file holds archives of new developments in 2002. Other archives
hold material from 1999, 2000,
2001 and the first quarter of 2003.
New Developments contains the most recent
materials. For a broad overview of the scientific trends since OSF
was published, see Broad
Trends. And for pointers to a host of important new research
results, organized by topic, visit Recent
December 2002. In an article published in Toxicological Sciences,
Sherry Rier and Warren Foster review a series of studies that strongly
link endometriosis to dioxin, through the contaminant's
ability to interfere with hormone and immune system action. They
also summarize data on human exposures, showing that people are
exposed to dioxins at levels significantly above those inducing
endometriosis in monkeys. While existing studies stop short
of proving causation with certainty, what they reveal suggests
it should no surprise that endometriosis forces
more than 100,000 hysterectomies each year in the US alone, and
has annual health care costs in excess of $1 billion. More...
December 2002. The Detroit News reports that a sweet-heart
deal for Dow Chemical negotiated by out-going republican
Governor John Engler fell apart when Dow would not accept language
modified by the state's attorney general's office. Public
health and environmental experts were pleased by the outcome,
as the proposal that was scuttled would have created an exception
in state regulations permitting a 9-fold higher level of dioxin
contamination around Midland, where Dow has operated for decades.
"Dow would have avoided potentially huge cleanup costs
under the consent order language" that fell through.
December 2002. No, this isn't about endocrine disruption. But it
is an astounding example of how the Bush Administration is willing
to put public health at risk. In a
remarkable investigative article for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,
reporter Andrew Schneider reveals an outrageous intervention
by John Graham (White House Office of Management and Budget)
to prevent EPA from warning home owners around the country about
significant health risks arising from the use of asbestos-contaminated
insulation. The contamination is traceable to a vermiculite
mine in Libby, Montana, owned and operated by W.R. Grace.
that town near the Canadian border, ore from a vermiculite mine
was contaminated with an extremely lethal asbestos fiber
called tremolite that has killed or sickened thousands
of miners and their families. Ore from the Libby mine was shipped
across the nation and around the world, ending up in insulation
called Zonolite that was used in millions of homes, businesses
and schools across America."
EPA was prepared to issue a warning in April 2002, until Graham
intervened. His nomination to head that office had been challenged
by health and environment groups because of
his past association with an industry-tainted research center.
Administrator Christie Todd Whitman had made the decision to issue
the alert. This is one more reason why she should resign.
December 2002. In his second major story on perchlorate in the Wall
Street Journal in December, reporter Peter Waldman explores the
disruptive impacts that perchlorate contamination is having
on drinking water supplies. "Several of the nation's
fastest-growing areas -- including Las Vegas, Texas and Southern
California -- could face debilitating water shortages because of
groundwater contamination by perchlorate, the main ingredient of
solid rocket fuel." ... "Dozens of perchlorate-tainted
wells have been shuttered nationwide, casting a pall on growth plans
in several parched areas." According
to Waldman, the chief concern about perchlorate arises from
the fact it is an endocrine disrupter. More...
(for earlier story see 16 Dec, below)
December 2002. Research in Sweden reveals a link between organochlorine
levels in a mother's blood and the risk that her son will develop
testicular cancer, decades after birth. The son's own contamination
levels, measured at the time of cancer diagnosis, provide few insights
into risk. These data are consistent with the proposal that testicular
cancer in adulthood results from errors in fetal testicular
development caused by hormone disruption. More...
December 2002. The New
York Times editorialized in favor of the use of DDT
against malaria in Africa, acknowledging that while it not risk
free, the evidence against human effects is inconclusive. "The
uncertainties must be weighed against a demonstrated effectiveness
in fighting a disease that now kills 1 in 20 African children. DDT
also costs one-quarter the price of the alternative, pyrethroids."
are good and important points, and it is why the Stockholm
Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants provided precisely
for that use, with support of medical experts and a wide range of
environmental organizations. Curiously, while the Times acknowledged
support for this targeted use of DDT by medical experts, it omitted
mention the support by environmental experts, which was widespread
and vocal. That would have made its editorial point even stronger.
real tragedy is that investments by first world governments in research
on malaria have been so paltry that they have failed to provide
effective, affordable and less risky methods to fight this dreadful
is increasingly important as uncertainties about DDT, cited by the
Times, are narrowing with new research pointing to very
real and large health impacts of DDT. More
December 2002. In a front page story in the Wall Street Journal,
staff reporter Peter Waldman explores a controversy involving widespread
contamination by perchlorate resulting from its use as
a rocket fuel, and the possible health
consequences of the toxin. The debate pits the Environmental Protection
Agency against the Department of Defense, with the EPA focused on
low level risks of perchlorate associated with its capacity to disrupt
thyroid function. Relying on old data, DOD claims perchlorate is
dangerous only at very high levels. A sidebar in the WSJ describes
perchlorate as "one of a newly recognized group of
toxins called endocrine disrupters." More...
December 2002. A study of men living in the Boston area suggests
that adult exposure to phthalates can damage the DNA of
human sperm. The damage was detected at phthalate exposure
levels common within the American public. It
is unknown whether the amount of DNA damage
would lead to infertility or genetic problems in offspring. More...
December 2002. In an essay
in San Francisco Medicine, John Peterson Myers describes the
revolution now underway in scientific understanding of
links between environmental exposures and health. Best understood
as a series of conceptual shifts from traditional
approaches in toxicology to one that integrates developmental and
molecular biology with endocrinology and genetics, this revolution
is rapidly outpacing a regulatory structure mired in an outdated
old system profoundly outdated, and the new science makes starkly
clear the fact that current laws do not protect public health.
December 2002. In an article written for UPI's end-of-year review,
Science and Technology editor Dee
Ann Divis describes a disturbing pattern in
the approach the Bush Administration is taking to evaluate nominees
for scientific committees. Candidates have been rejected for making
contributions to Democratic candidates or for espousing positions
at odds with certain industries and Bush's far-right constituency.
Among the panels affected are a CDC's advisory committee, a panel
on lead poisoning, and the Army Science Board. The article cites
to Science revealing that the
political review extends even to peer-review study sections, thereby
affecting the very nature of research approved for federal support.
Several scientific organizations are raising objections, including
the American Public Health Association.
November 2002. Brian
Reid reports in the Washington Post about the controversy over
use of phthalates in cosmetics. An industry-funded scientific panel,the
Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR), has concluded that existing evidence
does not warrant removal of phthalates from nail polish, hair spray,
and other cosmetic products that contain them. Public health and
environmental groups, in contrast, assert that insufficient scientific
evidence exists to establish the safety of current exposures to
phthalates, especially considering
the multiplicity of exposure sources, not just cosmetics. More
on phthalates... And for information about which cosmetics contain
phthalates (and which don't, visit "the
November 2002. Writing
in The New York Times, Carol
Kaesuk Yoon describes
a controversy boiling around published studies that indicate atrazine
has dramatic effects at low levels on sexual development in frogs.
Three papers published in the Proceedings of the National Academy
of Sciences, Nature, and Environmental Health Perspectives by Tyrone
Hayes's research group at Univ. Calif Berkeley, during the last
7 months report that atrazine induces hermaphroditism in the lab
that is consistent with observations in the field. Industry-funded
scientists in the employ/consultancy of atrazine's producer, led
by Ron Kendall of Texas Tech (Lubbock, Texas) and EcoRisk, a
firm that provides toxicological advice to agrochemical companies,
have claimed they can't reproduce the results. More
on the research...
November 2002. Measurements of maternal and fetal samples from Japan
confirm that bisphenol A enters the human womb
and reaches the fetus at concentration levels known to induce changes
in experiments with animals. The
highest concentrations were observed in the first trimester of pregnancy.
November 2002. Writing in the Baton Rouge Advocate, reporter Mike
the controversy brewing around EPA's scheduled evaluation of
atrazine. Several studies with frogs indicate atrazine causes harm
to amphibians, and a study of workers at the main atrazine
production facility in the US suggests a link to prostate cancer.
These growing signs of adverse effects cauesd EPA to postpone the
compound's interim reregistration decision from August 2002 to January
2003. A final decision is now scheduled for August 2003.
November 2002. According to a new study described in the Baltimore
Sun and just released in the American
Journal of Human Genetics,
babies conceived using in vitro fertilization techniques (IVF)
are more likely to be born with a rare genetic disorder called Beckwith-Wiedemann
Children with this disorder at at higher risk for certain cancers
before puberty and also tend to be born large with large tongues and
poor closures of the abdominal wall, causing hernias that must be
repaired surgically. Several researchers interviewed by the Sun cautioned
that while the data are intriguing more research needs to be done
before accepting the results.
