Report Lists Cancer-Causing Agents
Estrogens used in estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) and
oral contraceptives were added to the U.S. government's latest 2002 carcinogen
report. These additions and 15 other new listings bring the total of 228
substances in the report "known" or "reasonably
anticipated" to cause cancer.
The list comes from the National Toxicology Program of the
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), National
Institutes of Health (NIH). ERT hormones (steroidal estrogens), are now listed
as “known human carcinogens,” after they had been listed as “reasonably
anticipated cancer-causing agents” on the 2000 report. The 2002 list also
includes broad spectrum ultraviolet radiation (UVR) as a known cause of cancer
in humans, whether generated by the sun or by artificial sources; wood dust
created in cutting and shaping wood; nickel compounds and beryllium compounds
used in industry.
More About The Hundreds Of Carcinogens Around Us
Steroidal estrogens are a group of related hormones that
control sex and growth characteristics, and are commonly used in oral
contraceptives and to treat menopause symptoms. The latest report cites data
from studies of women that show an association between ERT, a consistent
increase in the risk of endometrial cancer, and an increase in the risk of
breast cancer. The report says the evidence suggested estrogen-containing oral
contraceptives may be linked with an increased risk of breast cancer, but may
also protect against ovarian and endometrial cancer.
The ultraviolet radiation “known cancer-causing agent” is
produced by the sun and by artificial UVR sources such as sun lamps and tanning
beds. UVR is also used in some medical diagnosis and treatment procedures,
water purification and in industrial chemical reactions. The report cited data
showing a cause-and-effect relationship between this common radiation and skin
cancers, cancer of the lip, and melanoma of the eye. See Reduce The Risk Of Cancer
The report says that the fine wood dust “known carcinogen”
is created when machines and tools cut, shape, and finish wood. Wood dust is
prevalent in sawmills, furniture manufacturing, and cabinet making. The report
said unprotected workers have a higher risk of cancers of the nasal cavities
and sinuses. Face masks reduce the risk.
“Known carcinogen” nickel compounds are used in industry in
batteries, pigments, and ceramics. Workers exposed to nickel show excess deaths
from lung and nasal cancers. Beryllium compounds are found in inhalation of
dust or skin contact with products containing beryllium. Those most at risk are
miners, alloy makers and fabricators, ceramics workers, missile technicians,
nuclear reactor workers, electronic equipment workers, and jewelers.
Many of the cryptic scientific names on the government’s
list of known toxic carcinogens are actually found in many common household and
industrial applications (in our clothes, sizing, carpets, furniture, cleaning products,
insecticides, insulation, building materials, paints, protective coatings, plastics,
processed foods, food packaging, paper, cardboard, prescription medicines,
cosmetics, perfumes, hair care products, resins, automotive parts, solvents,
adhesives, industrial processes, air/water pollution, filters, second hand
smoke, products containing alcohol, etc.).
For those who take the time to seek the truth about the
surroundings that we take for granted, there is a lot of alarming government-published
material that is readily available for you to study (if you want to avoid
cancer and many other diseases that are directly caused by our pervasive,
human-produced, environmental toxins). Most people who contract devastating
cancer, simply did NOT take the time to understand modern cancer risk
information, or they lazily (or recklessly) chose to ignore it.
For example, some carcinogens (like brominated fire
retardants (BFRs) called polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs) are used
extensively in our homes and in the clothing that most Americans wear. In
recent decades, natural products such as cotton and wood have been replaced by
highly flammable synthetic fabrics and plastics in consumer products. Consumer
advocates (like Ralph Nader and many others) have lobbied actively to add fire
retardants to our clothing, household and office products. (In a similar effort Nader lobbied for air bags, which ripped the head
off of many children, until we learned how to make-and-use them safer.)
The unwise rush of some uninformed consumer advocates to
surround Americans with flame retardants, caused Americans to now have much
higher levels of known carcinogens in our bodies than other industrialized
nations in Europe (which wisely bans the use of PBDEs) and elsewhere.
average level of harmful bromine-based fire retardants in the milk of American first-time
mothers was 75 times greater than the average amount found in recent European
studies. Milk from some study participants contained
the highest levels of fire retardants ever reported in the United States, and
milk from several of the mothers in EWG's study had among the highest levels of
these chemicals yet detected anywhere in the world, suggesting that the problem
in America is growing rapidly.
These results confirm recently published findings from
University of Texas researchers, and other U.S. studies, that American babies
are exposed to far higher amounts of these these dangerous toxins than babies
in Europe, where many of these chemicals have already
been banned. In the United States, only California and Maine have acted to
restrict the use of PBDEs, but such state restrictions are far too little, far
Today, PBDEs are used in American: clothing, carpets, padding,
drapes, fabrics and foam padding for mattresses, furniture and seating for home
and office, cars, trucks, planes and trains, insulation (thermal and sound
dampening), paints and lacquers, imitation wood, packaging materials, plastic appliances,
coffee makers, computers, televisions, smoke detectors, circuit boards, hair
dryers, curling irons, office machines, copy machines, fax machines, printers, plastic
car/truck/plane parts, lighting panels, PVC plumbing (water and sewer), pipe
insulation (air conditioning, hot water, etc.), wire insulation, cable
sheathing, electrical connectors, fuses, housings, boxes and switches, lamp
sockets, waste-water pipes, underground junction boxes, industrial and airport conveyor
belts, rubber cables.
