Environmental Health News

What's Working

  • Garden Mosaics projects promote science education while connecting young and old people as they work together in local gardens.
  • Hope Meadows is a planned inter-generational community containing foster and adoptive parents, children, and senior citizens
  • In August 2002, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Board voted to ban soft drinks from all of the district’s schools

#883 -- Preventing Great Lakes Collapse?, 30-Nov-2006

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If your group is interested in working with us to put on a
precautionary principle training in your community during
2007, please send an email to sherri@sehn.org.

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Rachel's Democracy & Health News #883

"Environment, health, jobs and justice--Who gets to decide?"

Thursday, November 30, 2006.............Printer-friendly version
www.rachel.org -- To make a secure donation, click here.
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Featured stories in this issue...

What Will It Take To Protect the Great Lakes?
  Protecting the Great Lakes from ecological collapse is a major
  challenge. A joint U.S.-Canadian governing body, the International
  Joint Commission, is calling for a new Great Lakes Water Quality
  Agreement to set clearer standards and timelines for restoring the
  Great Lakes ecosystem. Could it work?
As Coal Plants Expand, So Will Black Lung Disease
  Black lung disease among coal miners is not a thing of the past.
  With more than 100 new coal burning power plants on the drawing
  board in the U.S, more miners will be getting sick. "Unlike the Sago
  mine explosion, this will be the hidden disaster. These deaths won't
  hit the headlines and will take place quietly decades from now."
Toys Test Toxic
  The San Francisco Chronicle purchased toys off the shelf and had
  them tested for certain toxic chemicals. They found several toys that
  would be banned under a new city law. Meanwhile, the chemical industry
  is suing for its 'right' to keep putting gender-bending toxic
  chemicals into toys for tots, including teething rings for babies.
Philadelphia Consensus Statement
  Join leaders in science, medicine, law, and health policy. Call on
  universities to make the fruits of their research available in the
  developing world.

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From: Rachel's Democracy & Health News, Nov. 30, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]

WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO PROTECT THE GREAT LAKES?

By Tim Montague

The Great Lakes are a national treasure in danger of ecological
collapse. They contain 20 percent of the world's fresh surface water
and they provide essential services for the 42 million residents who
live in the region -- drinking water, food, biological diversity, and
recreation. The lakes also symbolize how humans have damaged the
natural world. Industrial pollution, urban sprawl, pesticides,
fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, sewage and over-fishing -- have degraded
the Great Lakes to the point where their future has become very
uncertain.

Industrial pollution was so bad in the late 1960's that the Cuyahoga
river in Cleveland caught fire several times. Oxygen depletion and
algal blooms were choking the lakes and causing widespread fish kills.
Public outcry led the governments of the U.S. and Canada to develop
stronger laws.

With the 1972 Clean Water Act the U.S. set the goal of making our
navigable waterways fishable and swimmable by 1983. From 1972 to 1998
the percentage of fishable and swimmable waters did grow (from 36% to
62% according to some sources) -- though how the EPA defines
fishable/swimmable is vague at best. But present day fish advisories
on all the Great Lakes tell us that the fish aren't safe to eat. And
though the beaches might be open for swimming, it doesn't mean they
are safe.

Another response to the degradation of the Great Lakes was the 1972
Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement forged by the International
Joint Commission -- a joint U.S.-Canadian governing body established
by the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909. The Agreement's stated
purpose was to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and
biological integrity of the Great Lakes ecosystem.

Initially the Agreement focused on phosphorous pollution which was
successfully reduced by better sewage treatment and reduced usage in
detergents and fertilizers. As knowledge of pollution expanded, the
Agreement was updated in 1978 and again in 1987 to become more
comprehensive and to address persistent and bioaccumulative chemicals
like PCB's, mercury and dioxin. The IJC became one of the most forward
thinking government bodies in the 1990's, recommending that the U.S.
and Canada:

a) Ban incineration near the Great Lakes

b) Phase out the use of chlorine in manufacturing

c) Adopt a precautionary approach to toxic substances whereby we
eliminate their use even if there is scientific uncertainty about how
harmful they are.

d) Eliminate persistent toxic substances because they cannot be safely
managed.

e) End chemical-by-chemical regulation, substituting an approach that
eliminates whole classes of chemicals that form persistent toxic
substances (e.g. chlorinated compounds, PCBs and heavy metals).

