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Archive: Body Burden - MOMS.

PBDEs, IQ and Your Couch!

9:59 pm in Activism, Body Burden, Breast milk, Children's Health, Consumer Products by Analisa Garcia

kid_couchYou may have heard warnings about exposure to flame retardant chemicals in everyday products, and a recent article put out by environmentalhealthnews.org links flame retardant exposure with lower IQ, poorer attention and motor skills in children. This is yet another reminder why everyone, especially women of childbearing age, pregnant women and young children should avoid exposure to PBDEs and other toxic flame retardants.

What began as an attempt to save lives from fires in homes has now been linked to neurodevelopment effects in children; including higher probabilities of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, as well as lower reasoning, verbal, and IQ test scores.

Flame retardants were added to home furnishings in response to pressure on tobacco companies to address the issue of fire safety related to cigarette smoking. Instead of creating cigarettes that would self-extinguish, couches and other household items were doused in toxic flame retardants. Without government regulation that would require proof that exposure to flame retardants is safe, chemical companies have been able to profit while flame retardants have done far more harm than good. Fire safety experts and government studies conclude that flame retardants are ultimately ineffective. Furthermore, an investigation by the Chicago Tribune shows that these flame retardants are harmful and unnecessary!

PBDEs 101

Polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDEs) is the second largest class of additives in the plastic industry used in home furnishings and in computers and other electronics.
PBDEs are considered Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), meaning they leach out into the air and dust, and are ingested by animals. Humans consume PBDEs through inhalation of dust and consumption of animal fats. PBDEs levels in dust exceed levels in food by up to a thousand times, making dust a primary route of exposure.

PBDEs are stored in our fatty tissue, where they remain for years. This makes them highly concentrated in breast milk, which poses an increased threat to nursing infants. Infants who are not breast-fed are still exposed to PBDEs in the womb from maternal blood.Children have higher levels of PBDE concentrations than adults because they tend to play on the ground where dust accumulates. Dust also gets onto their hands, which they often place in their mouths, increasing exposure.

Californians are even more susceptible to PBDEs exposure compared to the rest of the United States, and have levels seven to ten times higher than other states. The cities with some of the highest known levels of PBDEs were found to be Oakland and Salinas, areas where predominately low-income communities of color reside.

Although some flame retardants have been phased out, others remain in older furniture. This poses a higher threat to low-income families who do not have the financial means to purchase new home furnishings. Californians are likely to have the highest exposure because of the outdated flammability standard known as TB-117 (take a look at the tag under your couch- it’s likely that your couch complies with this standard).

While this all sounds overwhelming, you can take action! We need to let our elected officials know that we want to get toxic flame retardants out of our homes and our bodies. California Governor Jerry Brown’s administration is proposing new rules that would change California’s flammability standard. The changes would exempt many baby products including car seats, changing pads and infant mattresses from the flammability standard. There is a 45-day public comment period in which chemical companies will try to dispute the proposed changes. It is urgent that we show our support now!

Exposure to PBDEs is unavoidable, but there are things you can do to limit your exposure:

• Wash your hands frequently to reduce exposure from dust.
• Use a vacuum fitted with a high-efficiency particulate air(HEPA) filter, which can be found in most home improvement stores, and wet mop to reduce dust.
• Avoid products filled with polyurethane foam and instead purchase products with wool, organic cotton, or polyester fiberfill.
• Cover and seal rips in upholstery that may reveal polyurethane foam
• Reduce your consumption of animal fat, because PBDEs bio accumulate in fatty tissues
• Check the “Do Not Remove” label on your mattress to see if it contains PBDEs. If you cannot afford to buy a new, natural fiber mattress, you can purchase an allergen barrier casing for your mattress to reduce leaching.

Another Hall of Shame

10:43 pm in Activism, Air, Body Burden, Children's Health, Food, Water by cmargulis

Crossposted from our toxic-fighting parent organization, the Center for Environmental Health

Yesterday, for the first time since 1996, no players were chosen for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Many first-time nominees, including Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and several others were considered reputation-damaged, steroid-tainted players. In the run-up to the vote, the New York Times noted that this years’ scurrilous Hall of Shame nominees would hardly be exceptional additions in Cooperstown, which is already stocked with racists, gamblers, and drug users, among other miscreants.