In essence, it is almost impossible to go anywhere in
America without encountering large amounts of these dangerous carcinogens. Some
estimates suggest that PBDEs are in up to thirty percent of the weight of all
During manufacturing, PBDEs are inexpensively “mixed” into
the flammable plastic, instead of being “chemically bound” to the material, as
some other fire retardants are. This means that PBDEs are much more likely to
leach out into the human environment through direct skin contact, air, water
and food supplies. This is irrefutably documented in the
recent studies of American mothers.
PBDEs are the chemical cousins of PCBs (poly-chlorinated
biphenyl, which are banned human carcinogens). PCBs and PBDEs are both families
of highly-persistent, bio-accumulative human toxins. PCBs came to the attention
of health officials only after millions of pounds had been released into the
environment. In the 26 years since PCBs were banned, numerous studies have
documented permanent, neurological impairment to children from low level PCB
Recent evidence suggests PBDEs and PCBs work together to
cause adverse health effects. Not only do PBDEs appear to be acting through the
same pathways as PCBs, but also exposure to a combination of PCBs and PBDEs
appears to affect motor and learning skills of lab animals ten times more
strongly than exposure to either chemical alone. In addition to the long-term
cancer-causing impact, residual environmental PCBs from decades ago, plus the
more-recent introduction of pervasive, ubiquitous PBDEs are probably causing incremental
neurological impairment (“dumbing down”) of nearly all of our American children.
This is especially critical while the extremely complex and sensitive central
nervous system is being formed in the womb. The PCB/PBDE issues
are not just about cancer, they are about the minds and potential level of
intelligence of multiple generations of less-competitive American children. If
America immediately banned PBDEs, (as more thoughtful modern nations have
already done), the effects of millions of pounds of residual PCBs, plus far
more current PBDEs, has already permanently impacted the minds and bodies of million
of American children, and will continue to do so for multiple future
The Environmental Working Group (www.ewg.org ) has been intelligently studying
PBDEs and cautioning against their use for years. In their study published Sept
23, 2003, (http://www.ewg.org/reports/mothersmilk/
) EWG documented very-high PBDE levels in the breast milk of nursing mothers,
in stark contrast to the much lower PBDE levels in European mothers.
Studies Of The Damage Being Done By Pervasive PDBEs
A growing body of research in laboratory animals has linked
PBDE exposure to an array of adverse health effects including thyroid hormone
disruption, permanent learning and memory impairment, behavioral changes,
hearing deficits, delayed puberty onset, decreased sperm count, fetal
malformations and, possibly, cancer. Research in animals shows that exposure to
brominated fire retardants in-utero or during infancy leads to more significant
harm than exposure during adulthood, and at much lower levels. And some of
these studies have found toxic effects at levels lower than are now detected in
American women. Many questions remain, but new evidence raises concerns that
low levels of PBDE exposure pose a significant health risk to developing
animals, and may pose a health risk to fetuses, infants and children at levels
currently detected in American women.
The indication that PBDEs can cause subtle neurological
deficits in developing animals echoes what researchers have learned over the
past 30 years about the structurally similar, but much better studied, PCBs.
Used primarily as electrical insulators, PCBs were found to be rapidly building
up in people and animals before they were banned in 1977. Although levels are
now declining, PCBs persist in the environment and cause a number of well-documented
Many of the known health effects of PBDEs are thought to
stem from their ability to disrupt the body's thyroid hormone balance, by
depressing levels of the T3 and T4 hormones, which are important to normal
metabolism. In adults, hypothyroidism can cause fatigue,
depression, anxiety, unexplained weight gain (an American epidemic), hair loss
and low libido. Hypothyroidism can lead to more serious problems if left
untreated, but the consequences of depressed thyroid hormone levels on
developing fetuses and infants can be devastating. One study found that women whose
levels of T4 measured in the lowest 10 percent of the population during the
first trimester of pregnancy were more than 2.5 times as likely to have a child
with an IQ of less than 85 (in the lowest 20 percent of the range of IQs) and
five times as likely to have a child with an IQ of less than 70, meeting the
diagnosis of "mild retardation." An IQ less than 85
can be associated with serious consequences. Two-thirds of children who drop
out of high school have IQs below 85.
Even short-term exposures to commercial PBDE mixtures can
alter thyroid hormone levels in animals, and the effects are even more profound
in fetuses and young animals than in adults. These results are ominous as data
in humans indicate that pregnancy itself stresses the thyroid, and developing
fetuses and infants do not have the thyroid hormone reserves adults do to help
buffer insults to the system.
Most studies on thyroid hormone disruption by PBDEs have
been short-term, with exposures of 14 days or less. One study found higher
rates of hypothyroidism among workers exposed to brominated fire retardants on
The real question is how low doses over the long term
affect the body's thyroid hormone balance. The answer is very important, because the entire U.S. population
is continually exposed to low levels of PBDEs. The studies of other thyroid
hormone disrupters have found that long-term exposures can cause more serious
harm at lower levels of exposure. The duration of exposure may be more
significant than the level of exposure (which for PBDEs is also rapidly
increasing in America).
