The Cancer Prevention and Education Society News Summary - September 2005

This news summary was kindly collated by The Cancer Prevention and Education Society (Charity No. 1089082) - www.cancerpreventionsociety.org.

Septemebr 2005

Call To Regulate Gender-Bending Chemicals

Scientists will call on European leaders today to take urgent action to speed up regulation of the thousands of gender-bending chemicals in use across the continent. The harmful effects of these chemicals - called endocrine disrupters - have been a growing concern in recent years but today’s move will be the first time the scientific community has raised its concerns with politicians and the public at large. The Prague Declaration, named after a meeting of more than 100 toxicologists and chemists in Czech Republic last month, and due to be launched today in Brussels, will state that legislation on the safe use of chemicals does not go far enough and lack of scientific evidence of the harmful effects of these chemicals must not delay political action. Last month, scientists in America confirmed this fear with evidence that a class of chemicals known as phthalates - used to make plastics more pliable - may harm the development of unborn baby boys. Researchers had known for some time that high levels of these chemicals were harmful, but the latest study suggests that even normal levels - those commonly found in toys, plastic bags and clingfilm - could disrupt the development of male reproductive organs.
Taken from: June 20, 2005, The Guardian

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EU Relaxes Control On ’Gender’ Chemicals

Gender-bending chemicals are to be exempted from tough new Europe-wide safety controls despite concern that they are causing bizarre sex changes in children and wildlife, leaked documents reveal. Confidential proposals, seen by The Independent on Sunday, show that the chemicals will be treated less strictly than other dangerous substances in a new European Commission directive to be finalised.The proposals, drawn up by the British Government, will create a storm of protest, not least because they fly in the face of a formal warning given by more than 125 of the leading scientists in the field just three months ago. The scientists, who had carried out research on the chemicals, said they were "concerned about the level of male reproductive disorders" in Europe. Sperm levels have been dropping across the industrialised world, and the chemicals are widely thought to be responsible. Research published in May showed that mothers exposed to phthalates had boys with smaller penises.
Taken from: The Independent on Sunday, 28th August 2005

New Research Reveals That Children - Even Newborns - Have Dangerous Chemicals In Their Blood

Doctors once thought that the placenta would shield a foetus from harmful chemicals and pollutants. But new research shows that may not be the case. A study published this month by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), an advocacy group based in Washington DC, found traces of 287 chemicals in the umbilical cord blood of 10 infants. They included mercury, pesticides and the chemicals used in stain-resistant coating and fire-retardant foam. The findings prompted concerns since children’s smaller brains, developing organs and more porous brains put them more at risk from such toxins than adults. "A child’s brain is very vulnerable and developing very rapidly in utero and during the first two years of life," says Jane Houlihan, co-author of the study.
Taken from: Newsweek July 26, 2005

Dozens Of Chemicals Found In Humans

In the largest study of chemical exposure ever conducted on human beings, the U.S. Centre for Disease Control reported that most American children and adults were carrying in their bodies dozens of pesticides and toxic compounds used in consumer products, many of them linked to potential health threats. Bigger doses were found in children for many chemicals.
Taken from: Los Angeles Times July 22, 2005

Fresh Fears Raised About Aspartame

The European Food Safety Authority is reviewing "as a matter of high priority" the results of a large new study into aspartame, the artificial sweetener consumed by millions of people worldwide and used in more than 6,000 food and drink products. Researchers at the Ramazzini Institute for cancer research in Italy say their study shows that aspartame causes lymphomas and leukaemia in female laboratory animals "at doses very close to the acceptable daily intake for humans". The authors of the study also say that while rats fed aspartame ate less food, there was no difference in body weight between treated and untreated animals.
Taken from: Friday July 15, 2005 The Guardian

Washington State University Study Points To Role Of Toxins In Inherited Disease

A disease you are suffering today could be a result of your great-grandmother being exposed to an environmental toxin during pregnancy. Researchers at Washington State University reached that remarkable conclusion after finding that environmental toxins can alter the activity of an animal’s genes in a way that is transmitted through at least four generations after the exposure. Their discovery suggests that toxins may play a role in heritable diseases that were previously thought to be caused solely by genetic mutations. It also hints at a role for environmental impacts during evolution. "It’s a new way to think about disease," said Michael K. Skinner, director of the Center for Reproductive Biology. "We believe this phenomenon will be widespread and be a major factor in understanding how disease develops." The work is reported in the June 3 issue of Science Magazine. Skinner and a team of WSU researchers exposed pregnant rats to environmental toxins during the period that the sex of their offspring was being determined. The compounds - vinclozolin, a fungicide commonly used in vineyards, and methoxychlor, a pesticide that replaced DDT - are known as endocrine disruptors, synthetic chemicals that interfere with the normal functioning of reproductive hormones. Skinner’s group used higher levels of the toxins than are normally present in the environment, but their study raises concerns about the long-term impacts of such toxins on human and animal health.
June 2006