But the political will wasn't there. The Great Lakes Water Quality
Agreement of 1972 was never ratified by the U.S. Congress or the
Canadian Parliament. And over the years the Agreement has become long,
complex, and ineffective. There are few concrete deadlines for phasing
out chemicals or cleaning up contamination hot spots (called "areas
of concern"). Over the years, rapid gains in water quality in the
1970's have been eroded by steady increases in industrial activity,
new chemical contaminants, biological threats like invasive exotic
species, and unbridled urban sprawl.

In other words, despite early improvements, the Great Lakes ecosystem
has now deteriorated badly -- despite all the good intentions embodied
in the Agreement.

Now a new report from the IJC, issued in August, 2006, signals
renewed willingness at the IJC to grapple with the many issues that
have brought the Great Lakes to the threshold of ecological
collapse. The report calls for the old Agreement to be scrapped and
replaced by a shorter, easier to understand version that applies
current science and modern decision- making. Importantly, this report
heeds the call of many of the 4,100 residents who commented on the
Agreement in 2005. Here are some highlights of the IJC's
recommendations in this new report:

** The agreement should be more accountable and inclusive: "Plans
should be designed to reach out to residents around the basin so that
the public becomes more engaged in the process." Furthermore, "The
Commission believes that because the Agreement is important to
millions of people across the Great Lakes basin, it needs to be known,
understandable and meaningful to them."

** The report highlights the Agreement's strengths and needs: "Key
principles and concepts from the current Agreement, such as virtual
elimination and zero discharge of persistent toxic substances, should
be retained in order to unite all constituencies and resolve any
concerns that governments are reducing their commitment. Other
concepts that could underpin and strengthen the Agreement, such as the
ecosystem approach, adaptive management and the precautionary
principle, should also be clearly enunciated in the new Agreement."

** It goes on, "Today, however, there is recognition that protective
Action [towards the entire ecosystem, not just water quality] is
required to prevent degradation and avoid or minimize costly
restoration. The age- old adage that "an ounce of prevention is worth
a pound of cure" applies to the waters of the Great Lakes as much as
it does to other domains of social and environmental activity."

** The report also points to the importance of keeping human health
front and center in the new Agreement, "Human Health should be more
explicitly reflected in the Agreement. The evolution of scientific
knowledge and understanding indicates a need to reinforce the
integration of human health in the goals by explicitly recognizing it
in a new Agreement. This would also help to identify the health-
science gaps in Great Lakes research; set the stage, scope and context
for the Agreement's specific objectives; and assist the Parties in
setting their environmental health priorities."

The report acknowledges that unlike the current Agreement, a new
Agreement must specify:

** The actions that need to be taken to protect and restore the Great
Lakes basin ecosystem;

** Their precise goals and timelines for implementation and
achievement;

** Who is responsible and accountable for progress;

** Which indicators will be used to measure performance; and

** What assessments will be undertaken to evaluate success or failure.

The report calls for the President and the Prime Minister to sign the
new Agreement, and for the US Congress and the Canadian Parliament to
ratify the Agreement so that adequate resources will be available to
implement it. In 2005, a U.S. presidential commission concluded that
the Great Lakes will require $20 billion to clean up the water,
reverse the impacts of urban sprawl, improve thousands of acres of
fish and wildlife habitat and control exotic species. Does Congress
have what it takes to make such a commitment?

Not unless they feel the heat from voters. A more open and accountable
Agreement with measurable goals and benchmarks would be a step in the
right direction. But organized action by residents and communities is
ultimately the only thing that can save the Great Lakes. And time is
running out.