November 2002. Good news. Two new studies confirm
two simple dietary changes that can significantly reduce exposures
to environmental contaminants. While these changes already made
common sense, these studies provide data supporting their wisdom.
documents decreases in blood levels of a potent neurotoxin,
methylmercury, following reductions in the amount of large
predatory fish like tuna and swordfish in the diet. The
other shows that organic
produce really works: children eating organic are less
likely to be consuming inappropriate levels of organophosphate pesticides.
November 2002. In an important review published in Environmental
Health Perspectives, two EPA toxicologists summarize the literature
examining links between developmental exposure to endocrine
disrupting compounds and subsequent cancer risk. Two clear
patterns emerge: First, experiments with animals show clearly and
repeatedly that early exposure to EDCs, particularly in the womb,
can both cause cancer later in life as well as prolong periods of
sensitivity to other carcinogens. Second, almost no studies of EDCs
and people have incorporated these insights into study design. The
toxicologists end their review with a question: In studies of people
that almost invariably measure contamination
after cancer is diagnosed, "could we be trying to correlate
exposure and effect at the wrong time?" More...
November 2002. On the heels of a new
scientific study reporting low sperm counts in Missouri men,
reporter Jennifer Huget writes in the
Washington Post about a new, over-the-counter kit to
test whether a man's sperm count is high enough to be considered
fertile. If the test shows a positive result, it indicates
that the man's sperm is at least 20 million sperm per milliliter,
a threshold for fertility criteria established by the World Health
Organization. Roughly 40 percent of fertility problems that challenge
more than 2 million couples in the US are due to reductions in male
fertility. This kit will help
identify men who may have difficulty conceiving. Factors other than
low sperm count also undermine male fertility; this test will not
provide information on these other problems.
November 2002. In the most sophisticated study of geographic variation
in US sperm count yet conducted, scientists from four different
geographic regions across America report they find important differences
in sperm density and motility. Men in Missouri have the
lowest sperm count compared to New York, Minneapolis and Los Angeles.
The cause of these differences are not yet known. The scientists
conducting the study hypothesize it
may be related to the intensity of pesticide use in industrial agriculture
in Missouri compared to the other, more urban
November 2002. In the Sunday magazine, the New York Times carries
about a vaccination scientist who took on his scientific colleagues
by acknowledging that the use of a mercury-containing preservative
in vaccines might increase the risk of neurological damage in children,
November 2002. Strong evidence against a link between vaccinations
and autism was reported in the New England Journal of Medicine.
A Danish reserach team examined the health records of all children
born in Denmark between 1991 and 1998, with complete data on autism
status and vaccination history. They
found no elevation in risk of autism among vaccinated children. The
study does not address whether autism is linked to thimerosal,
the mercury-based preservative used in some vaccines, because this
is not an additive to the MMR vaccination. More...
November 2002. In a detailed
article in USA Today, reporter Anita Manning examines a new
study of the health consequences of eating mercury-contaminated
fish. The report, by a physician from the San Francisco area, examines
health effects including hair loss, fatigue, depression, difficulty
concentrating and headaches. The report concludes that anyone who
consumes a lot of fish, especially large steak fish such as swordfish
and shark, could be at risk. The article in USA Today also summarizes
government recommendations for tuna consumption. The
low limits may surprise may parents whose children eat canned tuna
same research was also covered
by San Francisco Chronicle environmental reporter Jane Kay.
Her story focused on the reversibility of mercury levels in the
adult patients studied by Hightower, who commented: "We
found that if people eat fish, the mercury goes up. They stop eating
the fish, the mercury goes down. It's that simple."
Kay cites "Tiburon resident Susie Piallat, a longtime patient
of Hightower's, had been complaining for years of a flu-like feeling
that she couldn't shake. When tested, her mercury level was 76 parts
per billion -- more than 15 times the federal safety number..."It
took almost a year for my level to drop. Now I feel so much better,"
said Piallat." [Note: Reversibility of fetal
and early childhood effects is another matter and much less likely.]
November 2002. According to a
story in the San Francisco Chronicle, UC Berkeley developmental
biologist Tyrone Hayes was "not expected to become
an eminent scientist." Yet now according his peers in science,
"he's an outstanding scientist, one of the leaders in this
field." And in that field he is challenging huge financial
interests with information indicating that one of the world's most
abundantly used herbicides, atrazine,
is an extraordinarily powerful endocrine disruptor, severely undermining
frog development at extremely low exposure levels. More
on Hayes's research...
November 2002. Research in New York City involving
African American and Dominican women living in Dominican Heights,
Central Harlem and South Bronx reveals that higher levels
of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are associated with adverse birth
outcomes, including reduced head circumference and lower
body weight. The study also
reported adverse effects from exposure to a pesticide, chlorpyrifos.
November 2002. A study published in the Journal of the National Cancer
Institute reveals that biases built into standard analyses of cancer
incidence data were obscuring the fact that rates of breast,
prostate and several other cancers continue to increase in the United
old methods had falsely indicated that these and other cancer rates
were either flat or decreasing. More...
October 2002. A combined lab and field study of the leopard frog,
Rana pipiens, implicates atrazine in widespread
feminization of males during tadpole development and metamorphosis.
The lab studies confirmed earlier findings from a different amphibian,
the African clawed toad, that extremely low levels of atrazine causes
significant gonadal abnormalities in male frogs. The
field studies demonstrate widespread abnormalities in wild populations
of the frog and link them to the geography of atrazine use. More...
October 2002. The Associated
Press and Reuters
both report on a special joint hearing of the health committees
of the California State Senate and Assembly about breast cancer.
Dr. Ana Soto, a specialist in breast cancer at Tufts Medical School,
told the committees that "Breast cancer rates in the
United States have increased from one in 22 in the 1940s to one
in eight today, and the factors that are known to increase
the risk of breast cancer -- reproductive history, genetics, exercise
and alcohol use -- account for less than half of all cases. She
added "it is high time to seriously consider environmental
chemicals as the most likely cause of this sudden increase in risk."
Dr. Gina Solomon, a senior scientist at the National Resources Defense
Council, also testified. Dr. Solomon suggested that "drawing
more links between environmental toxins and breast cancer could
help to broaden understanding of who develops the disease and why."
October 2002. Katherine Ellison writes
in the Washington Post about an epidemiological puzzle emerging
from Marin County, California, where non-Hispanic white women "have
received a diagnosis of breast cancer nearly 40% higher than the
national norm." According to Kenneth Olden, the director of
the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, "rates
are higher here than anywhere else." Yet no explanation
offered to date appears sufficient to explain the apparent epidemic.
Olden, according to the article, consigns it to "demographics."
One community activist, Fern Orenstein, responds "It's
easy for them to say "demographcis," but--hello? There
hasn't been enough research into what's in our air and in our soil
and in the products we use."
October 2002. In an editorial, the New
York Times comments on the "shocking report from California"
indicating that the drastic upsurge in autism rates
that had been discovered within that state is real rather than a
statistical artifact. According to the Times, "California's
self-examination has underscored the surprising lack of information
about the prevalence of this relatively rare brain disorder elsewhere
in the nation. Studies carried out by the federal Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention in recent years found that the number of
cases in metropolitan Atlanta and in one New Jersey township were
significantly higher than previous estimates of prevalence would
suggest. But nobody knows for sure what the nationwide trends are."
Left unstated is the fact that this
could be said for many other health trends affecting learning and
behavior. In the meantime, comments the Times,
"it could take years to unravel the widening mystery of autism."
More on the
October 2002. Writing
in the New Scientist, reporter Andy Coghlan describes intriguing
new research indicating that sexual differentiation of the
brain begins before the activation of a gene that determines whether
an individual develops testes or ovaries. "Till now,
the orthodoxy among developmental biologists has been that embryos
develop ovaries and become female unless a gene called SRY on the
Y chromosome is switched on. If this gene is active, it makes testes
develop instead." New research by a group of California scientists
has revealed sexual differences in gene activation in the brain
before the SRY gene activity is initiated. This
research may help understand the biological basis of "why some
people feel trapped in a body of the wrong sex."
October 2002. In 1999, a study by the State of
California revealed drastic increases in the rate of autism in California's
children. Critics asserted the finding was incorrect, misled by
changes in diagnostic criteria and other factors. A new study now
rejects those explanations, and concludes that increases
in the rate of autism in California over the past decade are real.
The increase, which began in 1981, is
too rapid for it to be due to genetic factors alone. More...