Toxic Chemicals In Celebrities

Potentially dangerous industrial chemicals were found in celebrities’ blood tested for a health campaign. Comedian David Baddiel and chef Anthony Worrall Thompson were among seven celebrities tested for 104 chemicals. The tests were for the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Co-Operative Bank which are calling for stronger regulation of the chemicals industry. Sarah Beeny of Channel 4’s Property Ladder, was found to have the highest level, with 30 chemicals in her blood. Justin Woolford, of WWF’s Chemicals and Health Campaign, said the tests showed all the celebrities were "contaminated with toxic chemicals". "It highlights the shocking fact that it is impossible for any of us to avoid these nasty substances," he said.
Taken from: BBC News May 16, 2005

Oestrogen-Like Compound Shown To Alter Breast Development

A chemical found in plastics may put women exposed to it at greater risk of developing breast cancer, it seems. A study in mice has found that minute doses of the oestrogen-like substance increase breast tissue development, and higher density breast tissue is a risk factor for cancer. Many hard plastics contain the compound bisphenol A, which can leach into food after heating. The chemical also appears in some dental fillings and the linings of tin cans. Industry began using bisphenol A in the 1950s, but in recent years scientists have documented how it mimics the hormone oestrogen.Some scientists worry that because oestrogen plays such a crucial role in the development of a foetus’ reproductive system and other organs, exposure to bisphenol A in the womb could cause problems. A recent study of mice exposed in this way found that the artificial compound caused abnormally high levels of growth in the male animals’ prostate glands.
Taken from: Nature News 27 May 2005

Scientists Link Plastic Food Containers With Breast Cancer

A chemical widely used in food packaging may be a contributing factor to women developing breast cancer, scientists have suggested. The study links the compound to the development of hormone sensitive tissue in mice and has prompted environmental campaigners to call for far tighter regulation of such chemicals. Experiments at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, Massachusetts, have potentially worrying implications for human health since they suggest mammary glands of female mice grow in a way that makes them more likely to develop breast cancer and also to respond unusually to oestrogen, which fuels most breast cancer in humans. The compound involved is called bisphenol-A or BPA. It is used in plastic food containers, cans and dental sealants and other research suggests it leaches from products and is absorbed in low concentrations by the human body. The scientists behind the latest findings say in the journal Endocrinology that they are involved in further work to test the hypothesis that exposure in the womb and shortly after birth to BPA in particular, and to oestrogens in general, might increase people’s susceptibility to breast cancer. It is the second report in a week to raise concerns about widely used chemicals. Research has also shown that phthalates, often found in plastics, affects the genital development of baby boys.
Taken from: The Guardian May 30, 2005

Colgate In Spotlight Amid Triclosan Concerns

’Total’ toothpaste contains chemical linked to cancer in studies. New research that products containing bacteria-fighting triclosan could expose consumers to a probable human carcinogen is bringing attention to Colgate-Palmolive Co. as its Colgate Total toothpaste contains triclosan. Researchers at Virginia Tech found that the use of antimicrobial soaps and other products may expose people to significant quantities of chloroform. When triclosan, found in many antimicrobial soaps, reacts with chlorine found in tap water, chloroform is produced. The Environmental Protection Agency classifies chloroform as a probable human carcinogen.
Taken from: Reuters April 22, 2005

Toxic Eggs, Anyone?


A report released on Thursday revealed that eggs of free-range chicken grown near a waste incinerator in Cavite contain an "alarming level" of dioxin and polychlorinated biphenyls. Dioxin, an unintended by-product of many combustion and manufacturing processes, is the most toxic chemical known to science and is recognized as a human carcinogen."Eggs must contain zero level of toxic contaminants, especially dioxins that can lead to cancers and other adverse health effects even at very low levels of exposure," said Eileen Sison of EcoWaste Coalition, a group active on waste and pollution issues. The report, released in time for the observance of Earth Day on Friday, is part of a global egg sampling project that aims to find out the extent of toxic contamination of eggs in 18 countries, including the Philippines. Chicken eggs were chosen for the study because they are a common food item and their fat content makes them appropriate for monitoring chemicals that dissolve in fat. The study focused on free- range hens because they can easily access and eat soil animals and their eggs are good tools for bio monitoring of environmental contamination. The report was also released on the eve of the first Conference of the Parties to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, which will be participated by the Philippines. The Convention, ratified by the Philippine Senate in February 2004, marks the first global, legally binding instrument that protects human health and the environment by controlling production, use and disposal of toxic chemicals.
Taken from: ABS-CBN News, April 2005