- -- -- -- -

To voice your opinion of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement you
can contact Dennis L. Schornack, U.S. Chair or Herb Gray, Canadian
Chair. Mr. Schornack can be reached at the International Joint
Commission,1250 23rd St NW Washington, DC 20037
SchornackD@Washington.IJC.org tel. (202) 736-9000; the Canadian Chair
is Herb Gray. Mr. Gray can be contacted at the International Joint
Commission, 234 Laurier Ave. West, 22nd Floor, Ottawa, Ontario, K1P
6K6 commission@ottawa.ijc.org Tel.: 613-992-2417 Fax.: 613-947-9386.

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From: Washington Post, Nov. 28, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]

RENEWED CONCERN OVER BLACK LUNG

Coal Is Vital in the Nation's Energy Plan, but Miners Remain Exposed

By Kari Lydersen

CHICAGO -- At 55, Connie Cline looks tanned, fit and trim. But walking
only a block leaves him wheezing and winded.

Cline suffers from black lung disease, the legacy of a decade he spent
crawling through coal seams and blasting at coal faces in West
Virginia. He's sitting in an exam room at the black lung clinic of a
public hospital in Chicago, where he comes regularly to try to keep
his disease under control.

Though some may view it as a relic of a bygone era, black lung disease
is still a serious problem for thousands of miners and former miners
nationwide. A study released in August by the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC) found that younger miners -- in their 30s
through 50s -- are developing rapidly progressive, debilitating forms
of the disease at a much higher rate than expected. This incidence was
especially high in smaller mines such as the ones Cline worked in,
including one run by his uncle.

Cline was already feeling symptoms of black lung disease in his early
40s, after a neck and back injury forced him to retire from mining.
Pneumoconiosis, or black lung, is caused by coal dust trapped in the
lungs, and the disease may worsen even after a miner retires.

"The dust was so thick sometimes you couldn't see your hand in front
of you, even with your light," said Cline, who now lives in Akron,
Ind. "You just spit it up. You just live in it."

Cline's illness was originally misdiagnosed as cancer by doctors in
Akron who were unfamiliar with the large scars that can be formed in
complicated black lung disease. After that, Cline found his way to the
black lung clinic at John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County,
which is widely considered the country's top facility for black lung
diagnosis and treatment.

Most of the nation's 25 federally funded black lung clinics are in big
coal-mining states, such as Kentucky, West Virginia and Wyoming.
Illinois, in particular Chicago, is associated with burning coal to
forge steel or produce electricity, not with coal mining.

But when many Appalachian mines closed or laid off workers starting in
the 1950s, scores of miners migrated to Chicago for work in steel
mills and other industrial jobs.

Cline's father, a West Virginia miner, was part of this migration.
Cline was raised in Chicago but headed back to his Appalachian mining
roots after serving in the Vietnam War.

Broady Moorer, a patient in the room next to Cline's, also moved to
Chicago to work in factories after mining in Kentucky. "Once the mines
went down, there wasn't anything else to do there," said Moorer, 76,
whose father and seven brothers were miners. "I was ready to leave."

Coal is a component of the country's future energy plan, with more
than 100 coal-burning power plants now in the permit stages or under
construction. With modern technology and a shift toward strip mines,
many miners and doctors thought black lung disease might vanish.

But it is still a serious occupational risk, as indicated by studies
that include a CDC report identifying black lung hot spots in 22
counties in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.

"If you didn't have dust exposure, you wouldn't have the disease,"
said Vinicius Antao, a medical officer at the National Institute for
Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), which carries out black lung
studies. "There is not enough dust control."

In 1995, NIOSH recommended reducing the allowable level of coal mine
dust from two milligrams to one milligram per cubic meter of air, but
the recommendation was not adopted.

Bruce Watzman, vice president of safety and health for the National
Mining Association, a national trade group, said industry officials
were surprised by the NIOSH study.

"These results caught us off guard," he said. "We want to learn more
about it."

He said the industry plans to use personal dust monitors -- devices
each miner wears to immediately log dust levels -- once research is
complete and the devices are commercially available. He said that
development and testing of the devices, which will cost about $7,000
each, has taken "longer than anyone expected."