October 2002. Reporting
in the Wall Street Journal, Sharon Begley summarizes a new study
by scientists at the National Cancer Institute revealing that
recent cancer incidence statistics had misled public health officials
into believing that the war on cancer was being won, when
in fact the incidence of a number of cancers continued to rise. This
new analysis, which takes into account time delays in reporting, shows
that breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, melanoma, colorectal
cancer and several other cancers have actually been increasing in
the United States.
October 2002. Writing in the Boston Globe, reporter Sally Jacobs
explores a brewing controversy over the widespread use of
phthalates in a wide range of consumer products, including
by provocative advertising in the New York Times, a report
issued in Summer 2002 by consumer and public health organizations
brought attention to this practice and highlighted toxicological
data from animals showing adverse effects caused by phthalates,
particularly for male fetuses in the womb.
Now, according to the Globe, "many women are backing
away from their vanity tables and worrying"
that phthalate exposure may have damaged their children while in
the womb. More...
October 2002. A ten-year study of the brain structure reports that
children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
have brains significantly smaller than normal. The size
differences are apparent in early childhood, at the earliest ages
examined in the study. The authors conclude that ADHD is
a biologically-based disorder with clear structural differences,
and that the events initiating ADHD are
likely to occur in the womb. More...
October 2002. Russian male pesticide workers exposed to dioxin and
dioxin-like compounds father fewer boys than would be expected
on the basis of world-wide and regional sex ratios. Normally
slightly more boys are born than girls, with a resulting sex ratio
(# boys divided by # of total births) averaging 0.51. In Ufa, a
town just west of the Urals where pesticides have been produced
since the 1940s, the sex ratio of children born to exposed fathers
was 0.38, and that of a highly exposed
subgroup was 0.23. More...
October 2002. Using new analytical methods, a team of German scientists
measured bisphenol A in the blood of pregnant women, in
umbilical blood at birth and in placental tissue. All samples
examined contained BPA, at levels within the range shown to alter
development in laboratory experiments with animals. Thus
widespread exposure to BPA at levels of concern is no longer a hypothetical
issue. It is occurring. More...
October 2002. According to Reuters News, several class action
lawsuits have been filed against companies producing or
selling chromated copper arsenate treated wood.
This product, also known as CCA wood, has been used for over 70
years. The treatment protects against insect destruction. In the
past, individual consumers have filed--and won--a series of lawsuits,
mostly against small, privately-held companies. The class action
lawsuits represent a new phase, one which Reuters compares to the
"recent legal nightmares including scores of asbestos claims
that drove some US firms into bankruptcy." At least one of
the class action suits is against Georgia-Pacific. Industry spokespeople
interviewed by Reuters indicated they thought the suits "had
no merit." More
about recent action on CCA wood...
October 2002 A study by a distinguished group of experts on the
effects of diethylstilbestrol, including Arthur Herbst, whose research
first revealed DES's human toll, reports that exposure to
DES in the womb elevates breast cancer risk beginning in a woman's
fifth decade of life. The sample size remains small, because
DES use was most prevalent in the '50s and '60s and therefore exposed
"DES daughters" are only now reaching the age when breast
cancer incidence rises substantially. Nevertheless, this new study
clearly indicates that DES daughters over 40-yrs old are at greater
risk to breast cancer than unexposed
women of comparable age. More...
October 2002. Writing in Environmental Health Perspectives,
Adler describes the increasing frequency of issue ads placed
in prominent publications raising questions about environmental
threats to health.
on image to see ad series
example, the Mount Sinai School of Medicine Center for Children’s
Health and the Environment (CCHE) published a series
of ads raising questions about whether current regulatory
testing was adequate given what scientific research now
suggests as links between different health disabilities and exposure
to contamination. Each of the seven full-page ads placed by CCHE
in the New York Times repeated variations on a common theme:
don’t allow food or drugs to be sold before being shown
to be safe. Yet there are thousands of chemicals on the market
that affect human biology and have never been tested. Most
importantly, we must demand that new chemicals be tested for
safety before being allowed on the market. We do not have
a system that does that now."
spokespeople from the "American Council on Science and Health"
(ACSH) quoted by Adler indicated their dissatisfaction about the
ad series, and indeed sent a protest letter to the Mt Sinai Board
of Directors complaining about the advertisements. According to
the EHP article, ACSH associate director Jeff Stier argued that
studies published in legitimate scientific publications don't need
seemed somewhat ironic given the amount that the chemical
industry spends to convince the public of the safety of their
products, for example, an ad series run widely in the 1990s
recommending that people think of plastic as "your sixth
basic food group."
image for higher resolution
October 2002. New results from scientific studies of people exposed
to dioxin during the 1976 chemical plant explosion in Seveso, Italy,
reveal that immune system suppression
by dioxin continues on at least 2 decades following initial
exposure. Higher levels of dioxin correlate strongly with lower
levels of a key immune system defense component, immunoglobulin
October 2002. Writing in the Anchorage
Daily News, Tom Kizzia reports on a new study finding high levels
of PCBs in the blood of Alaskan natives living on islands in the
Bering Sea. The study, carried out by an environmental health organization,
Alaska Community Action on Toxics, on St Lawrence Island, found
PCB levels up to 19 parts per billion and averaging 7.5 ppb. Nationwide,
PCB burdens average 0.9 to 1.5 ppb. The study was prompted by villager
concerns about increases in cancer
and other health concerns such as miscarriages.
October 2002. Reuters
reports on a scientific study finding that "health of polar
bears and the indigenous peoples of the Arctic is at serious risk
from man-made toxins being carried there by air and sea." The
report released by the Arctic
Monitoring and Assessment Programme (a programme of the intergovernmental
Arctic Council), summarizes data on pollution of the Arctic by heavy
metals and persistent organic pollutants. In the cautious language
effects have been observed in some of the most highly exposed
or sensitive species in some areas of the Arctic. Several
studies have now been completed on a number of Arctic species,
reporting the types of effects that have been associated in
non-Arctic species with chronic exposure to POPs, of which
there are several examples. Reduced immunological response
in polar bears and northern fur seals has led to increased
susceptibility to infection. Immunological, behavioral, and
reproductive effects as well as reduced adult survival has
been found in glaucous gulls. Peregrine falcons have suffered
from eggshell thinning and reproductive effects."
then specifically on human health:
health effects are occurring in certain areas of the Arctic
due to exposure to contaminants in traditional food, particularly
for mercury and PCBs. The evidence
suggests that the greatest concern is for fetal and neonatal
September 2002. In research sponsored by the Endometriosis Association
and the US National Institute of Health, scientists report that
women with endometriosis are far more likely to suffer from
other endocrine and immune system disorders. Infertility
is high compared to women in the general US public, and the incidence
of lupus, chronic fatigue syndrome, hypothyroidism and several other
greatly elevated. This research may assist in treatment of these
diseases and also help shed light on their causes. More...
September 2002. The BBC
reports that scientific concerns are mounting over increasing
contamination of wildlife by brominated flame retardants in the
Arctic. Levels are rising quite sharply and they appear to be associated
with impacts on polar bears and sea gulls, which already bear significant
PCB contamination. According to a Norwegian scientist quoted by
BBC, Dr. Dr Hans Wolkers, brominated flame retardant concentrations
are now doubling every five years.
on brominated flame retardants...
September 2002. Research conducted at the University of Wisconsin
reveals that a commercial mixture of lawn chemical herbicides
including 2,4-D causes fetal loss in mice. A story about this research
the LA Times reports that the scientists who conducted the study
obtained the herbicides by simply going to a local hardware
store and buying a common brand.
are usually conducted on pure components of such brands, instead
of the actual mixtures sold. Tests with the pure components had
indicated exposure at levels used in these experiments should not
have caused effects. In fact, the lowest level used in the experiments,
which caused significant fetal loss, was one-seventh the
level allowed by EPA in drinking water.
results indicate that mixtures must become a focus
of regulatory testing for toxicology, and that current standards
are not adequate. More...
September 2002. Picking up on a story first carried by Science Magazine,
Rick Weiss writes in the Washington
Post that the Bush Administration is packing key scientific
panels with industry advocates. One of the affected committees
advises the US Centers for Disease Control on the health
impacts of environmental exposures to chemicals. While
an administration spokesperson claimed that "no litmus test"
was used in selecting new committee members, a candidate was rejected
after he answered a series of questions about cloning, embryo cell
research, and physician assisted suicide. The interviewer told him
that the position would go to someone else because his views did
not match Bush's.
to the Post, new members of the CDC advisory panel include "Roger
McClellan, former president of the Chemical Industry Institute of
Toxicology, a North Carolina research firm supported by chemical
company dues; Becky Norton Dunlop, a vice president of the Heritage
Foundation who, as Virginia's secretary of natural resources, fought
against environmental regulation; and Lois Swirsky Gold, a University
of California risk-assessment specialist who has made a career countering
environmentalists' claims of links between pollutants and cancer.