Because the developing brain is known to be extremely
sensitive to neurotoxin, researchers have begun to examine whether short-term
exposures to PBDEs at critical times could have long-term effects. The results
are alarming: small doses administered to fetal or newborn mice and rats
caused deficits in learning, memory and hearing, changes in behavior, and
delays in sensory-motor development. Many of these effects were found to worsen
Permanent Damage With Only One Exposure
Experiments have shown that just one dose of PBDEs at a critical
point in brain development can cause lasting harm. In two different studies, a small dose (0.8 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day), given to
10-day-old mice caused "deranged spontaneous behavior," significant
deficits in learning and memory and reduced ability to adapt to new
environments, with these problems often becoming more pronounced with age. This research also demonstrated the heightened sensitivity of the
brain at certain critical phases of development. While earlier
exposures caused "significantly impaired spontaneous motor behavior"
and "persistent neurotoxic effects," no effects
were seen in mice that were exposed later in development, despite having
similar levels of PBDEs in the brain.
Other animal studies have shown that early-life exposures
to PBDEs, often at relatively low levels, can lead to delays in sensory-motor
development, hearing deficits, as well as changes in activity levels and fear
responses. At this point, scientists do not understand exactly how PBDEs affect
neurological development. But there is evidence that PBDEs (or their
metabolites) are in fact acting through several different mechanisms, including
mimicking thyroid hormones, increasing their rate of clearance in the body and
interfering with intracellular communication.
In addition to their impact on thyroid hormones and
neurological development, PBDEs have been linked to a gamut of other health
impacts in laboratory animals, from subtle to dramatic. For example, several
new studies found that early-life exposure to PBDEs has significant
reproductive effects including decreasing the weight of male rat reproductive
organs. In studies of pregnant animals, PBDE exposure was associated with enlarged
livers and raised serum cholesterol. In-utero exposures have also been
associated with serious harm to the fetus, including limb and ureter (urine
duct) malformation, enlarged hearts, bent ribs, fused stemebrae and delayed
bone hardening. The malformations of the fetus were consistently seen at levels
much lower than doses harmful to the mouse mothers, the lowest being 2 and 5
mg/kg-day, respectively. But more subtle reproductive effects, such as
decreased sperm count and changes in the sub-cellular structure of the ovaries,
were seen at incredibly low doses — just 0.06 mg/kg-day.
The few studies that have looked at changes in organ
structure have found that semi-chronic PBDE exposure can cause thyroid
hyperplasia (overgrowth of thyroid tissue) and enlarged livers at relatively
low doses (10 mg/kg-day) and other adverse effects such as abnormal cell
functioning, localized cell death and deformation in the kidney, changes in the
liver's cellular structure, decreased hemoglobin and red blood cell counts at
higher doses. Only one commercial PBDE mixture has been tested for its ability
to cause cancer, in a single study more than 15 years ago. One form of PBDE (deca-BDE)
that was given to rats and mice caused malignant liver, thyroid and pancreas
tumors. The form is the least easily absorbed and the most rapidly eliminated
of the PBDEs, and recent research indicates that other similar PBDEs can cause
genetic recombination in cells, which raises more concern about the risk of cancer
introduced by PBDEs. As a result, scientists believe that the congeners with
fewer bromines are likely to be far more carcinogenic than the form that was
studied 15 years ago. These scientists have strongly urged that such tests be
conducted, but despite all of the large body of evidence, funding has not been
made available and unbelievably, unlike Europe, American has
failed to ban the use of PBDEs (as was done long
ago with PCBs and PBBs).
Consequently, America’s use of PBDEs has skyrocketed in the
last three decades, with the most widely used forms nearly doubling between
1992 and 2001. The market for PBDEs exploded after the 1978 ban of a related
class of brominated fire retardants called polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs).
Once widely used as fire retardants, PBBs were banned following the detection
of contaminated cattle feed in Michigan during 1973 and 1974 that exposed 9
million people to tainted meat and dairy products. Although there was clear
evidence that brominated flame retardants were problematic, American
manufacturers rushed to use the un-banned PBDEs to meet their mandated flame
retardant requirements, which investigating the long-term impact of this
foolish profit-motivated behavior.
Today, half of the PBDEs used worldwide are in the Americas,
with 73 million pounds introduced into our products in 2001 alone. Led by U.S.
and Canada, we use 95 percent of the global supply of one type of PBDE, which
is the form most easily taken up by animals and people. An unknown amount of
PBDEs, probably millions of pounds, is also imported into the country each year
in goods manufactured outside of America (to our flame retardant specifications).
Only eight companies manufacture PBDEs worldwide, with the
largest in the U.S.: Great Lakes Chemical and Albemarle. In 2002, Great Lakes reported total sales for all
products of $1.4 billion, up 4% from the previous year. Albermarle reported
sales of $980 million, up 7%. These corporations are already notorious as the
manufacturers of methyl bromide, a volatile, acutely toxic, ozone-depleting
pesticide gas used to fumigate strawberries, tomatoes and other crops. Albemarle
also has the dubious distinction of being a spin-off of Ethyl Corp., whose
leaded gasoline additive was banned in the U.S. in 1972.