"We continue to work and explore new technology to reduce dust levels
in the mines," Watzman said. "We have a twofold approach: the
development of personal dust monitors and the refinement of existing
tools to reduce dust exposure underground."

He said the group does not support lowering the legal dust limit.

Miners' advocates say that along with stricter limits, better
enforcement is needed.

"It's one thing to have dust control measures in place, it's another
to monitor them," said Mary Natkin, a law professor at Washington and
Lee University in Lexington, Va., whose students help miners in black
lung benefits cases. She said current dust control enforcement, which
relies largely on companies' self-reporting, is like "putting the fox
in charge of the henhouse."

There's no doubt that black lung has been drastically reduced since
the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969 established dust
limits. Recent surveys indicate about a 3 percent overall rate of
disease, compared with 10 percent or more in the 1960s. But with coal
production increasing, mostly in smaller, nonunion mines, Robert
Cohen, director of the black lung clinic in Chicago, worries about
what the future will bring.

"Unfortunately, black lung disease is not likely to disappear. Rather,
we're likely to see more cases if health and safety regulations are
weakened or go unenforced," he said. "Unlike the Sago mine explosion,
this will be the hidden disaster. These deaths won't hit the headlines
and will take place quietly decades from now."

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From: San Francisco Chronicle (pg. A1), Nov. 19, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]

TOXIC

San Francisco prepares to ban certain chemicals in products for tots,
but enforcement will be tough -- and toymakers question necessity

By Jane Kay, Chronicle Environment Writer

Widely used chemicals with suspected links to cancer and developmental
problems in humans are present in common baby products like the yellow
rubber ducky, bath books and clear plastic bottles, a Chronicle
analysis confirmed.

The toxic chemicals, which are used to harden or soften plastics, can
leach out each time a baby sucks on a favorite doll or gnaws on a cool
teething ring, scientists say.

Starting Dec. 1, a first-in-the-nation ban goes into effect in San
Francisco, prohibiting the sale, distribution and manufacture of baby
products containing any level of bisphenol A and certain levels of
phthalates.

The law, modeled on a European Union ban that started this year,
reflects emerging concerns by environmental health scientists over the
buildup of industrial chemicals in humans, particularly young
children. Especially under scrutiny are chemicals that mimic estrogen,
possibly disrupting the hormonal system and altering the normal
workings of genes.

Yet the trouble is that no one knows for sure how many baby products
contain the chemicals. Stores, many of which are still unaware of the
pending ban, will be unable to decide what to take off the shelves
because manufacturers aren't required to disclose what chemicals go
into a product. For that reason, The Chronicle set out to test several
common baby toys and found that most of them -- even ones labeled
"safe, non-toxic" -- contained the chemicals.

Toymakers and companies affected by the ban have sued to block
enforcement of the San Francisco law, saying their products have been
used safely for decades. A January hearing is scheduled. If the courts
uphold the measure, most companies say they'll comply with the ban
even though they believe it's unnecessary.

"The U.S. government has always felt that what's in the marketplace is
perfectly safe for the consumer," said Jeff Holzman, CEO of New York-
based Goldberger Doll Manufacturing Co., who found out from The
Chronicle that his company's Fuzzy Fleece Doll would be banned under
the San Francisco law.

"Be that as it may, if there's a question, all the products that we
make will be made without phthalates by 2007," he said.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency admits that its own
guidelines -- called reference doses -- for safe human exposure to the
chemicals are decades old and don't take into account the new
research. The EPA is actively reassessing the health risks of three
types of phthalates but is not reassessing bisphenol A, agency
spokeswoman Suzanne Ackerman said.

The Food and Drug Administration, which controls chemicals that may
touch food, and Consumer Product Safety Commission, which is
responsible for toy safety, haven't limited the chemicals in baby
products for years. Representatives say they have no plans to impose
new restrictions.

Chemical-makers say that's appropriate.

"We believe at very low levels of exposure, there is no concern," said
Marian Stanley, a spokeswoman for the four U.S. phthalate-makers.