The committee also includes Dennis Paustenbach, the California toxicologist
who served as an expert witness for Pacific
Gas and Electric when the utility was sued for allowing poisonous
chromium to leach into groundwater. The case was made famous in
the movie "Erin Brockovich."
September 2002. According
to the Canadian Broadcast Corporation, a government study of
meat and dairy products imported to Canada from the US discovered
dioxin contamination levels far exceeding internationally
accepted health standards. The contaminated foods included
beef, pork and cheese. While the government agency that sponsored
the study, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, discounted any dangers,
the CBC interviewed Armand Tremblay, professor of veterinary medicine
at the University of Montreal, who reached a very different conclusion,
saying that any products with dioxin
contamination at levels reported by the agency should be pulled
from shelves. "I was stunned and concerned at the test
results," said Tremblay.
September 2002. A multi-country collaboration of scientists studying
male reproductive abnormalities reports that trends in sperm
quality in four countries in the Nordic-Baltic region of Europe
are consistent with predictions from the testicular dysgenesis syndrome
theory. This theory proposes that four male reproductive
maladies—testicular cancer, hypospadias, cryptorchidism and
poor sperm quality—are
all part of the same syndrome, with many cases due to environmental
September 2002. Dutch scientists report that boys exposed
prenatally to higher levels of PCBs and dioxin are more likely to
show demasculinized play behaviors. Girls and boys exposed
to modestly elevated dioxin levels demonstrate more feminized
play behaviors. The scientists suggest that that these
alterations in play result from endocrine
disruption of the development of sex-specific behaviors. More...
September 2002. Scientific experts on the health effects
of mercury have concluded that sufficient evidence is now
available to justify a international action to reduce mercury
exposures. One option under consideration is a
legally-binding international convention sponsored by the United
Programme Global Mercury Assessment.
August 2002. In an editorial,
the New York Times argues that "it
is time to rein in this fruitless quest" for an environmental
cause of breast cancer on Long Island, based on the recent negative
findings reported by by the Long Island Breast Cancer Study Project.
Unfortunately, for the Times conclusion, you can't rule
out an association using a study whose design precluded being able
to find one in the first place. The study's conclusions
were limited by two design flaws:
it examined chemical levels at the time of cancer diagnosis,
not at the time of breast cancer initiation. Current
research indicates that this may take place decades before
breast cancer detection, with periods of maximum sensitivity proposed
to occur in the womb and around puberty.
its statistical design was inappropriate for
examining chemicals interacting in mixtures,
in which they always occur,
particularly when the chemicals are hypothesized to act through
a common mechanism, which in this case they are (estrogenicity).
more extensive, accurate and balanced coverage of this report, see
Newsday's in-depth coverage.
August 2002. In February 2002, EPA announced a 3-year phaseout of
chromated copper arsenic (CCA) wood. In EPA's advisory,
it asserted that it "does not believe there is any reason to
remove or replace arsenic-treated structures, including decks or
playground equipment," although no data were provided to substantiate
that statement. Now, in the largest
study ever conducted of installed CCA wood in decks and playground
structures, the Environmental Working Group and the University of
North Carolina-Asheville report that old structures leach
virtually as much arsenic as new structures, and that sealed
structures leach significant amounts within 6 months of coating.
study also reported on arsenic levels in the soil around the arsenic-treated
wood structures. They found that 38% of sites had arsenic
levels at SuperFund levels or above (20 ppm).
to the Washington Post, the report "strongly challenges
the government's recent assertion that older playground equipment,
decks and outdoor furniture made of arsenic-treated lumber poses
less of a threat than newer, similarly treated wood products that
are being phased out."
amount of leaching is clearly within a range that can be
harmful to children after only a few minutes contact, transfering
to their hands more arsenic than is allowed per liter in drinking
water (10 ppb). And even at level
beneath the current standard, arsenic is an endocrine disruptor,
with glucocorticoid activation of a tumor suppressing gene.
Current arsenic standards do not reflect this new science.
August 2002. Research carried out by a team of scientists in Japan
raises the intriguing possibility that weight regulation may be
vulnerable to endocrine disruption. In a series of cell culture
studies, they found that bisphenol A increases
the rate at which fat cells are formed and increases the amount
of fat stored in them. Their results
open up a new front of research into the causes of the world-wide
epidemic of obesity. More...
August 2002. Research published in May 2002 demonstrates that bisphenol
A, the basic building block of polycarbonate plastic, inititiates
proliferation of androgen-independent prostate cancer cells. This
finding suggest that BPA may undermine one of the main weapons
against prostate cancer, hormone therapy that forces androgen-dependent
cancer cells into remission. More...
August 2002. A study by the Northern California Childhood Leukemia
Study (NCCLS) adds new strength to suspected links between
pesticides and childhood leukemia. Pesticide use in the
home had its largest effect on childhood leukemia risk during pregnancy.
Pesticide application by professionals did not appear to help. In
fact, professional pest applications were associated with a more-than-doubling
of risk. More frequent applications led
to greater risk, also. Bottom line: avoid home pesticide use if
you want to minimize the risk of childhood leukemia in your family.
August 2002. New
Scientist reports (subscription
required for link)
that at the annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Reproduction
in Baltimore, Md, data were presented indicating that atrazine and
nonylphenol dramatically enhance the conversion of testosterone
to estrogen by aromatase at levels "typically found in US waterways."
The effect was seen in the brains of fish larvae during the developmental
process that leads to sexual differentiation. The observation, by
scientists from the University of Maryland's Center of Marine Biotechnology,
suggests that these common chemicals may be contributing to widespread
even though they do not interact with the
estrogen receptor. A similar effect of atrazine on aromatase activity
was proposed by Hayes
et al. as the mechanism by which atrazine demasculinizes
August 2002. In an opinion piece on the Fox News website arguing
that DDT should be used to combat West Nile Virus, "junkscience"
Milloy makes it clear that main source of junk in his writing is
his own uninformed analysis. More...
August 2002. Research from England shows conclusively that mixtures
matter. Published in the journal of the U.S. National Institute
of Environmental Health Sciences, these new findings reveal that
even minute quantities of "xenoestrogens" --levels beneath
the concentrations at which they appear to have effects individually,
combine in mixtures with one another and natural estrogen, 17ß-estradiol,
to dramatically increase the impact of the natural hormone. These
results definitively refute the oft-heard criticism that xenoestrogens
are so weak and dilute compared to natural hormones that they can't
possible have an effect. More...
August 2002. Web magazine TomPaine.com
features an article
by reporter Cynthia Cooper on an emerging alliance of environmental
health advocates and reproductive rights campaigners. Their common
agenda is to reduce exposures to chemicals that could be
damage. Cooper quotes Compton Foundation Executive Director
Edith Eddy on why this alliance is emerging: "Nothing could
be more potent in motivating us to change our ways than not being
able to reproduce, or having our children being unable to reproduce."
Newest research on fertility and chemicals...
Recent important findings...
August 2002. As reported by the BBC,
Independent and other news sources, The World Health
Organization released its final version of a global
assessment of the animal and human impacts of endocrine disruption.
The report concludes that wildlife effects are extensive
and well documented, but that more studies are needed to
establish or reject human impacts. Lab and wildlife studies with
animals give plausibility to widespread human effects, but the studies
that would be capable of proving or disproving effects in people
have not been done. It should be noted that the WHO criteria
for establishing endocrine disruption in humans were extremely stringent,
requiring detailed knowledge of the mechanism before accepting the
evidence as definitive. Commenting on cautiousness of the WHO report,
WWF-UK toxicologist Gwynne Lyons observed "It is worth remembering
that epidemiological research in 1952 demonstrated that smoking
caused lung cancer, but the probable causal mechanism was not found
until 1996, and even this is still not universally accepted."
In essence, the WHO report confirms the scientific validity
of the issues we raised initially in 1996 in Our Stolen Future.
More on the WHO synthesis...
August 2002. According
to Science Magazine, the National Institute of Environmental
Health Sciences first issued and then withdrew a gag order instructing
senior cancer toxicologist Dr. James Huff to stop public criticism
of the institute. According to Science:
NIEHS agreement would have required Huff "not
to send any letters, emails or other communications that are
critical of NIEHS as an Institute or its scientific work to
the media, scientific organizations, scientists, administrative
organizations, or other groups or individuals outside NIEHS."
