and well characteristics.

Analyses included 4,762 participants with no (62%), mild (23%), moderate (10%), and moderately severe or severe (5%) depression symptoms in 2014–2015 and 3,868 disordered sleep diagnoses between 2009–2015. We observed associations between living closer to more and bigger wells and depression symptoms, but not disordered sleep diagnoses in models weighted to account for sampling design and participation.

High UNGD (vs. very low) was associated with depression symptoms in an adjusted negative binomial model (exponentiated coefficient = 1.18, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.04–1.34). High and low UNGD (vs. very low) were associated with depression symptoms (vs. none) in an adjusted multinomial logistic model.

Our findings suggest that UNGD may be associated with adverse mental health in Pennsylvania.

Fracking, gas drilling, and risks of (further) earthquakes

Induced Earthquakes from Long-Term Gas Extraction in Groningen, the Netherlands : Statistical Analysis and Prognosis for Acceptable-Risk Regulation

A recent overview and analysis shows that increasing amounts of gas drilling at Groningen, the largest gas field in Europe, led to a dramatic rise in regional earthquakes between 2001 and 2013. After a reduction in extraction was introduced by the Dutch Government, earthquake numbers started to fall. Statistical analysis reveals that if high extraction rates were resumed, about 35 earthquakes, with a magnitude (M) of over 1.5 on the Richter scale, might occur annually from the year 2021 onwards, including four with a damaging magnitude of over 2.5.

“Even if extraction was limited to the 2017 rate set by the government (21.6 billion cubic metres – bcm), the annual number of earthquakes would gradually increase again, with an expected all-time maximum M of 4.5, a serious event capable of shaking walls and chimneys, creating considerable damage and posing safety risks to the public.”

Science for Environment Policy explains, 19 July 2018.

2018 Study Abstract

Recently, growing earthquake activity in the northeastern Netherlands has aroused considerable concern among the 600,000 provincial inhabitants. There, at 3 km deep, the rich Groningen gas field extends over 900 km2 and still contains about 600 of the original 2,800 billion cubic meters (bcm).

Particularly after 2001, earthquakes have increased in number, magnitude (M, on the logarithmic Richter scale), and damage to numerous buildings. The man-made nature of extraction-induced earthquakes challenges static notions of risk, complicates formal risk assessment, and questions familiar conceptions of acceptable risk.

Here, a 26-year set of 294 earthquakes with M ≥ 1.5 is statistically analyzed in relation to increasing cumulative gas extraction since 1963. Extrapolations from a fast-rising trend over 2001-2013 indicate that-under “business as usual”-around 2021 some 35 earthquakes with M ≥ 1.5 might occur annually, including four with M ≥ 2.5 (ten-fold stronger), and one with M ≥ 3.5 every 2.5 years. Given this uneasy prospect, annual gas extraction has been reduced from 54 bcm in 2013 to 24 bcm in 2017. This has significantly reduced earthquake activity, so far.

However, when extraction is stabilized at 24 bcm per year for 2017-2021 (or 21.6 bcm, as judicially established in Nov. 2017), the annual number of earthquakes would gradually increase again, with an expected all-time maximum M ≈ 4.5. Further safety management may best follow distinct stages of seismic risk generation, with moderation of gas extraction and massive (but late and slow) building reinforcement as outstanding strategies.

Officially, “acceptable risk” is mainly approached by quantification of risk (e.g., of fatal building collapse) for testing against national safety standards, but actual (local) risk estimation remains problematic. Additionally important are societal cost-benefit analysis, equity considerations, and precautionary restraint. Socially and psychologically, deliberate attempts are made to improve risk communication, reduce public anxiety, and restore people’s confidence in responsible experts and policymakers.

Beware the mixture

Despite growing scientific evidence for enhanced toxicity of chemical mixtures, regulation does not adequately capture such combination effects

Humans and wildlife are continuously exposed to multiple chemicals from different sources and via different routes, both simultaneously and in sequence. Scientific evidence for heightened toxicity from such mixtures is mounting, yet regulation is lagging behind. Ensuring appropriate regulation of chemical mixture risks will require stronger legal stimuli as well as close integration of different parts of the regulatory systems in order to meet the data and testing requirements for mixture risk assessment.

Until about a decade ago, toxicologists, risk assessors, and regulators regarded risks from chemical mixtures as negligible, as long as exposures to all single chemicals in the cocktail were below the levels judged to be safe for each chemical alone. However, an increasing body of scientific evidence has challenged this notion, showing that a neglect of mixture effects can cause chemical risks to be underestimated. International bodies such as the World Health Organization now acknowledge the need for considering mixtures in chemical risk assessment and regulation. This would align toxicological risk assessment with the clinical sciences and their long tradition of investigating drug-drug interactions. Yet, with few exceptions, regulatory systems around the world still focus overwhelmingly on single-chemical assessments, and the translation of scientific evidence about mixture effects into better regulation is extremely slow.

Continue reading Regulate to reduce chemical mixture risk on ScienceMag, 20 Jul 2018.