Low doses of bisphenol A are also not a health risk, said Steve
Hentges, a spokesman for the five major U.S. companies that make that
chemical. "In every case, the weight of evidence supports the
conclusion that bisphenol A is not a risk to human health at the
extremely low levels to which people might be exposed," he said.

Many scientists who study the materials disagree and point to hundreds
of scientific studies they say show why bans such as San Francisco's
are needed.

It's not the first time San Francisco has led the way in instituting a
chemical ban. A decade ago, its leaders voted to eliminate the most
toxic pesticides from city property. That sort of action is needed to
cut exposure to harmful chemicals, said Dr. Richard Jackson, a UC
Berkeley professor who for a decade headed the Center for
Environmental Health at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention.

"We don't want dry-cleaning solvents in our livers, lead in our brains
or perchlorate in our thyroids. We certainly don't want endocrine
disrupters in breast milk and umbilical cord blood. We need to be
ratcheting down these levels in people by reducing the loading of
these chemicals in the environment," Jackson said.

The Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety, a group based at the
World Health Organization, recommended in September prevention of
exposure to known hazards from chemicals already detected in some
toys.

"Protections for children from chemicals in toys are weak at best and
dysfunctional at worst," said Joel Tickner, a professor of
environmental health at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. He has
served as a consultant to the forum and on national panels that advise
the U.S. government on chemicals in the environment.

"Consumers would be astonished if they knew that federal laws
regulating chemicals in children's toys all require balancing the
benefits of protecting children with the costs to industry of
implementing safer alternatives," he said.

The tests

It's often impossible for parents to tell if the teething ring or baby
rattle they hand their children contains bisphenol A or phthalates.
The Chronicle purchased 16 children's products and sent them to the
STAT Analysis Corp. laboratory in Chicago, one of the few commercial
labs that test for these chemicals.

The city's ordinance bans the manufacture, distribution or sale of
items intended for children younger than 3 if they contain any level
of bisphenol A. Six different forms of phthalates are covered by the
ban, which sets the maximum phthalate level at 0.1 percent of the
chemical makeup of any part of the product. Three of those phthalates
are banned only in items intended for kids younger than 3, but the law
doesn't include age limits for products that contain three other
phthalates -- DEHP, DBP and BBP.

Some items exceeded the city's phthalate limits:

-- Little Remedies Little Teethers, a Prestige Brands product sold
with an oral pain-relief gel, contained one phthalate at nearly five
times the limit.

-- The face of Goldberger's Fuzzy Fleece Baby doll contained one form
of phthalate at nearly twice the limit.

-- A rubber ducky sold at a Walgreens store contained a carcinogenic
form of phthalate, DEHP, at levels 13 times higher than allowed under
San Francisco's pending ordinance. A second form of phthalate was
found three times above the limit.

These products were found to contain bisphenol A and would be banned
in the city:

-- The ring on a Baby Einstein rattle made by the Disney Co.

-- A Fun Ice Soothing Ring teether made by Munchkin Inc.

-- The plastic covers on two of Random House's waterproof books --
"Elmo Wants a Bath" and Dr. Seuss' "One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue
Fish." The books also contain levels of phthalates below San
Francisco's limit.

-- A Walgreen-brand baby bottle decorated with colorful fish.

-- The face of the Goldberger doll.

-- The body of a My Little Pony toy contained both bisphenol A and one
form of phthalate that measured three times the city's limit. The toy
wouldn't fall under the San Francisco ban, however, because it's
marketed for ages 3 and up. It didn't contain high enough levels of
the other three phthalates to be subject to the ban.

The method used by STAT to test for bisphenol A wasn't sensitive
enough to detect the chemical in three polycarbonate clear plastic
baby bottles made by Philips Avent, Gerber and Playtex and one clear
plastic Gerber cup. Experts from the American Plastics Council,
however, say that polycarbonate plastic can't be made without
bisphenol A. Those items would be banned under the San Francisco law.