It also states that if Huff violates the agreement and can't
provide a satisfactory explanation to the NIEHS director,
he must retire or resign "voluntarily" within
a week, and that he must retire by December 2003
in any case. Francine Little, an NIEHS administrator whose
name appears on the memo, declined to comment on it, describing
it as a "confidential personnel matter." But she
noted that it was part of a negotiation and not "a done
administrators comment in Science that the disagreement
with Huff arises over his unwillingness to review an area of cell
biology in a timely manner. This would seem an odd stimulus for
a gag order. More likely, it would seem, is Huff's outspoken
criticism last year of a funding collaboration between the NIEHS
and the American Chemistry Council. Questions
were raised on this website about that arrangement when it was
announced. The deal involved $1M
in ACC money and $3M from NIEHS in a jointly managed research program
on human developmental and reproductive effects.
August 2002 Danish scientists combine information from several different
sources to challenge the conventional demographic interpretation
of why fertility rates are falling in industrialized countries.
In a paper published in the scientific journal Human Reproduction,
they propose that the decline may not be due solely to
voluntary choices made by women about how many children they should
have. In addition, they argue
that involuntary factors may also be involved, specifically the
increasing percentage of men whose sperm density is sufficiently
low to impair fertility. More...
August 2002. An ambitious, federally funded study of breast cancer
on Long Island found few apparent links
between breast cancer risk and a suite of organochlorines,
including DDT and PCBs. Limitations
in the study design, however, limit the strength of any conclusions.
July 2002. Anticipating the release of a federally-funded study
on links between high breast cancer rates on Long Island, New York,
and exposure to organochlorine chemicals, Newsday
runs a remarkable 3-part
series about the research, written by Dan Fagin. The series
tracks the study from its origins in the hands of breast-cancer
activists lobbying Congress through to its disappointing conclusions.
as the Long Island Breast Cancer Study Project,
the research promised groundbreaking techniques and held out
the hope of momentous results. Elated activists were told
they would have unequalled access to the scientists and would
help make key decisions about how the studies would be designed
and carried out."
the optimism and camaraderie ... are a distant memory. ...
the federal research project they fought so hard for is years
behind schedule and is almost unrecognizable compared with
what the activists and their congressional sponsors had envisioned
a decade ago. In trying so hard to please the scientists and
the activists, the project's administrators at the National
Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md., instead have left both
groups profoundly frustrated and disappointed."
biggest of the 12 studies -- an $8-million one involving more
than 3,000 Long Island women -- is expected to be published
next week, more than four years behind schedule. For undisclosed
reasons, two high-profile scientific journals have refused
to publish the study. When the results finally do come out,
one of the researchers said, they "are not going to be
of the studies will be able to answer the burning environmental
questions that prompted Congress to mandate the research project
in 1993. Instead of scrutinizing chemicals in wide use, for
example, the studies are focused on a handful of banned chemicals
no longer regarded as the prime suspects they were a decade
contrast to Newsday's extensive coverage by Fagin, the New York
Times ran an op-ed
by Gina Kolata. A key passage: "And even if there is a
link [between contamination and breast cancer], several experts
said, it may be beyond the capacity of science to find it."
This is an important observation and consistent with the limits
of what can be concluded from the study, yet Kolata goes on to mischaracterize
the key findings, writing: " those who got breast cancer were
no more likely to have been exposed to the chemicals than those
fact, the study found that current levels of specific organochlorine
levels in the women's blood are not associated with an elevated
risk of breast cancer.
This is not the same as Kolata's reinterpretation, because
current levels may not accurately reflect past exposures.
An unresolved question is whether contamination levels at the time
of diagnosis accurately reflect exposure levels at the time of biological
impact of the contaminant, which may have been decades earlier.
As the authors of the study note: "These data do not rule out
the possibility, however, that breast cancer risk is elevated by
high organochlorine exposures several decades earlier."
on the research itself and the limitations of epidemiology...
July 2002. An independent scientific panel appointed by the US Food
and Drug Administration admonished the FDA to put strong
warnings on tuna because mercury contamination levels in
canned and fresh tuna are high enough to pose a threat to the developing
fetus and children. The panel concluded that current FDA recommendations,
no more than 2 cans of tuna per week, were too weak. Even
at very low contamination levels, mercury can interfere with brain
representatives said that developing new recommendations were now
a high priority. Ten states including Michigan, Wisconsin and Maine
already have tuna advisories more restrictive that the FDA's.
panel's recommendation received widespread coverage in the press
Francisco Chronicle, Associated Press, etc.)
scientific review was forced in April 2002 by scandalous
revelations that the tuna industry had undue influence on FDA's
July 2002. An elegant series of field and laboratory experiments
with wood frogs reveals that pesticides
(atrazine, malathion and esfenvalerate) at very low levels damage
the frogs' immune system and thereby impair their ability to resist
infection by parasites. The parasite cysts imbedded in
the growing tadpole then cause limb deformities. It thus appears
that what had thought to be two competing
ideas about why deformities have become so common—parasites
vs. pesticides— are actually working in concert together.
July 2002. The US Food and Drug Administration
issued a recommendation
that certain medical equipment containing the phthalate
DEHP (diethylhexyl phthalate) should be avoided
in procedures that involve newbord male babies, pregnant women who
are carrying male fetuses, and boys around the age of puberty. The
recommendation is based upon animal
experiments demonstrating that DEHP interferes with
the normal development of the male reproductive tract,
at levels comparable to DEHP levels leaching out of medical equipment
like PVC-based intravenous (IV) bags and tubing, umbilical artery
catheters, blood bags and infusion tubing. FDA's finding come after
a long, public debate between industry and public health experts,
which at one point even had Dr. C Everett Koop on the side of industry.
Koop and the industry front group, American Council on Science
and Health, organized a sham
review of DEHP in an attempt to quash a move toward stronger
standards. This decision by the FDA repudiates that panel.
FDA recommends that when possible, DEHP-free devices be used, and
points to The
Sustainable Hospitals Project (based at the Lowell Center for
Sustainable Production, Univ. Mass) as a source of information about
July 2002. Results from Taiwan provide strong support for earlier
studies suggesting that exposure prior to adulthood to dioxin-like
compounds will decrease the likelihood of
fathering male offspring. This effect of contamination
may be contributing to declines in the proportion of boys born in
a number of industrialized countries. More...
June 2002. The Center for Children's Health and the Environment
of Mt Sinai Hospital School of Medicine (New York)
began running a series of opinion-advertisements (op-ads) about
environmental contamination and children's health.
The op-ads summarized research on a range of problems linked to
contamination—learning disabilities, childhood cancers, reproductive
tract anomalies—and asked, given that these links are highly
plausible even if not absolutely certain, why can't there be stronger
protections in place. A recurring theme in the op-ad series is that
current testing standards of both old and new chemicals
are inadequate to protect human health. "Wouldn't
we all be better off if chemicals had to be tested for safety before
they were put on the market." Mt Sinai also published a companion
to present the scientific basis for its op-ad series. PDF files
of the ads are also available at the site.
on the inadequacy of current testing...
May 2002. Research published in the US Proceedings of the National
Academy of Sciences indicates that genistein, an
abundant phytoestrogen in soy, and thus in soy-based infant
formula, has adverse effects on the immune system
of mice. These effects appear at serum levels comparable
to those regularly experienced by infants feeding on soy-based formula.
It would be prudent for the US
to follow Britain's lead, and restrict the use of soy-based
formula exclusively to cases that are medically-required.
May 2002. Rep. Louise Slaughter (D, NY) introduced legislation
on 9 May that would authorize the National Institute of Environmental
Health Sciences and the U.S. Geological Survey to spend up to
$500 million on endocrine disruption over five years beginning in
2003. The bill, "The Hormone Disruptor Research Act of
2002" (HR 4709) currently has no co-sponsors. At a press conference
announcing the bill, Slaughter indicated
that if it does not pass this year she will re-introduce it in the
next legislative session. The legislation would encourage more research
on low dose effects of endocrine-disrupting compounds. The Congressional
findings that justify the bill include:
compounds found or introduced into the environment by human
activity are capable of disrupting the hormone system of
humans and animals. The consequences of such disruption
can be profound because of the crucial role hormones play
in controlling development. No standardized and validated
screens or tests have been developed to routinely and systematically
assess chemicals for disruptive effects on hormone systems."
the last 30 years, the United States has experienced an
increase in the incidence of such human disorders as childhood
cancers, testicular cancer, hypospadias, juvenile diabetes,
attention deficit-like hyperactivity disorders, autism,
thyroid disorders, and auto-immune disorders. Exposure to
hormone-disrupting chemicals may be contributing to these
increases. The impact on children's health as a result of
prenatal exposures in particular needs further research."
details are available at the Library of Congress's website.