But another Hall of Shame deserves some new (and some returning) inductees this year. Below, our choices (some current and some lifetime achievement nominees) for the corporate Hall of Shame.

Flame retardant chemical companies: The flame retardant industry deserves a lifetime achievement spot, based on their decades-long campaign (in concert with the tobacco industry, as the Chicago Tribune exposed in 2012) to mislead the public about their harmful products. The industry’s now defunct front group Citizens for Fire Safety and their lead “expert” witness Dr. David Heimbach deserve special mention for their dirty tricks campaigns and lying to public officials.

Alpha Natural Resources: The largest mountaintop removal mining company, Alpha took over the notorious Massey Energy company, after that corporate criminal’s deadly Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster nearly sunk the company. According to the Appalachian Community Health Emergency, mountaintop removal mining sites are responsible for “shockingly disproportionate levels of cancer, heart disease, pulmonary disease, birth defects and other physical and mental illnesses. More than four thousand people die in West Virginia communities every year because they live near such sites.” Local residents and environmental groups have sued Alpha repeatedly for its polluting operations, but the company remains unabashed. After another mining company recently acknowledged the damage from mountaintop removal and reached a legal agreement to phase-out such operations, Alpha told reporters, “(T)his does not affect our mining plans.”

Monsanto: A shoe-in for lifetime achievement in creating polluting products (among other crimes and lies), Monsanto makes it this year for serving as the chief funder of the lie-filled campaign against California’s GMO labeling ballot initiative. With upcoming GMO labeling votes in New Mexico, Washington and other states, expect Monsanto to be a perennial Hall of Shame inductee.

Apple: Apple appeared to dodge the shameful bullet early last year, when reports on the company’s labor practices focused on the embellishments in a one-man show about the company and not on the documented abuses. In the fall, further reports of misdeeds by the company’s Foxxconn i-Phone contractor showed it was business as usual at Apple. Also in 2012, Apple quietly withdrew from the environmental standards group EPEAT, then returned to the group and won questionable approval for their environmentally-questionable MacBook Pro.

Bayer: Bayer makes the list this year for their neonicotinoid pesticides, chemicals that scientists have linked to bee colony collapse. The EPA gets an assist for this nomination: in 2003 the agency granted a “conditional” approval for clothianidin, the company’s widely sold neonicotinoid. Despite failing to meet the registration’s conditions, and despite the latest science about potentially devastating loss of bee populations, EPA ten years later still allows the company to sell the nasty pesticide. The problem is so bad that even the financial journal Forbes posted a plea last year for signatures on a petition to Bayer to stop production of the product.

Dennis Paustenbach: A Hall of Shame award for worst individual in service to dirty industries goes to Paustenbach, who has a long track record of shameful behavior. CEH first exposed Paustenbach in 2003, when he served on a state science panel convened to investigate massive water pollution by PG&E (including the revelations uncovered by Erin Brockovich in Hinckley, CA). Turns out Paustenbach had received large payments during his career for work with PG&E, but he claimed he had not worked for the company in years. In fact, at the time the panel was convened Paustembach’s company had a contract to work for PG&E on hexchrome. Given this history, we were not surprised when the Chicago Tribune outed Paustenbach for his contributions to the flame retardant industry’s dirty public relations campaign (see above).

Shell Oil: According to a UN report, the gas company (known formally as Royal Dutch Shell) holds primary responsibility for 50 years of oil pollution that devastated the Ogoniland region of Nigeria, part of the Niger Delta, home to 31 million people and one of the world’s most important wetland and coastal marine ecosystems. Yet the company has evaded responsibility for the damage caused by its hugely profitable oil operations. Last year, four Nigerian villagers again took Shell to court, this time to Dutch civil court in The Hague, the first such suit in the company’s home country. Shell denied responsibility, blaming Nigerian saboteurs for decades of the company’s pollution.

Aqua Bounty: The GMO salmon company is bemoaning the lengthy government review of their Frankenfish, which if approved would be the first lab-created animal food species allowed, unlabeled, into the food supply. This may not sound like something you’d want to rush to the dinner table, but if you complain, company CEO Ron Stotish thinks you’re just being “disingenuous.” This from a company that claims that releases of its GMO fish into the wild would be virtually impossible – unless you count the previous accidental release of their entire 2008 commercial-sized batch. Surely we should trust a company that’s always been open to the public – except when it came to light last year that in 2009 Aqua Bounty’s GMO fish were hit with a new form of a common salmon disease, a problem the company failed to report to the FDA in its lengthy approval documents.