The lab didn't detect the chemicals in three other products chosen by
The Chronicle:

-- A Baby Einstein caterpillar teething ring.

-- A no-spill cup made by Nuby/Luv n' care.

-- The plastic mouth cover of a Disney pacifier.

Most companies whose items were found to contain phthalates or
bisphenol A learned about the pending San Francisco ban through
interviews with The Chronicle.

Among them was Walgreen Co., which has since begun to examine ways to
comply with the ban. Officials at the company's Illinois headquarters
said the chain is asking its vendors to identify products that do not
comply with the San Francisco law.

Representatives for Prestige Brands in Irvington, N.Y., said the
company would remove the teether with phthalates from San Francisco
shelves and is working on finding an alternative.

After Random House officials learned of the test results on their baby
bath books, they made plans to conduct their own tests. The company
pledged to stop shipping books to San Francisco if it finds the
products would violate the pending ban.

When notified of the chemicals in its products, Hasbro spokesman Gary
Serby responded in an e-mail: "Hasbro does not agree with the science
behind the ordinance, but will comply as of Dec. 1."

Nidia Tatalovich, a Disney representative, said all of the company's
products meet state and federal compliance guidelines. She said that
her company would examine the San Francisco law.

Shannon Jenest, spokeswoman for Philips Avent, which makes
polycarbonate baby bottles, said, "We're working through the details
right now. We're very concerned with those standards and will make
sure that we adhere to those guidelines."

Munchkin, the company whose teething ring contained bisphenol A,
didn't respond to repeated queries.

In the past three weeks, groups representing the chemical
manufacturers, toymakers, retailers and San Francisco's toy stores,
Citikids and Ambassador Toys, filed two separate lawsuits, arguing
that the city doesn't have the authority to pass such a ban.

Some of the same trade groups -- the California Retailers Association,
the California Grocers Association, the Juvenile Products
Manufacturers Association and the American Chemistry Council --
successfully fought a bill this year in the state Legislature that
would have enacted a ban similar to San Francisco's. The city agreed
to delay enforcement of its ordinance until a Jan. 8 hearing at which
the companies will seek a preliminary injunction. A hearing date
hasn't been set for the second lawsuit, which was filed Thursday.

Yet even without an injunction, there are no penalties for companies
that violate the ban. City leaders said they wanted to make sure all
companies knew about the ban before issuing fines or taking other
actions.

The San Francisco ordinance is certain to cause concern among parents
who may not have been aware of the European ban or studies on
chemicals commonly found in child products.

Mary Brune, a technical writer from Alameda, said she first started
paying attention to the issue when she was nursing her baby last year
and read about chemicals in breast milk. With two friends, she founded
Making Our Milk Safe, or MOMS.

She scans Web sites to find toys made without plastics and tells
friends about baby bottles made from glass, polyethylene, propylene
and other materials considered safe. She stores food in glass. Last
month she passed out leaflets near Albany's Target store, urging
company officials to remove polyvinyl chloride (PVC) toys from their
shelves.

"It's impossible to keep plastic toys out of children's mouth. They
chew on things," Brune said. "So we as parents rely on the
manufacturers of products to ensure their safety. If consumers demand
safer products and businesses demand safer products from their
suppliers, we'll be able to get these toxic products off our shelves."

The health effects

Scientists simply don't know how low or high levels of phthalates or
bisphenol A will cause health problems in babies if they suck on a
bottle or handle a doll containing those substances.

Studies on the chemicals are largely conducted with high-dose and low-
dose experiments on animals, which over time help scientists determine
the level of chemicals that may pose unacceptable risks.

Those sorts of strictly controlled animal experiments are what first
showed that the pesticide chlordane could cause cancer and that
industrial pollutants like dioxin could cause birth defects. Such
studies were also cited when California named one phthalate a
carcinogen in 1988 and two others as reproductive toxicants in 2005.

There is a dearth of long-term, epidemiological studies on children
exposed to phthalates and bisphenol A. So scientists from groups like
the American Chemistry Council say the fact that the chemicals are
found in human bodies doesn't necessarily mean they cause health
problems.