Scientists should convey their sense of the importance of this research
investment to their Congressional
May 2002. The Daily
Herald (suburban Chicago) reports that demonstrators picketed
the annual stockholder meeting of Stericycle to protest the
company's medical waste incinerators. Led by DC-based Health
Care Without Harm (HCWH), the protestors wore plaster casts
of pregnant bellies to draw attention to the presence of dioxin,
mercury and other reproductive toxicants in emissions from hospital
incinerators. Based in Lake Forest, IL, Stericycle is the world's
largest medical waste disposal company. The demonstrators are urging
Stericycle to shift to waste management methods that do not use
incineration. According to the
Daily Herald, Stericycle barred a newspaper reporter from the annual
meeting, and the hotel in which the meeting was taking place unexpectedly
ejected HCWH from a room it had rented for a press conference.
May 2002. An international team of epidemiologists published a study
of women exposed to dioxin during the 1976 chemical plant explosion
in Seveso, Italy. Their results indicate that the
risk of breast cancer is increased by exposure to dioxin.
Their research is especially valuable because the assessment of
chemical exposure is based on blood samples gathered shortly after
the explosion, and because now over two decades have passed
since exposure, allowing for impacts with long latencies to be manifest.
This is very unusual in studies of breast cancer and adds
to the importance of their findings. More...
May 2002. On the Scripps Howard News Service, reporter
Joan Lowy describes a new global review of research on endocrine
disruption which concludes that the strength of the animal data
on endocrine disruption justifies
concerns about human health. To date, however, human data are
weak... key studies have simply not been conducted. The review was
conducted by the International Programme on Chemical Safety (IPCS)
in collaboration with the U.S. National Institute of Environmental
Health Sciences. IPCS itself is sponsored by the World Health Organization,
the United Nations Environment Programme, and the International
Labor Organization. Two companion articles by Lowy examined links
between chemicals and hypospadias and an effort
by one California family to reduce exposures. More
on the global review... More
May 2002. A study published in the scientific journal Food Additives
and Contaminants reports that, contrary to the assertions of
several chemical industry advocates (including John Stossel of ABC),
organic food carries demonstrably and significantly lower pesticide
contamination than conventionally-grown produce or produce grown
using integrated pest management techniques. This
reassuring but unsurprising result will help establish the baseline
against which further improvements mandated by the Food Quality
Protection Act of 1996 in conventional and IPM-based agriculture
can be compared. More...
May 2002. The Seattle
Post-Intelligencer reports on as-yet unpublished reports
that an Orca (killer whale) that was found on a beach on the
Olympic Peninsula's Dungeness Spit in January 2002 contains
the highest levels of PCB ever measured in an Orca, or close
thereto: 1,000 parts per million in its fat tissue, or one
part per thousand. This level was so high that the equipment
had to be recalibrated after a first run was unable measure
such intense PCB contamination. The report quotes a scientist
involved in the study,Gina Ylitalo from the National Marine
Fisheries Service: "She basically knocked our instruments
off. We had no idea we'd see these levels."
study of this Orca population had revealed high levels
of PCB contamination, but nothing that approached the load
in this female.
May 2002. In the latest in a remarkable investigative series
by reporter Ben Raines, the Mobile Register reveals that EPA Administrator
Christie Todd Whitman gave Senator Richard Shelby (R, AL) misleading
and inaccurate information. Since July 2001, Raines has been reporting
on new discoveries about high level mercury contamination in the
Gulf of Mexico. In
this new article, Raines reports
on a March 2002 letter from Whitman to Shelby in which she asserts
that EPA studies from the 1980s established that mercury contamination
is not a health problem in Gulf of Mexico fish. It turns out that
the studies to which she referred were not conducted by EPA, were
based upon out-of-date methodologies, and offer no basis on which
to dismiss concerns about mercury in Gulf fish.
May 2002. Newly published research in the scientific journal "Ecological
Monographs" demonstrates a strong link between the distribution
of trematode parasites in the American west and the pattern of occurrence
of deformities in frogs and salamanders. Combined with earlier
work demonstrating that trematode infestions can induce limb
and other malformations, this new study establishes conclusively
that trematodes are an important, if not the primary, cause of amphibian
deformities in the American west. Two
questions remain: why have trematode-induced malformations become
so common so recently, and what is happening in the North American
mid-west and east, where the current data do not support a strong
link between parasites and deformities? More...
May 2002. According to the
Orlando Sentinel, an as yet-unidentified contaminant is leaking
from one of the country's oldest Superfund sites into the Florida
Aquifer, Central Florida's primary source of drinking water.
The leak is at the Tower Chemical site near Lake Apopka that has
become infamous through Louis
Guillette's studies of reproductive impairment of alligators
living in the lake. EPA had ended cleanup of the site a decade ago,
concluding that additional spread of the contamination was unlikely
and that natural breakdown processes would gradually reduce the
contaminants' toxicity. What was not suspected at that time was
that a sinkhole penetrated from surface through a clay layer that
had been thought to protect the Florida Aquifer from surface contamination.
New sampling has confirmed that
a contaminant of unknown identify and uncertain toxicity has reached
the aquifer and is beginning to spread.
May 2002. Summarized in Environmental
Science and Technology, data from sampling sites downstream
of cattle feedlots reveals significant levels of hormonally-active
compounds and fish with altered sexual development. Almost all
of the tens of millions of cattle in feedlots in the US receive
some form of pharmaceutical treatment for growth enhancement. One
common treatment is trembolone acetate, a powerful androgenic growth
enhancer. Heretofore very little attention has been paid to the
fate of synthetic hormones in the environment after use in cattle
feed lots. The assumption has been that they were deactivated metabolically
before excretion. According to Louis
Guillette, one of the scientists studying the impacts on fish
downstream of feedlots: "Once it comes out the tail end
of a cow we havent been interested. Now we need to reconsider
April 2002. The LA
Times describes research on transpacific transport of air pollution
from Asia via an "atmospheric conveyor belt." Especially
during spring, large quantities of relatively undiluted pollution
reach North America via air currents. Contaminants in the traveling
air masses include mercury, ozone and pesticides, as well as dust.
The LA Times quotes Dr. Rudolf Husar, director of the Center for
Air Pollution Impact and Trend Analysis at Washington
University in St. Louis: "Once the pollution gets on that conveyor
belt, it often doesn't run into clouds or weather systems and doesn't
mix or fall out of the air, so you have largely undiluted pollution
arriving in North America." [more
on related research]
April 2002. A report
in Toronto's Globe and Mail describes scientific research at
the University of Waterloo, in Ontario Canada, indicating that low
level exposure to some pesticides can reduce a frog's ability to
resist disease very dramatically. DDT and malathion both reduced
antibody levels to only 1 or 2 percent, comparable to the impact
of a drug used in medicine to suppress immune systems in humans,
cyclophosphamide. According to the The Globe and Mail, the lead
researcher on the study, Brian Dixon "was "shocked"
that negligible amounts of pesticides were so biologically active."
The scientists found that doses of DDT as low as 75 parts per billion
caused immune system problems in frogs. Malathion and dieldrin also
had deleterious effects. The researchers
also found that frogs living in different places in Ontario had
major differences in immune system effectiveness that reflected
the intensity of pesticide use in different areas. The study will
be published later in the year in the scientific journal Environmental
Toxicology and Chemistry.
April 2002. In a Congressional hearing on Capitol Hill, a bipartisan
team of Senators blasted the EPA as well as the Alabama Department
of Environmental Management and Monsanto/Solutia in hearings about
massive PCB contamination in Anniston, Alabama, according
to reports the Washington
Post and the Anniston
Star. The Post quotes Alabama Republican Senator Richard Shelby:
"You've botched this. The EPA does not have the trust or confidence
of this committee, and we're your funding committee." Reviewing
the facts that two senior EPA officials have ties to industry in
Alabama (EPA deputy administrator Linda Fisher was formerly a Monsanto
lobbyist), Senator Barbara Mikulski
observed "this is just loaded with conflicts of interest. I'm
very troubled. Who's going to be able to do anything about this
if everyone's recused?" According to the Star, Mikulski observed
that it was "uncharacteristic" for the EPA administrator
to appoint officers with a major conflict of interest.
