Government 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.

Learning 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.

The 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 too late.

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 American products.

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 exposure.

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 generations.

The Environmental Working Group ( ) has been intelligently studying PBDEs and cautioning against their use for years. In their study published Sept 23, 2003, ( ) 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.

Clinical 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 health problems.

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 job.

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 with age.

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.

America’s 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.

Despite 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.

State 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 toxic chemicals.

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.

What 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 children."

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.

Toxic 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.

The 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.

Affordable Replacements

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 fire retardants.

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 as usual).

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 PBDE-free furniture.

No 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 1980.

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.

We do 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.

Need For Bio-monitoring

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 subpopulations.

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 do?

·        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.

·        EPA must 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.

·        The U.S. 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.

·        Congress 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:

·        Avoid degraded 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.

·        Be careful when removing and replacing the foam padding beneath your carpet. Remove old carpet padding from your home and clean up well when finished.

·        Buy products with natural fibers (cotton and wool), which are naturally more fire resistant.


Many other 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:

·        Breastfeed 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.

·        Eat fewer processed foods, which often contain chemical additives.

·        Eat organic produce. It's free of pesticides and preservative chemicals.

·        Don't 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.

·        Reduce the number of cosmetics and other personal care products you use, which can contain harmful chemicals and can be sold with no safety testing.

·        Avoid artificial fragrances.

·        Don't use stain repellants on clothing, bedding or upholstery.

·        Reduce the number of household cleaners you use. Try soap and water first.

·        Avoid using gasoline-powered yard tools — use manual or electric tools instead.

·        Avoid breathing gasoline fumes when you're filling your car.

·        Eat seafood known to be low in PCB and mercury contamination, including wild Alaska salmon and canned salmon. Avoid canned tuna — it contains mercury.

How much toxic poison should you be exposed to?

- How 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 respiratory ailments.

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:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Public Health Service - National Toxicology Program

10th Report on Carcinogens

Carcinogen - Anything that initiates cancer-producing processes,
(or reduces the body’s natural cancer defense mechanisms).

Table of Contents

I. Introduction

II. Carcinogens Listed in the Tenth Report

A. Known to be Human Carcinogens
B. Reasonably Anticipated to be Human Carcinogens

III. Substance Profiles

Adriamycin® (Doxorubicin Hydrochloride)
Alcoholic Beverage Consumption
o-Anisidine Hydrochloride
Arsenic Compounds, Inorganic
Benzidine and Dyes Metabolized to Benzidine
          Dyes Metabolized to Benzidine
Beryllium and Beryllium Compounds
2,2-bis(Bromoethyl)-1,3-propanediol (Technical Grade)
1,4-Butanediol Dimethylsulfonate (Myleran®)
Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA)
Cadmium and Cadmium Compounds
Carbon Tetrachloride
Ceramic Fibers (Respirable Size)
Chlorendic Acid
Chlorinated Paraffins (C12, 60% Chlorine)
1-(2-Chloroethyl)-3-(4-methylcyclohexyl)-1-nitrosourea (MeCCNU)
bis(Chloroethyl) nitrosourea
bis(Chloromethyl) Ether and Technical-Grade Chloromethyl Methyl Ether
p-Chloro-o-toluidine and p-Chloro-o-toluidine Hydrochloride
Chromium Hexavalent Compounds
C.I. Basic Red 9 Monohydrochloride
Coal Tars and Coal Tar Pitches
Coke Oven Emissions
Cyclosporin A
Danthron (1,8-Dihydroxyanthraquinone)
2,4-Diaminoanisole Sulfate
1,2-Dibromoethane (Ethylene Dibromide)
tris(2,3-Dibromopropyl) Phosphate
3,3´-Dichlorobenzidine and 3,3´-Dichlorobenzidine Dihydrochloride
Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane; (DDT)
1,2-Dichloroethane (Ethylene Dichloride)
Dichloromethane (Methylene Chloride)
1,3-Dichloropropene (Technical Grade)
Diesel Exhaust Particulates
Diethyl Sulfate
Diglycidyl Resorcinol Ether
3,3´-Dimethoxybenzidine and Dyes Metabolized to 3,3´-Dimethoxybenzidine
          Dyes Metabolized to 3,3´-Dimethoxybenzidine
3,3´-Dimethylbenzidine and Dyes Metabolized to 3,3´-Dimethylbenzidine
          Dyes Metabolized to 3,3´-Dimethylbenzidine
Dimethylcarbamoyl Chloride
Dimethyl Sulfate
Dimethylvinyl Chloride
Disperse Blue 1
Estrogens, Steroidal
Ethylene Oxide
Ethylene Thiourea
di(2-Ethylhexyl) Phthalate
Ethyl Methanesulfonate
Formaldehyde (Gas)
Glasswool (Respirable Size)
Hydrazine and Hydrazine Sulfate
Iron Dextran Complex
Kepone® (Chlordecone)
Lead Acetate and Lead Phosphate
Lindane and Other Hexachlorocyclohexane Isomers
Methoxsalen with Ultraviolet A Therapy (PUVA)
2-Methylaziridine (Propylenimine)
4,4´-Methylenedianiline and its Dihydrochloride Salt
Methyl Methanesulfonate
Michler's Ketone (4,4'-(Dimethylamino)benzophenone)
Mineral Oils (Untreated and Mildly Treated)
Mustard Gas
Nickel Compounds and Metallic Nickel
          Nickel Compounds
          Metallic Nickel
Nitrilotriacetic Acid
Nitroarenes (selected)
Nitrofen (2,4-Dichlorophenyl-p-nitrophenyl ether)
Nitrogen Mustard Hydrochloride
Ochratoxin A
Phenacetin and Analgesic Mixtures Containing Phenacetin
          Analgesic Mixtures Containing Phenacetin
Phenazopyridine Hydrochloride
Phenoxybenzamine Hydrochloride
Polybrominated Biphenyls (PBBs)
Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)
Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, 15 Listings
Procarbazine Hydrochloride
1,3-Propane Sultone
Propylene Oxide
Selenium Sulfide
Silica, Crystalline (Respirable Size)
Strong Inorganic Acid Mists Containing Sulfuric Acid
2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD); "Dioxin"
Tetrachloroethylene (Perchloroethylene)
Thorium Dioxide
Tobacco Related Exposures
          Environmental Tobacco Smoke
          Smokeless Tobacco
          Tobacco Smoking
Toluene Diisocyanate
o-Toluidine and o-Toluidine Hydrochloride
Ultraviolet Radiation Related Exposures
          Broad-Spectrum Ultraviolet (UV) Radiation
          Solar Radiation
          Sunlamps or Sunbeds, Exposure to
          Ultraviolet A Radiation
          Ultraviolet B Radiation
          Ultraviolet C Radiation
Vinyl Bromide
Vinyl Chloride
4-Vinyl-1-cyclohexene Diepoxide
Vinyl Fluoride
Wood Dust

IV. Tables

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

E. Glossary

F. Acronyms and Abbreviations

G. Units of Measurement

H. CAS Registry Number Index


See Reduce The Risk Of Cancer


See Antiaging Antioxidants – Essential Foods That Help Prevent Cancer


See How You Cook Can Increase The Risk Of Cancer


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