Yet scientists who study phthalates and bisphenol A say there is
enough evidence to implicate some forms of the chemicals now.

New evidence about how bisphenol A affects lab animals and how it can
leach out of items such as plastic bottles came out of 1999 research
by Koji Arizono at Japan's Kumamoto University.

Arizono found that a used polycarbonate baby bottle can leach out
bisphenol A at daily levels that damaged the brain and reproductive
systems in lab animals. If a 9-pound baby drinks about a quart of
liquid from the bottle a day, it can ingest 4 micrograms of bisphenol
A.

"We're showing that amount is in the zone of danger, based on the
animal studies," said University of Missouri researcher Frederick vom
Saal, who said that the doses that have hurt lab animals were very
close to what a baby would get from a baby bottle.

Vom Saal found that 148 published bisphenol A studies, all financed by
government bodies, reported significant health effects, including
altering the function of organs and reproductive systems in male and
female animals.

That compares with 27 studies that found no evidence of harm. Thirteen
of those studies were financed by chemical corporations.

Last year, researchers at the Tufts University School of Medicine
exposed pregnant lab rodents to levels of bisphenol A 2,000 times
lower than the EPA's 18-year-old safety guideline, which the agency
admits is outdated. That old guideline suggests it would be safe, for
example, for a 9-pound baby to swallow about 200 milligrams (or
200,000 micrograms) of the chemical a day.

But rodents given just a very small fraction of that amount showed
changes in mammary glands. In humans, such changes are associated with
a higher risk of breast cancer. Other researchers showed that exposure
of newborn rats to bisphenol A causes early stages of prostate cancer.

Testifying before the state Legislature this year on the failed bill,
one of the EPA's top phthalate researchers, Earl Gray, said studies on
pregnant rodents found in their male offspring such effects as
disrupted testosterone production and low sperm counts, malformation
of sexual organs, and disruption of the endocrine system.

There's no reason to believe that the same effects wouldn't be the
same in humans as well, Gray said.

And last year, for the first time, scientists showed that pregnant
women who had higher concentrations of some phthalates in their urine
were more likely to later give birth to sons with genitals that showed
changes similar to those seen in exposed rodents.

It appeared that human infants, like rodents, were less completely
masculinized. Some of the changes, including incompletely descended
testes, were similar to those included in the "phthalate syndrome"
seen in lab rodents that received high doses of phthalates, University
of Rochester researchers found. Later in the lab animals' lives, those
genital changes were associated with lower sperm count, decreased
fertility and, in some, testicular tumors.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission, which works closely with
industry, has developed a voluntary agreement to eliminate the
phthalate DEHP in some baby products.

In 1983, the commission determined that substantial exposure to DEHP
could put children at risk of cancer. The agency didn't issue a
regulation, but instead reached an agreement with the Toy Industry
Association to keep DEHP out of pacifiers, rattles and teethers. The
agreement leaves unregulated all other toys that babies put in their
mouths.

When advised that Chronicle tests found that all the polyvinyl
chloride toys contained DEHP, including a teether, Scott Wolfson, a
spokesman for the commission, promised that his agency would look into
it.

Nevertheless, Wolfson said his agency believes that consumer products
that contain low levels of phthalates are not a danger to children.
His agency doesn't conduct its own tests on toys but follows up when
other organizations share test results, he said.

"We have a saying: 'The dose makes the poison.' We are not seeing a
high dose of phthalates coming out of a product and into the body of a
child."

The Chronicle decided to find out what popular toys and child care
items sold in San Francisco contained chemicals that would be banned
under a new city ordinance effective Dec. 1.

Chronicle environment writer Jane Kay purchased a random selection of
16 plastic baby items, including a toy doll and a horse, a rubber
ducky, books, teethers and baby bottles.

The Chronicle sent the box of products to STAT Analysis Corp.'s
laboratory in Chicago, one of the few labs that can test for bisphenol
A and six forms of phthalates.