Senator Mikulski should take a look throughout the Bush Administration.
For example, the NYT
reports on links between Bush energy appointees and the energy
biggest conflict is likely to be in the person of John Graham, administrator
of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at the Office
of Management and Budget. According to the NYT:
"powerful department advises the president on regulatory
change, particularly on environmental and public health issues.
Mr. Graham is the founding director of the Harvard Center
for Risk Analysis, a nonprofit organization financed by
some of the country's largest energy and chemical companies,
including ExxonMobil and Dow Chemical. The center's benefactors
include the nation's biggest producers of dioxins, a substance
widely thought to be carcinogenic, environmental groups said.
April 2002. The Sacramento
Bee reports that EPA has agreed to settle a lawsuit with environmental
organizations over the effects of 18 commonly-used pesticides on
salmon and woodland plants. The settlement
requires EPA to analyze possible impacts of the pesticides on 7
salmon and 33 plant species, and to take steps to "minimize
the pesticides' effects." Pesticides covered by the consent
decree include including chlorpyrifos, diazinon, atrazine, Roundup,
and 2,4-D. The suit was brought in August 2000
for Alternatives to Toxins, The Environmental Information Protection
Center, and the Humboldt Watershed Council. The settlement will
become final after a public comment period to be announced on EPA's
research on salmon and pesticides]
April 2002. Toronto's Globe and Mail reports
on a study
conducted by a consortium of Canada's cancer registries that concludes
cancers in young adult Canadians are increasing.
"The incidence of thyroid cancer among young people leads the
way, a report says, with a 6.6-per-cent rise among women and a 4.4-per-cent
rise among men. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is affecting 3.5 per cent
more women and 4 per cent more men." According to the Globe
and Mail, "older Canadians still account for the vast bulk
of cancer diagnoses, [the report] called the rise among younger
links non-Hodgkin's lymphoma to contamination]
April 2002. The NYT
and SF Chronicle
report on Tyrone Hayes' research on atrazine and frogs (next story,
below), The Times quotes Stan Dodson from Univ. Wisconsin:
"the most important paper in environmental toxicology in
decades." The Chronicle gives more details of the study,
and writes: "Despite the many unknowns, scientists said they
were troubled by evidence of reproductive defects in animals exposed
to extraordinarily low concentrations of atrazine -- down to as
little as 0.1 part per billion." Additional coverage also in
April 2002. Research by scientists at the University of California,
Berkeley, reveals that the most abundantly used herbicide in the
world, atrazine, disrupts the development of frogs at extraordinarily
low levels of exposure. Over 15% of males of the classic "laboratory
rat" of the frog world, Xenopus laevus, developed hermaphroditic
reproductive tracts when exposed, during development, to 0.1
parts per billion atrazine. The researcher
team, led by Dr. Tyrone Hayes,also noted demasculinization of secondary
sexual characteristics and alterations in serum hormone levels.
April 2002. In comments to the press and on Capitol Hill, US EPA
Administrator Christie Todd Whitman announced that the Bush Administration
will support Senate ratification of the Stockholm
Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, except for a
section in the Convention that provides for adding additional chemicals
to the Convention on the basis of new science. The Convention,
signed in May 2001, details steps to be taken to reduce and eliminate
production of 12
contaminants that meet a set of stringent scientific criteria
about their persistence, bioaccumulative nature and toxicity.
provision in the treaty established a process by which additional
chemicals could be added as scientific evidence warranted. This
provision had already been watered down signficantly from early
drafts because of maneuvering
by the US during the final hours of treaty negotiations in May
2001. US efforts had also attacked this provision in an early round
of negotiations, in December
2000. Whitman's announcement takes that one step farther, revealing
that the Administration's proposed enabling legislation will simply
omit that provision altogether, even though
the Administration had accepted the final negotiated version and
signed the treaty.
reported in the Los
Angeles Times, the Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public
Works Committee, James Jeffords (I, VT), criticized the Administration's
action and offered alternative legislation which includes support
for the provision for adding new chemicals to the treaty. In a statement
to the press, Jeffords said "To send
up this proposal without the ability to regulate new harmful substances
is shortsighted and does not fulfill our commitment to this global
April 2002. In a collaborative assessment of current scientific
understanding of the risks of endocrine-disrupting chemicals, the
US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the World
Health Organization conclude (Chapter 1.7):
the biological plausibility of possible damage to certain human
functions (particularly, reproductive and developing systems)
from exposure to EDCs seems strong when viewed against the background
of known influences of endogenous and exogenous hormones on
many of these processes. Furthermore, the evidence of adverse
outcomes in wildlife and laboratory animals exposed to EDCs
substantiates human concerns.
The changes in human health trends in some areas (for some outcomes)
are also sufficient to warrant concern and make this area a
high research priority, but non-EDC mechanisms also need to
be explored." (emphasis added)
April 2002. Scientists from Canada report that polybrominated diphenyl
ether levels are now increasing exponentially in Arctic seal tissues,
tracking exponential increases in PBDE production volumes. The rate
of increase of brominated flame retardants in the Arctic is so
rapid that they will overtake
PCBs as the most prevalent persistent bioaccumulative organohalogen
in that region by 2050, even though PBDE contamination is currently
only 1/50th that of PCBs. More...
March 2002. A research team led by CDC chemist John Brock reports
on a pilot study of children in the Imperial Valley, California,
finding that all children sampled contained metabolic residues of
phthalates in their urine, some at levels significantly above adult
previously. The types of phthalates detected suggest that exposure
is via consumer products such as fragrance-containing soaps, shampoos
and perfumes, as well as nail polish and beauty products. The presence
of the metabolic byproduct of diethylhexyl
phthalate (DEHP) indicates that another route of exposure was via
DEHP-containing toys. More...
March 2002. Nonylphenols were discovered in the late 1980s to be
estrogen mimics. Now a team of German scientists reports that nonylphenols
are present in a wide variety of foods bought in German marketplaces,
everything from gooseberry marmalade to liver sausage to chocolate
crumble to doublecream cheese
and baby foods. All samples exampled contained measurable amounts
of nonylphenols. More...
March 2002. Elizabeth
Bluemink writes in the Anniston Star that Congress has scheduled
for 19 April a review of the EPA consent decree that requires
Solutia and Monsanto to pay for clean-up of massive PCB contamination
in the Anniston area. The hearing will be hosted by the Senate subcommittee
on Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development and Independent
Agencies. According to the Star, Solutia is attempting to use the
consent decree as a reason to dismiss a lawsuit against it by 3,500
residents of the Anniston area. A related
story (24 March) in the Washington Post reports:
Solutia is arguing that since it has signed a consent decree
with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Department,
the Alabama judge has no business ordering additional cleanup
measures. Donald Stewart, an attorney for 3,500 residents suing
Solutia, described the settlement as a "sweetheart deal"
and attacked the Bush administration for overruling state
environmental officials who have joined his lawsuit.
March 2002. According to a
report in the Anniston Star, the judge overseeing the Anniston,
Alabama PCB case against Solutia/Monsanto accused
Monsanto lawyers of making false statements in depositions.
March 2002. A provocative series in the London Independent covers
concerns in Britain about increases in birth defects, decreases
in fertility and the presence of feminizing chemicals in British
one part of the series, Health Editor Jeremy Laurance describes
research in Britain indicating that the numbers of babies with birth
defects has risen by 50% in the last 5 years. The research was conducted
by The Birth Defects Foundation (BDF). Its calculations indicate
that the total number of birth defects in British infants is "six
times higher than the Government's own figures for neonatal abnormalities
and amounts to one in 16 of all births. However, the Office of National
Statistics admits its own figures do not reflect the scale of the
problem." While BDF reports that some types of birth defects
are declining in frequency, there has been a sharp rise in three
specific defects cleft lip or palate, gastroschisis (abnormality
of the abdominal wall) and hypospadias
(abnormality of the genitals).
second piece by reporters Geoffrey Lean and Richard Sadler summarizes
data obtained by the British Environment Agency indicating "that
half of all the male fish in lowland rivers are changing sex as
a result of pollution."
the third story,
Men are less fertile than hamsters," reporters Geoffrey
Lean and Richard Sadler examine evidence of reduced male fertility
in England. They refer to an investigation by the BBC's Countryfile
and The Independent on Sunday which "shows that artificial
oestrogens, used in contraceptive pills and emitted through sewage
works, appear to be changing the sex of half the fish in Britain's
lowland rivers... Scientists and environmentalists
fear that the powerful chemicals are getting into drinking water
and affecting human fertility. One third of Britain's drinking water
comes from rivers; most of it is taken from below sewage works."