The nuclear power industry: The industry gets a lifetime achievement nod for their hilarious yet tragic “too cheap to meter” promises, given the failure of virtually all nuclear plants to be financially (let alone environmentally) sustainable without massive taxpayer subsidies (as outlined in this brief list of nuclear boondoggles). Fukushima was mostly reported as a “natural disaster,” but was actually the result of decades of mismanagement, lies, and “missed” inspections by Tepco. Similar problems at U.S. nuclear plants at San Onofre, Indian Point, and other plants came to light in 2012. (Looking for a fun party game? Everyone picks the name of a nuclear plant and googles it with the word “mismanagement.” Whoever gets the most results wins!)

The nuclear weapons complex: Another lifetime achievement shoe-in, for 2012 the nukers win a special award for the industry most likely to be toppled by your grandmother. Last year, one of our nation’s most guarded nuclear facilities was breached by an 82-year-old nun, Sister Megan Rice, who with her colleagues passed through four fences and walked around for two hours inside the Oak Ridge, Tennessee nuclear weapons facility. As Sister Megan told the New York Times, the group breached the plant to demonstrate against “(T)he criminality of this 70-year industry. We spend more on nuclear arms than on the departments of education, health, transportation, disaster relief and a number of other government agencies that I can’t remember.” This is hardly the first successful action by an octogenarian against the nuke weapons industry, and not even the first at Oak Ridge: in 2011, Father Bill Bichsel, an 86 year-old priest from Tacoma, Washington and 12 others were arrested for breaching the fences at Oak Ridge

PCBs in Schools: What Parents Need to Know

7:42 pm in Body Burden, Children's Health, Green Building, Green Schools by Lois Gibbs

Was your child’s school built before 1979?  It’s worth it to take a moment and find out!  If so, a group of chemicals called PCBs may be lurking in the light fixtures.  PCBs were previously used as insulation in electrical equipment until the federal government banned their use in 1979 after declaring their harmful impact on the environment and human health.  Unfortunately, these nasty chemicals are persistent, and they continue to be a hazard in buildings, including many schools.  Old light fixtures containing PCBs degrade as they age, leaking on to nearby surfaces or evaporating into the air and compromising indoor air quality.

Are PCBs still harmful?
Exposure to PCBs can cause a wide range of adverse health effects including skin irritation, reproductive and developmental effects, immune effects, and liver damage.  PCBs have a unique characteristic that allows them to accumulate in the fatty tissue of humans, remaining in our bodies and causing damage over time.  According to the EPA, the data strongly suggests that PCBs are probable human carcinogens.  If students or faculty are exposed to PCBs, it can pose short or long-term health effects.  Of greatest concern in a school setting, is that PCBs can negatively impact a child’s ability to learn and remember.  We want our kids to have the best learning environment in order to reach their potential!
Read the rest of this entry →

Before Your Time: Confronting The New Normal of Early Puberty

7:12 pm in Body Burden, Children's Health, Fertility & Reproduction by Mary Brune

Last week I took my daughter Olivia in for her annual well visit with our pediatrician. I expected the eye examination, the flu shot, the questions about school, diet, etc. What I didn’t expect was for our doctor to ask Olivia if any of her classmates (she’s in the third grade) had gotten their periods yet, or if any of them were wearing a bra. And from the way she squirmed in her chair it was obvious she wasn’t expecting to have this conversation either.

Doing what I do, it shouldn’t be any surprise to hear that eight-year-old girls are getting their periods. How many times have I written “early puberty” in a blog post myself? It’s quite a different thing entirely, however, when the reality of what that could mean for your own little girl presents itself.