Failure to Protect Our Children With Common Sense Safeguards
Today’s evidence of PBDE contamination in women's bodies
and breast milk in the US should come as no a surprise. The potential new millennium
impact was well documented and very predictable two decades ago, shortly after
PCBs and PBBs were banned and the use of PBDEs exploded. The evidence against
PBDEs was strong enough that bans were proposed in Germany, Sweden and the
Netherlands in the 1980s.
Industrial users of the chemicals agreed to voluntarily
phase them out in Germany in 1986, with the manufacturers and users in other European
countries following a few years later. Germany placed official limits on PBDE
use under its Dioxin Ordinance, because of the tendency for PBDEs to release dangerous
dioxins when burned. As concern spread to other countries, the European Union
launched a scientific review of the safety of PBDEs, originally with respect to
electronics waste. Later, the European Union announced a ban on two common easily-absorbed
PBDE mixtures in all products.
The early efforts to reduce PBDE use in Europe are paying
off. Researchers have found that PBDE levels in Swedish breast milk rose
exponentially from 1972 to 1997, but since that year have begun to decline:
PBDE levels in Swedish women dropped about 30 percent between 1997 and 2001.
These results are encouraging for Europeans, but frustrating for American
parents and those who hope to product healthy children in the future.
The European studies demonstrate that IF even partial protections
are enacted, and PBDE use ceases or declines, the human body burden of PBDEs
will also decrease after a lag-time of several years or more. However, given
the massive amount of PBDEs in U.S. homes, and the much higher levels than in
European women, PBDE body burdens in Americans might take decades to decline
significantly. All American children born from the 1980’s, until at least a
decade after PBDE bans are eventually put in place, are at risk for the
documented health problems caused by the indiscretions of the inept American government
regulatory agencies and product manufacturers.
that fact that PBDE concentrations in Americans and their environment are 75
times higher than those found in Europe, the U.S. government has so far done
nothing to counter this rapidly escalating problem - nor did it do anything to prevent it after banning PCBs and PBBs,
when even simple safety testing could have flagged the problem in its infancy.
Like almost all industrial chemicals, the health effects of
PBDEs foolishly went virtually unstudied at the dawn of their use in commercial
products. In 1994, EPA outrageously misstated that the waste stream from the
production of (Octa and Deca) PBDEs "should not be listed as
hazardous." The only other American standard governing PBDEs is the
requirement that companies that manufacture or use large amounts of (Deca)
PBDEs report their chemical pollution under the Toxics Release Inventory.
action a first step
State legislation was introduced in California, Maine and
Michigan in 2003 that would ban or restrict the use of several types of PBDEs.
While these bills are a welcome first step, they all fall short of what is
needed to prevent further build up of these persistent, bio-accumulative and
A bill passed by the Maine legislature (LD 743), and signed
into law in May, 2003 requires electronic manufacturers or importers to phase out all
brominated fire retardants and several other toxic substances such as lead,
mercury and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) by 2006. But producers can
apply for exemptions if they can convince officials that there are no feasible
alternatives. Of course, the law does nothing about the pervasive brominated
fire retardants in non-electronic products. Bills that would have banned the
use of PBDEs in all products by 2006 were introduced in Michigan during 2003
and 2002, respectively), yet have failed to progress in the legislature.
The California standards, signed into law in July 2003, ban
two commercial PBDE mixtures, (Penta and Octa), but exempt the most widely used
PBDE product (Deca). This is troublesome, as numerous studies have shown that
the types of PBDEs in this commercial product can break down into other forms
that are much more bio-accumulative and bio-reactive, and which are included in
the proposed California legislation. The California law also gives PBDE
producers and users until 2008 to stop using the chemicals, despite the fact
that another 365 million pounds of PBDEs will be put into American couches,
easy chairs, cars, planes, buses and other consumer products before the
phase-out date in five years. Finally, the California law doesn't require
manufacturers to label PBDE-containing products, a provision that would have
allowed consumers to make more informed decisions, rewarded the companies who
have already shifted away from PBDEs, and provided extra incentive to
manufacturers and users to speed their conversion to new fire retardants,
materials, or design.
about the various forms of PBDEs?
One of the major debates about regulation of PBDEs centers
on the effects of the various congeners in the environment. Scientists have
found that PBDEs with five or fewer bromines are almost totally absorbed by the
body, slowly eliminated, highly bio-accumulative, and cause health effects at
relatively low levels. In contrast, PBDEs with more bromines are less readily
absorbed, less bio-accumulative, more quickly eliminated by the body, meaning
that they are found at lower levels in living creatures.
Fire retardant manufacturers have claimed that Deca is
"very poorly absorbed," (less than 2 percent of an oral dose is
absorbed) and rapidly excreted (with almost complete excretion within 72
hours). Thus, it would be virtually impossible for Deca to enter women's bodies
and even more unlikely for it to pass into breast milk. Despite these
assurances, measurable levels of Deca were detected in eighty percent of young
mothers at levels up to 1 ppb, as well as thirty five percent of women in Dr.
Schecter's recent Texas study - at concentrations as high as 8 ppb.
