Disrupted Development, Part Two: Protection Against Endocrine Disruptors

In Part One, we discussed that endocrine disruptors are widespread in consumer products and the food supply and that scientists are still struggling to understand how they affect growth and development. In Part Two, we discuss how you can reduce exposures to endocrine disruptors and encourage regulation to rid them from the environment.

There are two ways to go about safeguarding the health of your family. The first is to lobby for more protective and transparent regulation of the thousands of chemicals in commerce. The second is to find guides to help you navigate the innumerable consumer products you encounter every day. LocalMotionGreen can help you with both.

Lobby for health
From the Safe Chemicals and Safe Cosmetics Acts of 2011 to various state bills such as Michigan’s effort to ban deca-BDE flame-retardants, lawmakers across the country are considering legislation to protect citizens from endocrine disruptors. Constituent calls, e-mails, and letters—from parents in particular—send strong signals to legislators to act. Find a brief list of bills introduced into the federal and Michigan legislatures at the end of this article, as well as how you can best encourage action.

Meanwhile, consumers can also ask their elected leaders in Washington to place pressure on EPA to finish its long-awaited health assessment of dioxin, which has been classified as a human carcinogen and has been flagged as a possible endocrine disruptor. EPA has determined humans are mainly exposed to dioxin via the diet: meat and diary products, fish and shellfish. The World Health Organization says, “Prevention or reduction of human exposure is best done via source-directed measures, i.e. strict control of industrial processes to reduce formation of dioxins as much as possible.”

On Jan. 10, Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass), the leading Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee, wrote EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson asking for the finalization and release of the report, which has been two decades in the making. Markey chided the agency for taking so long, urging it “to reject industry’s call for further delays and meet your schedule of finalizing the non-cancer portion of the dioxin reanalysis by the end of this month.” Thank Rep. Markey for his statements and ask your senator or representative to speak up on your behalf, which could substantiate the need for more stringent standards on dioxin.

Act as your own Environmental Protection Agent
LocalMotionGreen has identified several ways that consumers can reduce exposures to endocrine disruptors. Remember that any steps you take will result in fewer exposures, so don’t feel overwhelmed by our list. Just start somewhere and do what you can. You may find you can already check some of these off the list:

  • Food and drink storage: Avoid plastic:
    • Use refillable stainless steel or glass water bottles when on the go;
    • Store and heat food in glass, ceramic, or paper; not plastic;
  • Food packaging: Avoid BPA (BPA Update). Opt for:
    • Fresh or frozen fruit and veggies;
    • Dry beans;
    • Food and drink packaged in glass, not cans;
    • Powdered infant formula (or better yet, breastfeed);
  • Fish: Avoid mercury, dioxin, and PCBs in fresh water fish and ocean fish: check fish advisories:
    • Trim fat from all fish to minimize dioxin and PCBs;
    • Choose small non-predatory fish (salmon, perch, trout, tilapia, whitefish, pollock, etc) to minimize mercury;
  • Chemical fire retardants: Minimize exposure in the home:
    • Buy electronics and furniture without PBDEs and other toxic fire retardants. List of PBDE-free companies
    • Dust with a damp cloth to trap fire retardants and other pollutants, rather than disperse them in the air;
  • Pesticides:
    • Opt for organic food (especially meat and dairy when possible) or food consistently low in pesticides (Get the list);
    • Use non-toxic strategies to fend off pests inside the home, on the yard, and on your pets;
    • Encourage non-toxic alternative to pesticides in your child’s school;
  • Teething toys: Give babies teethers made of natural materials: cotton, wood, etc.;
  • Personal Care Products: Check cosmeticdatabase.org for a safety rating of over 69,000 personal care products. There’s a special section for “babies and moms” that lists baby wipes and diaper creams to avoid;
  • Support action and legislation to increase research and regulation on endocrine disruptors;
  • Ask the EPA to release the results of their dioxin study.
    • Contact: The Honorable Lisa P. Jackson, Administrator: 202-564-4700
    • Or, sign a letter written by Center for Health, Environment & Justice requesting the finalization of the EPA dioxin study.

What is being done?
Government agencies are investigating the nature and prevalence of endocrine disruptors.

Congress passed the Food Quality Protection Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments in 1996 to require EPA to screen pesticide chemicals for estrogenic effects in humans. EPA announced the first group of chemicals it will study under this “Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program” in October 2009 and is currently developing the testing protocols it will use. The process of developing tests has taken years, EPA explains, because “the science related to measuring and demonstrating endocrine disruption is in its infancy.”

Since 1996, positive; yet limited action has been taken to protect humans and wildlife from endocrine disruptors:

  • Atrazine was banned in Europe. U.S. EPA is currently reviewing low-level effects of atrazine.
  • Six phthalates were banned in the U.S. for use in baby products, such as: toys, pacifiers, bottle nipples, and teething rings.
  • Penta and Octa-BDEs have been voluntarily discontinued. Bill 4841 in the Michigan House of Representatives calls for the ban of Deca-BDE.
  • BPA is no longer allowed in baby bottles and sippy cups.

In September 2011 The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences announced a National Children’s Study that will follow 100,000 children from birth to age 21 to explore the genetic and environmental factors that affect children during different phases of their lives. The research includes highly specific studies involving endocrine disruption, including the impact ingredients in soy infant formula have on development, a look at the impacts of prenatal and early childhood exposures to agricultural fungicides and pesticides in farmworker families, and research on mammary gland development in young girls.

Contacting your representatives and senators to advocate continued funding of these efforts will help these agencies produce important information that can lead to better regulations of endocrine disruptors and other harmful chemicals.

Federal Bills
Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 (S. 847): updates the 35-year-old Toxic Substance Control Act and requires chemicals to meet safety standards before being allowed in commerce.  This bill has received a hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. No further action has occurred. Contact the Senators: Committee Chair Barbara Boxer and Ranking Member James Inhofe

Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011 (H.R. 2359): updates the nation’s 73-year-old cosmetics law and gives FDA the authority to register cosmetic companies, randomly sample cosmetics to test for contaminants, and recall products proven harmful. This bill was referred to the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections within the Committee for House Education and the Workforce. Contact the Congressmen: Chair John Kline and Ranking Member George Miller.

State of Michigan
Prohibit Deca-BDEs (HB 4841): bans the manufacture, sale or distribution of products containing the flame retardant deca-BDE. This bill is currently in the Committee for Regulatory Reform. Contact the Committee Chair: Representative Hugh Crawford.

Prohibit cadmium and mercury in children’s products (SB 764): bans the substances from use in children’s products. This bill is in the Senate Committee on Government Operations. Contact the Committee Chair: Senator Randy Richardville.

Pesticide notification registry revision (HB 4842): establishes an online registry through which residents could request 24-hour advance notification of any commercial pesticide applications on property adjacent to their home. This bill is in the House Committee on Government Operations. Contact the Committee Chair: Representative Jim Stamas.

-Lucy Ament

February 2012

Printable pdf: Endocrine Disruptors Part Two

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