It’s no big surprise then, that companies like Kotex, who make feminine hygiene products, are beginning to market them to younger girls . If we ever needed proof that early puberty is a new reality, it’s that. Rather than letting companies capitalize on this new market space we parents should be fighting with everything we’ve got the industries and chemicals that have helped to create this new market.
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The Waiting is the Hardest Part

6:20 pm in Activism, Body Burden, Fertility & Reproduction by Mary Brune

OK, so I borrowed the title of this blog from a Tom Petty song, but when you’re just sitting at home, on maternity leave, waiting for the “big event” to happen…those lyrics just ring too true not to use. The waiting is the hardest part. And that’s saying something, especially since I’ve gotten to the point in my pregnancy that I almost need a crane to lift myself out of bed in the morning and duct tape to keep my pants from falling down. I have to endure the multitude of “you’re still pregnant?!!” comments when picking my other two kids up from school each day, and, well, the other unpleasant bits that are part of the bargain when growing a human inside you.

Despite all of the aforementioned issues, I have really enjoyed this pregnancy, especially this third trimester. Maybe that’s because I know it will (knocking very loudly on my wooden desk right now) be my last. There’s something bittersweet about it. But also, it’s likely because I’ve just felt, overall, much better physically than with my previous two pregnancies. And I’m considered to be of “advanced maternal age,” so that’s really saying something.

So, for me, the waiting is excruciating. Even for moms like me who have been there and done that (BTDT moms, in BabyCenter lingo), the experience of having gone through labor and delivery previously doesn’t really prepare you for what lies ahead. Unless you’ve got a scheduled c-section planned—which I don’t— there’s no way of telling when exactly this little bundle will come out to join the world. And for a planner like myself, that’s soooo incredibly hard to deal with. Not only is it hard to not know when the big show is going to begin, but it’s the how that also has my granny-sized panties in a twist. Will my water break first? If so, where will I be when it does? Will it hurt as much as last time, or more so? Will I be able to handle it? How big will this baby be, exactly? Will she be healthy?
Read the rest of this entry →

The Common Bonds of Mammal Motherhood: Pregnant Whales and Me

5:40 pm in Body Burden, Breast milk, Children's Health, Fertility & Reproduction, Legislation by Mary Brune

As a pregnant woman in the third trimester of pregnancy, I confess I sometimes feel an affinity to the whale. While no one has (at least not to my face) used the term “whale” in reference to my growing midsection, it’s still true to say that I feel like whales and I have a lot in common these days. (Although I must say I do not share their grace. I’m very un-whale-like in that regard when putting on underpants, tying shoes, or heaven forbid, trying to shave my legs.)

But last week I was reminded of another common bond between myself and the majestic mammals of the sea: the chemicals we are exposed to are taken into our bodies and passed on to our children in utero. A truth I wish neither of our species had to contend with.

In one of the first studies to measure the transfer of toxins during pregnancy, Arctic researchers sampled blubber from pregnant whales, and then took samples of the calves and compared the exposure levels of PCBs and PBDEs (two classes of flame retardant chemicals) and they found about 11 percent of the total of each chemical was handed down from mother to fetus.

What’s so significant about this study is its ability to show directly that the chemicals are passed on to the fetus during gestation. Depending on when the fetus is exposed,   exposure to these chemicals can interfere with normal growth and development and could even impact future health well into adulthood. Especially concerning is that the chemicals sampled in the study –PCBs and some of the PBDEs tested for—have already been banned. In the case of PCBs, which were banned back in the 1970s, it means that chemicals long extinct from the manufacturing plant are still wreaking havoc in our environment and on our bodies and will continue to do so for generations to come.

That’s quite a heady realization to have while pregnant. And it would be so easy to climb into my bed, pull the covers over my head and pretend it’s not happening. If only it were that easy to make it go away.

So, you might ask, what DO you do? To which I might reply: Whatever it takes. Knowing what we know about chemicals like PCBs  and PBDEs  and knowing what we know about the health effects of those and other long-lived, persistent, bio-accumulative toxins in our environment that are still in use, we must do whatever is necessary to get rid of them now, so what we can to stop the cycle of replacing old toxic chemicals with new toxic chemicals that pollute our environment and damage our health.

You can start by helping to pass The Safe Chemicals Act, which will be up for a vote on the Senate Floor in September.

You can also help put an end to outdated flammability standards that require the use of these flame retardant chemicals in the first place. Encourage the CPSC to enact its draft standards now!

Now I’m off to go to the pool. All this talk about whales makes me want to go swimming.