Fire retardant manufacturers have estimated the
concentrations in breast milk of a mother working to disassemble computer
monitors. They modeled two scenarios, the "Reasonable Estimate" using
"plausible, yet conservative" assumptions and the "Upper
Estimate" using "absolute worst-case exposures."
They concluded: A "significant health risk is not
expected for children under any of the scenarios evaluated, even using
extremely conservative assumptions. Therefore, no further, more detailed evaluation
of (Deca PBDE) is warranted to ensure adequate health protection for young
Maybe the industry should take a closer look at the
everyday exposures for American mothers before they falsely claim that their
product is safe. In fact, in two recent studies, EWG found levels (of Deca) in
young mothers who were not occupationally exposed to be 6 to 40 times higher
than the industry's misleading worst case model for women disassembling
computers at work.
effects of Deca PBDE
New research also indicates that Deca may be more toxic
than previously thought, exhibiting some of the same effects on newborn rats
and mice as PBDEs with fewer bromines (which are easier than Deca PBDE for the
body to absorb). Equally important, Deca can covert to PBDEs with fewer
bromines which are more toxic and more likely to accumulate in human beings.
Numerous studies show that when exposed to sunlight, the higher-weight PBDEs
(like Deca) can be converted to the more toxic PBDEs with fewer bromines. Many
American products that contain PBDEs are routinely exposed to the sun. This
degradation in the environment has been observed for structurally similar
chemicals like the previously-banned polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs) and PCBs.
In laboratory conditions Deca can degrade to 50 percent of its original mass in
as little as 15 minutes, and one study found that after five days of exposure
to sunlight just 6 percent of the Deca remained un-degraded.
bottom line is that all chemicals in the PBDE family have the potential to
cause serious environmental and health problems - some
alone, some through their breakdown products, others by interacting with other
toxic chemicals, and all by interfering with important life processes in the
environment, wildlife and most regrettably in humans, especially the young. The
chemical industry, trying to save a highly profitable product (Deca), is falsely
lobbying legislators that most PBDEs are harmless. The available evidence strongly
argues against their lies, which European countrys understood long ago. In the
real world environment, Deca degrades into the very chemicals that are banned
in Europe and California. To prevent a bad situation from getting much worse
and taking much longer to correct, all PBDEs should be phased out without further
bureaucratic political delays.
For most uses of brominated fire retardants, there are
already cost-effective chemical replacements on the marketplace. Aluminum
trihydroxide and various phosphorous-based compounds are some of the most
common alternatives. But rather than replacing one chemical with another that
is unstudied and might also be toxic (as was done with PBBs to PBDEs), a better
long-term solution might be to redesign products so that chemical fire
retardants are not needed to meet fire safety regulations.
The U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission recently
reported that adding fire retardants to foam offered very little additional
protection from fire: "CPSC laboratory tests have demonstrated that the
properties of actual filling materials have little or no effect on the small
open flame ignition resistance of full-scale chairs." Simply using a
barrier fabric and less flammable foam can achieve the same level of fire
safety. Similarly, increasing the density of polyurethane foam or using
materials that are naturally less flammable can eliminate the need for chemical
Another non-toxic tactic to prevent fire is to control
sources of fire ignition. One target is cigarettes, which are directly responsible
for the most fatal fires. New York state blamed cigarettes for 199 deaths from
1997 to 2001, making smoking materials the most frequent cause of fatal blazes
during that period. In response, the state passed legislation to require that
cigarettes sold by mid-2004 must be self-extinguishing. This can be easily
accomplished by wrapping the tobacco in a heavier paper and removing the chemicals
added to cigarette wrappers to promote burning. The tobacco industry is
expected to fight the legislation in court (self-centered, death-causing, business
Trade groups and fire retardant producers such as the
California Manufacturers and Technology Association, California Retailers
Association, the American Electronics Association and Great Lakes Chemical
vigorously opposed the California PBDE. However, facing restrictions on PBDE
use in the European Union, many U.S. manufacturers moved to find alternatives
to PBDEs, even in the absence of reasonable American regulation legislation.
Computer and electronics companies such as Apple, Dell, IBM, Motorola,
Panasonic, Phillips and Sony are already producing some PBDE-free or BFR-free
products (inspired by EU legislative intelligence). Ericsson, Intel, Phillips,
Sony and Toshiba recently announced a complete ban of PBDEs in advance of the
EU regulation by 2006. IKEA and Ericsson have thoughtfully taken additional
steps toward moving away from using any halogens (bromine, chlorine, fluorine
or iodine) in their products. If America would merely require products
containing PBDE to be labeled, intelligent consumers would reward thoughtful
manufactures with more business, which would make the corrupt, inept, foot-dragging
American politicians and regulatory agencies somewhat less frustrating than
they are today.