March 2002. The US EPA has reached an agreement with Monsanto/Solutia
over a consent decree that will force the companies to clean up
PCBs dumped by Monsanto during decades in the Anniston AL environment.
According to coverage
in the Anniston Star, "the PCBs have been found to have polluted
the air, ditches and yards in low-income neighborhoods as well as
rural and urban creeks, recreational lakes and a 40-mile stretch
of floodplain." The consent decree will allow the EPA to avoid
declaring the contaminated region a SuperFund site, unless Monsanto/Solutia
back away from the stipulated plans for clean-up. If Solutia cannot
afford the costs, Monsanto and Pharmacia (Monsanto's parent company)
must supply additional funding. While EPA officials touted the agreement
as "one of the best" we've ever had, environmentalists,
Anniston city officials and public health specialists challenged
the adequacy of the arrangement, according to further
coverage in the Anniston Star. The
judge overseeing a suit by local citizens and the city of Anniston
both indicated they are likely to seek additional remedies beyond
those sought by EPA.
February 2002. A jury found Monsanto/Solutia guilty of "outrageous
behavior" for releasing tons of PCBs into the city of Anniston
and then covering up its actions for decades. According to reports
in the Washington
Post, the New
York Times and the Anniston
Star, the jury held Monsanto and its corporate successors liable
on all six counts of the allegations: negligence, wantonness, suppression
of the truth, nuisance, trespass and outrage. The finding of outrage
is especially telling, as the standards of Alabama law
require behavior "so outrageous in character and extreme in
degree as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency so as to
be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in civilized society."
February 2002. EPA has reached an agreement with manufacturers of
chromated copper arsenate treated wood for a partial phase-out
of the product, to be spread over 2 years, according to a
report in the Washington Post. The companies settled in the
face of class-action lawsuits brought against retailers, distributors
and manufacturers of CCA-treated wood products, such as playground
structures. The lawsuits allege that the companies failed to inform
consumers of the health risks created by the lumber. According to
the EPA, this agreement speeds the pace at which CCA products will
be removed from consumer products because it shortcuts a evaluation
by EPA of CCA related risks,which together with a subsequent phase-out
could have taken as long as 5 years.
While praising the move, environmental and health groups are critical
of the fact that this settlement allows for continuing sales in
the near-term and does nothing to address the millions of installed
products in homes and playgrounds around the country, which create
ongoing exposure risks for children. According to the National Coalition
against the Misuse of Pesticides: "while the groups welcome
any action that reduces continued exposure to these chemicals, which
are linked to cancer, nervous system damage and birth defects, they
say that there is no justification to allow continued public exposure
because alternative materials are available."
to retail stores such as Home Depot and Lowes in weeks after the
agreement was reached confirm that sales of CCA wood continue to
consumers. Small, obscure labels now carefully identify each piece
of CCA wood--no doubt to limit liability--but there is no signage
of any scale to caution customers nor, beyond the small labels,
any suggestion that protective measures should be taken while handling
the wood. In Charlottesille, Virginia, at the local Lowes, customers
seemed oblivious to the phase-out, and allowed children to clambor
on CCA wood piled in carts as parents took it toward the check-out
counter. Lowes employees made no attempt to stop the behavior.
to test for the presence of arsenic on wood structures are available
via the Environmental
February 2002. Research published in the American Journal of Epidemiology
finds inconclusive support for the hypothesis that DDE acting as
an anti-androgen causes reproductive tract birth defects in boys.
The study assayed umbilical blood stored since the 1960s for DDE
and looked for statistical associations between birth outcome and
DDE level. Their analysis found indications of elevations in risk
but the results remained ambigous. More...
February 2002. A report
in the Los Angeles Times describes growing scientific concerns
about potential health and ecological risks caused by a widespread
type of chemical flame retardant,polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE).
According to the Times, "Swedish scientists first documented
the increase of PBDE in humans. For 30 years, Sweden has sampled
the breast milk of nursing mothers to track exposure to dioxin,
PCBs and other pollutants that accumulate in body fat...In 1998,
Swedish scientists reported that
levels of PBDE in breast milk had increased 40-fold since 1972."
While the toxicity of PBDE is poorly understood, preliminary
indications are that it is potent thyroid disruptor and thus
capable of undermining brain development. The LA Times story quotes
Swedish toxicologist Per Eriksson: "What we have seen in our
developmental neurotoxicity studies . . . is that PBDEs can be as
toxic as the PCBs." In fact the preliminary indications, above,
indicate PBDE is likely to be worse than PCBs.
January 2002. A report by a panel convened by Health Canada, the
Canadian equivalent of the US Food and Drug Administration, recommends
steps be taken to reduce exposure to di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate
(DEHP) during medical procedures. The recommendation was based on
from laboratory animals that DEHP is a reproductive toxicant.
Specific recommendations focused on reducing exposure to several
women and pregnant mothers
and males before puberty undergoing surgical procedures, transfusions,
males undergoing heart surgery and hemodialysis
panel recommended that products containing DEHP be labelled. It
did conclude, however, that DEHP use in blood-bag storage should
be continued because of it extends the shelf-life of stored blood.
January 2002.In a front
page story in the Anniston Star, reporter Elizabeth Bluemink
describes the case being prepared by victims of Monsanto's massive
PCB contamination of the Anniston area:
claim property damages, personal injuries, fraud, mental anguish
or a combination of these and other related claims. They ask
the judge to order dredging of the waterways and removal of
two old landfills, one of which contains an estimated excess
of 10 million pounds of PCBs, which are probable carcinogens.
Also, they ask the jury to assess punitive damages against the
company. It is a complicated case, with, reportedly, more than
a half-billion dollars at stake."
and Solutia (which took over Monsanto's chemical operations) continue
to claim they acted responsibly. Yet even as recently as March 2001,
in an exchange published by the Anniston Star, Solutia's environmental
officer belittled health concerns about PCBs. More...
see the Anniston Star's PCB archives
Front page Washinton Post story (1 January
January 2002. Detailed analysis of the Philip
Morris document file by PRWatch.org
reveals the tobacco origins of three websites currently involved
in attacks on environmental protection, www.junkscience.com, www.guestchoice.com
and www.activistcash.com. The explicit purpose of these sites,
funded by the tobacco, chemical, restaurant
and related industries, is to undermine support for public health
January 2002. Solutia stock was hammered after a Washington Post
story (see below) about PCB contamination drew attention to a civil
suit seeking damages on behalf of 3,600 people in and around Anniston,
Alabama. The stock fell 10% on 2 January and another 26% on 3 January.
Monsanto sold its chemical business in
1997 to Solutia. More...
now Monsanto wants the public to trust it on biotechnology issues...
January 2002. The Washington
Post reports in a front page article on devastating PCB
and mercury contamination in Anniston, Alabama, a result of
years of pollution by Monsanto. Internal documents from Monsanto
reveal that the company was aware of the extent of the pollution
but for decades engaged in a cover-up. From the Post:
1966, Monsanto managers discovered that fish submerged in
that creek turned belly-up within 10 seconds, spurting blood
and shedding skin as if dunked into boiling water. They told
no one. In 1969, they found fish in another creek with 7,500
times the legal PCB levels. They decided "there is little
object in going to expensive extremes in limiting discharges."
In 1975, a company study found that PCBs caused tumors in
rats. They ordered its conclusion changed from "slightly
tumorigenic" to "does not appear to be carcinogenic."
enjoyed a lucrative four-decade monopoly on PCB production
in the United States, and battled to protect that monopoly
long after PCBs were confirmed as a global pollutant. "We
can't afford to lose one dollar of business," one internal
article in the Post tells the story of Ruth Mim's, an Anniston
resident whose blood levels of PCBs are among the highest ever recorded
in someone contaminated by PCBs who was not
exposed in the workplace.
an editorial on Monsanto's gift to Anniston, invited by the Anniston
Star, 25 Feb 2001...
Solutia's published reponse to the editorial...
a published response to Solutia's statement...
More information available at The
Chemical Industry Archives...
January 2002. An article in the November 2001 issue of the American
Journal of Public Health reveals that the Chemical Manufacturers
Association assisted tobacco company Philip Morris in funding The
Advancement for Sound Science Coalition, a sham operation designed
to undermine the use of epidemiology
in setting public health standards. It turns out that the "junkscience"
website is nothing more than part of a tobacco ploy to avoid public
health regulations. More...