The Chronicle identified parts of the toys and baby items that should
be tested by the lab. Lab workers cut the items apart and weighed the
pieces before adding them into a solvent of methylene chloride. After
several hours, lab workers used the solution to quantify the amount of
bisphenol A and phthalates in the products.

The method used to detect bisphenol A wouldn't be expected to find the
chemical at low levels. Yet the lab, using gas chromatography and mass
spectrometry, found both bisphenol A and phthalates in many of the
products.

To see photos of the testing process, go to www.sfgate.com.

========================================================

Phthalates

Uses: Softens polyvinyl chloride products such as toys, raincoats,
shower curtains and medical tubing. Found in upholstery, detergents,
oils and cosmetics.

Health effects: Lab animal studies show some phthalates interfere with
hormonal systems, disrupt testosterone production and cause malformed
sex organs. The DEHP form is a carcinogen and a reproductive toxicant.
Phthalates shed or leach from products.

Regulation: The San Francisco law prohibits the manufacture, sale or
distribution of toys and child care products if they contain the
phthalates DEHP, DBP or BBP in levels higher than 0.1 percent.
Products for children younger than 3 are banned if they contain DINP,
DIDP or DnOP in levels exceeding 0.1 percent.

Production: Made by BASF Corp., Eastman Chemical Co., ExxonMobil
Chemical Co. and Ferro Corp.

Bisphenol A

Uses: Acts as building block in hard, clear polycarbonate plastic baby
bottles, water bottles and containers. Found in liners inside food and
drink cans, electronic equipment and spray-on flame retardants.

Health effects: Lab animal studies show that at low levels, bisphenol
A can alter the function of the thyroid gland, brain, pancreas and
prostate gland. It leaches out of products under normal use. It is
found in humans, especially in placental and fetal tissue.

Regulation: San Francisco law prohibits manufacture, sale or
distribution of a toy or child care article intended for use by a
child younger than 3 if it contains bisphenol A.

Production: Made by Dow Chemical, Bayer, General Electric Plastics,
Sunoco Chemicals and Hexion Specialty Chemicals. -- Chronicle research

========================================================

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From: Universities Allied for Essential Medicines, Oct. 1, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]

PHILADELPHIA CONSENSUS STATEMENT

The Philadelphia Consensus Statement proposes three major changes to
university policies on health-related innovations. Universities
should:

** Promote equal access to research.

** Promote research and development for neglected diseases.

** Measure research success according to impact on human welfare.

These changes could literally save millions of lives.

EQUAL ACCESS

Universities are key developers of drugs, vaccines and diagnostics.
They can leverage their intellectual property on these innovations to
ensure low-cost access in the developing world.

Mechanisms proposed to ensure access include: granting rights to
generic companies to manufacture and export university innovations to
developing countries, price reductions, non-patenting requirements in
low- and middle-income countries, and participation in patent pools.

RESEARCH FOR NEGLECTED DISEASES

Neglected diseases are those for which treatment options are
inadequate or do not exist and for which drug-market potential is
insufficient to attract a private-sector response.

Universities can adopt policies that remove barriers to neglected
diseases R&D. Proposed policy changes include: engaging with
nontraditional partners, such as public-private partnerships or
developing country institutions, creating new opportunities for drug
development, and carving out neglected disease research exemptions in
any university patents or licenses.

MEASURING RESEARCH SUCCESS BY IMPACT ON HUMAN WELFARE

University technology transfer operations are usually evaluated using
simple, quantifiable criteria such as patents applied for and
received, licenses granted, and licensing revenue generated.
Therefore, the positive social impact of university innovations--
particularly in poor countries--goes largely unnoticed.

Universities can rectify this situation by collecting and making
public statistics on university intellectual property practices
related to global health access and collaborating to develop new
technology transfer metrics to better gauge access to public health
goods and innovation in neglected-disease research.

Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM;
www.essentialmedicine.org) adopted the Philadelphia Consensus
Statement at their annual conference held in Philadelphia at the
beginning of October, 2006.

You are invited to join the initial signatories and endorse the
Philadelphia Consensus Statement.

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