Fire retardant manufacturers are scrambling to find a
replacement for Penta PBDE used in foam furniture padding. The Swedish
furniture giant IKEA was forced to phase out brominated fire retardants in all its
products, due to European limits on the chemical's use. They accomplished this
by changing product design, using naturally less-flammable materials, and
employing alternative fire retardants if needed. Hickory Springs of Conover,
N.C., a major polyurethane foam producer, is working with Akzo Nobel, a
chemical manufacturer, to test a non-halogenated, phosphorous-based fire
retardant. Hickory Springs says it was motivated by requests from forward
thinking companies such as IKEA, Crate & Barrel and Eddie Bauer for
safety studies on many toxic chemicals
Several US states have taken important steps to phase-out a
handful of brominated fire retardants. This is the first step toward protecting
consumer safety, but it offers incomplete protection as long as manufacturers
are not required to test the impact of replacement chemicals on human health,
before they go into nationwide use. We can now look back and see that the ban
on PBBs CREATED to explosion in use of PBDEs, which ultimately may cause far
more damage than PBBs did.
There is very little data on the toxicity of the fire
retardants that are currently being developed or are already in use as
alternatives to PBDEs. This is largely because of well-documented shortcomings
in the America’s toxics laws, inept agencies and corrupt regulation legislation
process. The chief regulatory statute for commercial chemicals, the Toxic
Substances Control Act (TSCA), is infamous for its failure to lend meaningful
authority to the Environmental Protection Agency.
The looming PBDE crisis, enormous socio-economic health
impact, and uncertainty surrounding replacement chemicals provide another
disturbing illustration of the ongoing endless failures of the American
regulatory system that allows persistent, bio-accumulative toxins onto the
marketplace before they have been adequately tested for safety. Or worse yet,
allows documented toxins into widespread use, even after preliminary tests have
documented significant risks. With PBDEs, America is again reaping the high
costs of inept regulation, in terms of health and productivity, of this
industry-favored system, with no concern for the suffering, emotional distress
and economic impact on parents, children, future government-subsidized medical
costs, and the reduced average intelligence of multiple generations born since
Under the current system, the EPA reviews new chemicals
through a process that does not require health and safety test data and that even
discourages voluntary testing. Companies submit only basic estimated short-term
toxicity data for fewer than half of all applications for new chemicals, and
the government approves 80 percent of these with no use limits and no requests
for tests. Eight of 10 new chemicals win approval in less than three weeks, at
an average rate of seven a day. How many hundreds of new PCB, PBB and PBDE-like
toxins are already in the products we already own? How long until we discover
the underlying long-term cause-and-effect. Our children are the ultimate test
subjects for new toxin introductions. Even AFTER more intelligent governments
legislate against documented toxins, American politicians are corrupted by the
small number of firms who continue to profit by poisoning our people.
Perhaps worse the weak American controls on new chemicals
is the blind eye we turn on the old ones. When TSCA was enacted in 1976, more
than 63,000 chemicals already in use were "grandfathered" - granted
blanket approval for continued use in consumer and industrial products with
absolutely no requirement for further study. Most brominated fire retardants
fell into this loophole and won implicit approval for widespread use in
consumer products with no required health and safety testing. In 1998, the EPA
and the non-profit organization Environmental Defense reviewed all of the
toxicity and environmental fate studies publicly available and found no
information - not even one single test - for forty three percent of the 2,600
chemicals that are produced in the highest volumes in the U.S. Chemical
manufacturers are unlikely to hand over any internal information that might be
damning for their chemical products, nor do they have much incentive to fill
any significant scientific data gaps that they may identify during product
development and use.
not have to expose our children to toxins to protect them from fire
There is no question that fire safety is important and that
making products fire-resistant can save lives. Chemical fire retardants have
become ubiquitous over the last few decades, but a wide variety of alternative fire
safety strategies exist. Using less-flammable materials or changing the product
design so that it is inherently more fire resistant, are chemical-free
solutions. Using less toxic chemicals as fire retardants is another option.
The current system for epidemiological bio-monitoring in
the U.S. is highly inadequate for identifying and tracking the multitude of
chemicals Americans are accumulating and carrying in our bodies. The Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has conducted two bio-monitoring
studies that examined up to 116 environmental chemicals in the blood and urine
of 2,500 people. But this is just a tiny subset of the thousands of chemicals
we are exposed to every day in varying amounts in diverse locations. The news
about these chemicals will always have a lag-time of several years or decades
when investigating news of emerging contaminants of concern such as PBDEs, etc.
Furthermore, the CDC study measured only four chemicals in children younger
than six years old and did not look at any contaminants in breast milk, both of
which are important for estimating chemical exposures to these most sensitive
In an age where chemical industries are releasing millions
of tons of chemicals into our environment, and chemical manufacturers gain
permission to put more than 2,000 new chemicals into the biosphere each year, America desperately
needs the quantitative feedback of a much better bio-monitoring system. Such minimal information would serve as an early warning system for
chemicals that are building up in our bodies. We could track trends in chemical
levels over time, link them more accurately to cause-and-effect health trends, and
most importantly, justify prompt regulatory action when necessary. (But then who would expect such information technology improvements to
emerge in a country that cannot even implement a fair way to count votes, and
where the FAA still can’t talk to the FBI, CIA, DOD, or executive branch?)
EWG's tests of
mothers' milk are the latest evidence that Americans are being exposed to potentially
harmful levels of harmful toxins like PBDE fire retardants. The bad news is
that efforts by both American government and private industry in the U.S. are
lagging far behind Europe, which has already phased out some of these toxins,
and is thoughtfully studying the toxic effects of others. The good news is that
European studies show that levels of fire retardants in the human body begin to
decline if exposure is reduced. This means that prompt action by government
agencies and the companies that make these chemicals can make an important
difference. To a lesser extent, personal actions can also reduce your exposure.
