Toxic Shock: Avoiding Dangerous Chemicals Around Us

Environmental reporter Martin Mittelstaedt of the Globe and Mail completed a series that exposed to a larger audience many chemical concerns discussed and argued in TreeHugger. A Canadian federal government study looked at 4,000 common chemicals used for decades to determine if they needed additonal review. Most have been tested to see if they are acutely poisonous, but many haven't "been subjected to the kind of in-depth analyses that would determine whether they cause cancer, disrupt hormone functions, interfere with fetal development or accumulate in wildlife."The biggest concerns: Perfluorochemicals- used in the manufacture of Teflon and Scotchguard. These are accumulating in the livers of polar bears. "Some environmentalists contend that the differing approaches have caused a situation in which chemical safety calculations for wildlife are far more rigorous than those for humans."The assessments are more protective of polar bears than human children," said Rich Smith, executive director of Environmental Defence, a Toronto activist organization." Read John Laumer's comments in our earlier post about Teflon Pans for more information. ::Globe and Mail: Coming to terms with perils of non-stick products

Flame Retardants like polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) have been building up in breast milk, blood and tissue across North America. There are concerns about it causing huperactivity but mainly about the way the levels just keep getting higher. -Such are the concerns about flame retardants that if they were introduced now, they might not be allowed, particularly in the form found in mattresses. "It may well be that it would not have been allowed on the market," said Robert Chernier, who evaluates chemical safety at Environment Canada. North Americans have 10 times the levels of Europeans, as they moved earlier to phase them out. TreeHugger has discussed them here. read ::Globe and Mail- Ottawa plans to snuff out flame retardants

Perhaps the most controversial chemical is bisphenol A, or BPA. It is so close to the female hormone estrogen that it was once studied for use as a synthetic estrogen for medical purposes. "Because BPA has a shape similar to the estrogen hormone, it is able to fit into the same receptors that estrogen uses to signal cells to turn biological functions on and off. For Dr. vom Saal, the idea that the entire population is being given a dose of a synthetic estrogen through plastic "is supported by hundreds of published articles" and is "an extremely critical public health issue." It is in trace amounts in all of us, from polycarbonates like tinted Nalgene bottles, compact discs, and dental sealants on chidrens' teeth. It is a genderbender like Phthalates- "Experiments on lab animals exposed to small doses of BPA have linked it to low sperm counts, the earlier onset of puberty, insulin resistance and diabetes, prostate abnormalities and skewed mammary gland development". ::Globe and Mail: Are plastic products coated in peril?

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