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In memory of Theo Colborn

Theo Colborn was a visionary who worked tirelessly to protect the public from chemicals with hormone disrupting properties.

She desperately tried to alert the world to the problems associated with exposure of the unborn child to countless hormone disrupting chemicals in every day household products.  Her brilliance was in piecing together the evidence to portray the big picture. By bringing key academics together from different branches of the scientific world, she was able to let these scientists themselves also grasp the big picture, so that they too could carry the message forward.

She was a communicator par excellence, and did much to help shape EU policy on hormone disrupting chemicals. Her book “Our Stolen Future”, which she co-authored with John Peterson (Pete) Myers and Dianne Dumanoski, was one of the driving forces behind EU action. Listening to her give a talk was compelling and spellbinding. She noted that as a species man could travel to outer space, but we needed to wake-up to the need to protect ‘inner space’ – the in-utero environment.

She was an inspiration and a motivator. Anyone who ever worked with Theo will no doubt have fond memories of sessions going on late into the evening, with Theo still shining brightly. Her work inspired countless scientists and environmentalists, who now must try their best to carry on the work that she started.

CHEM Trust will miss her.  Theo Colborn was a truly great lady.

You can find out more about Theo at The Endocrine Disrupter Exchange.

Are there safer alternatives to Bisphenol A in thermal paper?

The French government has proposed that there should be a ban on the use of hormone disrupting chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) in thermal paper (e.g. till receipts) – but industry is now arguing that the alternatives are less well understood.

Since the French Government’s proposal for an EU wide ban on BPA in thermal paper, which CHEM Trust has supported, further research has been published showing how the BPA in thermal paper receipts can migrate into our bloodstream if the conditions are right.
[read more]

New research has found that the children of women exposed to higher levels of certain phthalate chemicals when pregnant have lower IQ at seven years old. The research, published in the journal PLOS One, looked at the levels of phthalates (a commonly used group of chemicals) in the urine of 328 mothers late in their pregnancy, and then tested the IQ of their children when they were 7 years old.

The authors found that two of the phthalates, DnBP and DiBP, had significant associations with reduced IQ, and they conclude:  [read more]

There is increasing evidence that human and veterinary medicines are damaging wildlife, a new report launched today by the environmental charity CHEM Trust shows. The report Pharmaceuticals in the Environment: A growing threat to our tap water and wildlife” highlights that medicines [1] are polluting rivers and have harmed wild birds and fish. Other species too have been affected, and people are also worryingly exposed.

This report comes at a time of growing global concern about the environmental effects of pharmaceuticals. Later this month a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) meeting [2] will decide whether ‘Pharmaceuticals in the Environment’ should be recommended to be designated an emerging global policy issue.  [read more]

Today we are launching a new list of  frequently asked questions (FAQ) about hormone disrupting chemicals (or endocrine disrupting chemicals – EDCs – to use the more technical term).

The full list of questions & answers is here, examples include What are EDCs?Is Hormone Disruption a new issue?What sort of chemicals are Hormone Disrupters, what are they used for?

In addition, the EDC free coalition, including CHEM Trust, has today launched  an easy action so anyone can ask the European Commission to remove hormone disrupters from our lives, using the current consultation on criteria to define hormone disrupters (this consultation closes on 16th January 2015).

Update on 10th December

The Endocrine Society and the International Pops Elimination Network have released a new “Introduction to Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals” guide for policy makers and public interest organisations. This guide goes into depth about the science of the endocrine system & how endocrine disrupting chemicals affect this system & it complements the CHEM Trust FAQ nicely.
Say no to Hormone Disrupting Chemicals banner

On Thursday 20th November CHEM Trust, along with other civil society organisations, delivered a letter for President Juncker to the European Commission’s headquarters building in Brussels. The letter asks the new President of the European Commission to take action to minimise our exposure to hormone (or endocrine) disrupting compounds.

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A new study, commissioned by Nordic governments and published today (press release here), finds that the damage to male reproductive health from exposure to hormone (or endocrine) disrupting chemicals is likely to cost many millions of euros every year in the EU.

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Phthalates are a group of chemicals used in a wide range of products – this introduction from a 2013 scientific paper is a good summary:

“Phthalates are a group of ubiquitous chemicals present in many consumer products, including building materials, furnishings, clothing, paints, food packaging, toys, personal care products and pharmaceuticals. Many of them are or have been produced in very large quantities. Phthalates can be released into the environment by leaching, evaporation, migration, abrasion or application of phthalate-containing personal care products. Due to their widespread use, the general population is continuously exposed to phthalates.”

The research paper that is the source of this quote is looking at children’s exposure to phthalates,  by measuring breakdown products in their urine. It also looks at how the phthalates are getting into the children, and concludes that for some of the phthalates much of it is coming from dust and indoor air, whereas for others they are coming from other sources. This study also finds that many of the children in the study are being exposed to above the safety level of some of the phthalates.

It’s worth noting that the use of some – but not all – phthalates is controlled in the EU – but these controls are not always obeyed, as in the case of the Loom Band Charms.

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New research shows that thermal receipt paper – which you probably have sitting in your purse or wallet now – can contaminate your hands with hormone disrupting Bisphenol A (BPA), which can then be absorbed into your body.

The research, published today in the peer reviewed open access journal PLOS ONE  (full paper here), looked at what happened if men and women held receipts after using a hand sanitiser, and then ate french fries with their fingers. Within 90 minutes they found substantial amounts of Bisphenol A in the blood serum and urine of their experimental subjects.

Till receipts are such a routine part of daily life, yet this research shows that the bisphenol A used in them can rapidly move through our skin & into our bloodstream. This chemical has been used for decades & it is shocking that the scale of this exposure has only just been identified. This pollution is particularly worrying, as research has linked bisphenol A to a wide range of medical problems, from cancer to diabetes.

[read more]

Chemicals in food packaging: a can of worms?

Back in July, a report from the Food Packaging Forum highlighted that many hazardous chemicals are used in food contact packaging – and we wrote a letter to EU Health Commissioner Borg expressing our concerns about the situation. The Commission has since stated that it is soon to start a study of this issue at the EU’s Joint Research Centre (JRC).

On October 9th the Food Packaging Forum organised a conference to discuss this problem in more detail. The agenda, pdfs of presentations and videos of the presentations are all available on the conference web page.

I attended the conference and found it very interesting – and eye-opening in parts! It re-emphasised the need for the regulations in this area to be revisited, showed the importance of the science on low dose effects of the widely used chemical Bisphenol A and also opened a can of worms around the wide (and largely unknown) assortment of chemicals that really leach out of packaging. [read more]