What should the American government
The U.S. EPA
should phase out all PBDEs and other toxic fire retardants as quickly as
possible. California has already moved to ban some PBDEs in 2008, and
Massachusetts is considering a similar law. In the interim, all products
containing PBDEs should be labeled so that consumers have the option of
choosing products without them.
screen all new and existing chemicals for their health effects. In particular,
potential replacement fire retardants must be adequately tested to ensure that
they are not persistent, bio-accumulative or toxic. Testing must include the
outcomes most relevant to children's health. Changes in product design that
decrease the need for chemical fire retardants should be encouraged over simply
switching to a different, less studied chemical.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should expand the fledgling national
bio-monitoring program to include a greater number of chemicals and people. The
study provides critical data in identifying chemicals that are accumulating in
our bodies and in the environment; tracking trends in exposure; providing data
needed to more fully understand human health risks; and helping EPA and other
agencies effectively transition businesses to safer, less persistent chemicals
than those in current common use.
should increase funding for urgently needed additional research on toxic fire
retardants, including their health effects, how they get into the human body,
and current levels of accumulation in people, animals and the environment.
What should private industry do?
In the absence of
government regulation, U.S. manufacturers and users of chemical fire retardants
should voluntarily comply with the European ban. Chemical companies should work
to minimize the toxicity of existing fire retardants and thoroughly test
replacement chemicals for safety. Companies who use fire retardants in their
products should follow the lead of some computer makers, who are redesigning
their products so that fire retardants are not needed. Retailers should follow
the example of IKEA and some other companies in demanding that their suppliers
avoid the use of chemical fire retardants.
What should parents and other
concerned consumers do?
Our homes and
offices are filled with brominated fire retardants in products including
foam-padded furniture, computer and television screens, and the padding
underneath our mattresses and carpets. The EWG study found that exposure to
brominated fire retardants is unavoidable. We detected them in the body of
every participant, regardless of their occupation, diet, or lifestyle.
Even if these toxic
fire retardants were phased out immediately, our exposures to them would
continue for decades through the foods we eat or from the products in our
households. In the absence of government safeguards to remove persistent toxins
from household products, or label products containing the most toxic forms of
fire retardants, parents should consider the following options:
or crumbing foam padding that might contain fire retardants. Replace or cover
couches, stuffed chairs, automobile seats that have exposed foam. Reupholster
padded furniture in homes where children or pregnant women live.
when removing and replacing the foam padding beneath your carpet. Remove old
carpet padding from your home and clean up well when finished.
with natural fibers (cotton and wool), which are naturally more fire resistant.
persistent pollutants, some banned for decades, still contaminate the
environment and end up in the food we eat, the water we drink, and the air we
breathe. Recently, EWG has reported on the presence of toxic chemicals in a
wide range of consumer products including foam-padded furniture, food wrappers
and winter-time lettuce. In the case of toxic fire retardants, chemical
companies have fought proposals that they label their products to give
consumers information about the chemicals in consumer products.
Yet exposures to
many persistent pollutants can be reduced through a varied diet that contains
fewer meat and high fat dairy products. Other chemical exposures, like toxic
substances in household cleaners, can be avoided altogether. It is especially
important for children, pregnant or breast feeing mothers or women considering
pregnancy to avoid chemical exposures. Some simple tips for reducing exposures
to, or impacts of, industrial chemicals are:
your child! Breastfeeding offers significant health benefits to both mother and
infant. In addition, breast milk contains beneficial compounds such as Omega-3
fatty acids that are not found in infant formula and support optimal infant
development, particularly for body systems most affected by PCBs, lead, and
other toxic chemicals.
processed foods, which often contain chemical additives.
produce. It's free of pesticides and preservative chemicals.
microwave food in plastic containers. Use glass or ceramics.
Run your tap
water through a home filter before drinking. Filters can reduce levels of
common tap water pollutants.
Eat fewer meat
and high fat dairy products, which contain higher levels of some pollutants.
number of cosmetics and other personal care products you use, which can contain
harmful chemicals and can be sold with no safety testing.
stain repellants on clothing, bedding or upholstery.
number of household cleaners you use. Try soap and water first.
gasoline-powered yard tools — use manual or electric tools instead.
breathing gasoline fumes when you're filling your car.
known to be low in PCB and mercury contamination, including wild Alaska salmon
and canned salmon. Avoid canned tuna — it contains mercury.
much toxic poison should you be exposed to?
many times should you pull the trigger in a game of Russian roulette?
Increased time-and-amount of carcinogen exposure normally
increases your risk of activating cancer-generating processes.
Carcinogen-exposure-related risks may be added to other known cancer risk factors,
such as: inherited genetic tendencies, skin type, body fat, lifestyle choices,
nutrition, exercise, etc. Some lifestyle choices, such as good nutrition
(antioxidants, etc.), exercise, mental activity and attitude, may help
mitigate some of the carcinogen-exposure risk factors (but cannot
eliminate all risk of cancer).