Organic Rats In Rude Good Health

Organic food can help you sleep, keep you slim and boost your immune system - if you are a rat. Scientists at the Danish Institute of Agricultural Sciences experimented with 36 rats, feeding one group organic food, another group food grown conventionally with high levels of fertiliser and some pesticide, and a third group minimally fertilised food. They say the rats fed organic food were measurably healthier, in that they slept better, had stronger immune systems and were less obese. Dr Kirsten Brandt of Newcastle University’s school of agriculture, who helped to design the study, said: "This study doesn’t prove anything about which food is better than the other, but it does show that it can make a difference." The results have been submitted to a scientific journal but have not yet been published. They were released yesterday by the Danish Research Centre for Organic Farming, which funded the study. It said: "In all cases where differences were observed there was a beneficial effect of the organically grown diet. This indicates a positive effect of organically grown foods as compared to conventionally grown food."
Taken from: The Guardian February 19, 2005

Pollution Blamed For Child Cancers

Most childhood cancers are probably caused by exposure to pollutants while babies are still in the womb, a researcher claimed yesterday. Professor George Knox said prenatal exposure to industrial and environmental pollutants, most likely to have been inhaled by the mother during pregnancy, were probably to blame for the majority of cancers in under-16s.He said the most dangerous pollutants were produced by industry or transport and these should be targeted in attempts to reduce childhood cancers. About 1,500 new cases of childhood cancer are diagnosed each year in the UK, accounting for some 300 deaths annually. Prof Knox, of Birmingham University, analysed maps showing chemical emissions alongside details of children dying from leukaemia and other cancers before their 16th birthday between 1966 and 1980.He calculated that youngsters born within 1km of emission hotspots for particular chemicals were between two and four times more likely to die of cancer before the age of 16 than other children.
Taken from: The Guardian Jan 17, 2005

Toxins From Bottles Found In Body

A study done by a Bolinas-based health group shows chemicals found in plastic water bottles and non-stick cookware are turning up inside the human body. The organization Commonweal jointly released the study "Taking It All In" yesterday with the Breast Cancer Fund. It detailed results taken from 11 prominent Californians from diverse backgrounds who submitted urine, blood and hair samples.The study used sophisticated new biomonitoring analysis techniques, possible only in the last few years, to precisely measure the levels of toxic chemicals in the subjects’ bodies.

"While 11 people does not represent statistical significance, it does show that no matter what people do for a living, these chemicals are turning up in their bodies," said Davis Baltz, deputy director of Commonweal’s Biomonitoring Resource Center. "We want to raise the awareness." Among the 11 people who submitted samples: actor Peter Coyote, who spends time in Mill Valley; Martin Krasney, a writer and educator from Sausalito; and Jo Behm, a health-care educator from Novato.

Among the findings of the study:

Mercury, DDT, perfluorinated compounds (used in Gore-Tex and Teflon products), flame retardants and phthalates (common in body care products and vinyl medical devices) or their metabolites were found in all 11 test subjects

When compared with national data released last month by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those in the study were found to have higher levels of mercury and DDT than the average American

A chemical marker for bisphenol A, found in plastic water bottles, metal food can linings and elsewhere, was found in the study group. Among the 50 most-produced chemicals, exposure to BPA in the womb has been linked to increased risk of breast, prostate and testicular cancer. The chemical has also been implicated in birth defects, Down Syndrome, miscarriage, decreased sperm production and early puberty

Perflourochemicals, marketed under brands such as Teflon, Stainmaster, Scotchgard and Gore-Tex, were also found in the group. A member of this chemical group, PFOA, was recently upgraded in concern by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to a probable human carcinogen

"I’ve made changes since receiving my results, using different cooking pots, buying different personal care products, eating organic food when I can," said Wanna Wright, a poet, playwright and women’s health advocate who lives in Emeryville and participated in the study.

Testing chemicals’ impacts on humans is the key, Baltz said. "This is like a big chemical experiment with virtually no testing," he said. "We are saying, ’Let’s do some testing and make sure we are not opening a Pandora’s Box. It would be foolish to continue down the road we are on. "We are not anti-technology, or anti-chemical; some chemicals are very important to the quality of our lives. We just want testing," Baltz said.

Coincidentally, this week the state Assembly is likely to vote on legislation to establish a statewide, voluntary and confidential program to measure chemical contaminants in people - Senate Bill 600.

More than 100,000 synthetic chemicals are in use in the United States, and about 1,000 new chemicals are introduced every year, but less than 10 percent of chemicals have been tested for their effects on human health, according to SB 600.
Article from: Mark Prado, Marin Independent Journal 30th August, 2005

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