It’s Time For A New Air Quality Standard

8:39 pm in Air, Body Burden, Children's Health, Legislation by Julia Hannafin

My younger sister Olivia is 13 years old, nearly six years younger than me. She’s kind, hilarious, bold, hyper, silly, and wonderful. She loves rap music (2 Chainz, anyone?), dying her hair a different color every week (it’s magenta right now), our black lab Jasper, dancing with me in the street, and spending all the time she can with her friends.

For longer than I can remember, Olivia has had asthma. Asthma, for the very small number of readers who aren’t familiar with the disorder, is a chronic airway disorder. People with asthma suffer from periods of irreversible airflow obstruction caused when their airway is inflamed and the small muscles surrounding it contract. My mom Audrey is very active, and always encouraged me and Olivia to get into sports when we were growing up. I played soccer, but Olivia didn’t find a sport she liked. As things turned out, due to her asthma, sports weren’t really her thing. She tried basketball for a season, and despite being the tallest girl on the court (a trait that runs in the family), she would find herself out of breath before the second quarter had even begun. While Olivia’s asthma has been manageable, she has, and will, struggle with it all of her life. Just like millions of others with the disease.

Asthma rates in the US are at an all-time high. In 2010, an estimated 18.7 million adults and 7 million children had the disease. That makes 1 in every 12 Americans with asthma. Asthma’s symptoms can be controlled with various drugs, but the disorder is currently incurable. Read the rest of this entry →

Flame Retardants linked to Autism? Yet Another Reason I Want FRs Out of my Couch

11:40 pm in Activism, Body Burden, Children's Health, Legislation by natalie-dayton

Last summer I had the privilege of working with one of the most inspiring, fun-loving groups in the world: children. I spent three warm summer months creating fond memories, sharing enriching experiences, expanding knowledge, and growing with these children. Over the course of my child care experience, I had the chance to communicate with children of various ages, nationalities, family backgrounds and personalities. I especially appreciated the opportunity I had to work with three children who identified with the autism spectrum disorder community.  Their talent, attitude, and character demonstrated each day was incredible.  The way they overcame personal challenges was admirable. The love I developed for these children forever changed my outlook on how I respond to difficulties in my own life— Because of these personal experiences, I have a developed a keen interest in research involving the potential causes of autism spectrum disorder. Read the rest of this entry →

BPA in Cans: There’s No Silver Lining

6:03 pm in Body Burden, Consumer Products, Fertility & Reproduction, Food by Julia Hannafin

Last year, in my final month of high school, my parents sat me and my sister down one afternoon and said they had something serious to discuss. Almost instantly, the look of worry etched into my moms’ faces foreshadowed that the discussion wouldn’t be a happy one. My moms (I have two; Dawn is my birth mother and Audrey is my sister’s) sat down across from us, paused, and then shared the news that changed the course of our lives. My mom Dawn had breast cancer.

After three months of chemotherapy, Dawn lost her hair, her appetite, her energy, but never lost her positive spirit, despite feeling weakened by her illness. My mother is beautiful, kind, warm-hearted, and resilient. She has the character traits best equipped to handle an unsuspected onset of cancer; however with that said, months of chemotherapy and radiation therapy can break down even the strongest individual.

Our family rotated around her cancer like planets around the sun. Following radiation treatment in December, she beat the cancer in her breast, but discovered a new threat: cancer in her brain. While currently undergoing her seventh or eighth round of radiation treatment, Dawn and her doctors are hopeful this will be the final treatment step towards full recovery.

Over the past year, our family was so consumed with fighting the cancer, we didn’t stop to wonder what had caused it in the first place. I recently discovered that cause of her cancer (and the cancer of many others across the nation) could be from a seemingly harmless action: EATING CANNED FOODS.
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“Stealth Chemicals”: Are they Lurking Inside You?

8:58 pm in Body Burden, Fertility & Reproduction, Food by natalie-dayton

That time of the week has arrived again – grocery shopping. Aside from struggling to find the perfect combination of healthy, pesticide-free, cost effective, and taste-bud satisfactory food, it seems obvious grocery shopping for the environmentally and health conscience mother is no easy task. Even after having done your research, as you haul that gallon of milk into your cart, are there still life-altering chemicals waiting to be ingested come dinnertime?

Dr. Shanna H. Swan, a reproductive medicine specialist and professor at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, recently conducted an interview with EurActiv about the potential effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) or “stealth chemicals” as Dr. Swan nicknames them.

Read the rest of this entry →