Understanding your personal risk factors, lifestyle
behavior modifications, and early detection of new cancer can often diminish
the potential impact of otherwise uncontrolled cancer growth. Medical research
scientists have been working for many decades to discover cancer treatments. In
some cases, the expensive treatments themselves have caused great pain,
suffering, emotional distress, accelerated aging and even doctor-induced (iatrogenic) death. It is far better to reduce the
risk, and thus prevent, cancer, than to try to cure “metastasized” (wide
spread) growing cancer after it is established.
One significant problem in carcinogen exposure education is
that there is normally a long cause-and-effect time lag between carcinogen
exposure and the first detection of the growth of a new cancer. For example, a
single severe sunburn as a child can trigger skin cancer decades later. Alcohol
consumption can take decades to trigger breast cancer and many other diseases.
Some people can smoke for decades before they are ravaged by lung cancer and
For these reasons, education about the negative impact of
carcinogen exposure (and other health lifestyle choices) should be taught by
health professionals and by caring parents to their children at an early age,
and then practiced consistently for our entire lifetime. One analogy is that
avoiding excess sunlight may be as important for some as wearing a seat belt.
If parents allow their children to ride in a car without a seat belt, or get a
severe sunburn, the parents are doing a great disservice and increasing long
term health risks for the ones that they love. The solution begins with the
acquisition of essential knowledge.
Click on the following Table of Contents items to view the
report detail (pdf) files:
Department of Health and Human Services
Public Health Service - National Toxicology Program
10th Report on Carcinogens
Carcinogen - Anything that initiates cancer-producing
(or reduces the body’s natural cancer defense mechanisms).
Carcinogens Listed in the Tenth Report
A. Known to be Human Carcinogens
B. Reasonably Anticipated to be Human
Alcoholic Beverage Consumption
Arsenic Compounds, Inorganic
Benzidine and Dyes Metabolized to Benzidine
Dyes Metabolized to Benzidine
Beryllium and Beryllium Compounds
1,4-Butanediol Dimethylsulfonate (Myleran®)
Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA)
Cadmium and Cadmium Compounds
Ceramic Fibers (Respirable Size)
Chlorinated Paraffins (C12, 60%
bis(Chloromethyl) Ether and Technical-Grade
Chloromethyl Methyl Ether
p-Chloro-o-toluidine and p-Chloro-o-toluidine
Chromium Hexavalent Compounds
C.I. Basic Red 9 Monohydrochloride
Coal Tars and Coal Tar Pitches
Coke Oven Emissions
1,2-Dibromoethane (Ethylene Dibromide)
1,2-Dichloroethane (Ethylene Dichloride)
Dichloromethane (Methylene Chloride)
1,3-Dichloropropene (Technical Grade)
Diesel Exhaust Particulates
Diglycidyl Resorcinol Ether
3,3´-Dimethoxybenzidine and Dyes Metabolized
Dyes Metabolized to 3,3´-Dimethoxybenzidine
3,3´-Dimethylbenzidine and Dyes Metabolized
Dyes Metabolized to 3,3´-Dimethylbenzidine
Disperse Blue 1
Glasswool (Respirable Size)
Hydrazine and Hydrazine Sulfate
Iron Dextran Complex
Lead Acetate and Lead Phosphate
Lindane and Other Hexachlorocyclohexane
Methoxsalen with Ultraviolet A Therapy (PUVA)
4,4´-Methylenedianiline and its
Mineral Oils (Untreated and Mildly Treated)
Nickel Compounds and Metallic Nickel
Nitrogen Mustard Hydrochloride
Phenacetin and Analgesic Mixtures Containing
Analgesic Mixtures Containing Phenacetin
Polybrominated Biphenyls (PBBs)
Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)
Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, 15 Listings
Silica, Crystalline (Respirable Size)
Strong Inorganic Acid Mists Containing
Tobacco Related Exposures
Environmental Tobacco Smoke
o-Toluidine and o-Toluidine Hydrochloride
Ultraviolet Radiation Related Exposures
Broad-Spectrum Ultraviolet (UV) Radiation
Sunlamps or Sunbeds, Exposure to
Ultraviolet A Radiation
Ultraviolet B Radiation
Ultraviolet C Radiation
Table 1.Chemicals Nominated to the NTP for In-Depth Toxicological
Evaluation or Carcinogenesis Testing in Fiscal Years 1988-2001
Table 2.CDC/NIOSH Response to Inquiries about Carcinogens Listed in the
Tenth Report on Carcinogens
V. Report on Carcinogens Listing/Delisting Procedures
A. Manufacturing Processes, Occupations, and
Exposure Circumstances Classified by IARC as Category 1, Carcinogenic to Humans
B. Agents, Substances, Mixtures, or Exposure
Circumstances Delisted from the Report on Carcinogens
C. Agents, Substances, Mixtures, or Exposure
Circumstances Reviewed but not Recommended for Listing in the Report on Carcinogens
D. List of Participants
F. Acronyms and Abbreviations
G. Units of Measurement
H. CAS Registry Number Index
The Risk Of Cancer
See Antiaging Antioxidants
– Essential Foods That Help Prevent Cancer
You Cook Can Increase The Risk Of Cancer
Return To Joyful Aging