The Nature of the Beast

Miriam Diamond is a professor of Earth Sciences at the University of Toronto, and holds a PhD. in Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry. At her lab, researchers study environmental chemicals, particularly semi-volatile organic compounds, or SVOCs. They ask:

• What are the sources of these chemicals?
• What are their pathways?
• How are humans and ecosystems exposed?…

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The Proof is in the Sewage: Can Harmful Chemicals Move from Sofas to the Environment and Our Bodies?

Rolf Halden is a professor at Arizona State University, adjunct faculty at John Hopkins, and an expert on the environmental impacts of industrial chemicals.

According to Dr. Halden, chemicals in the same family are similar in composition and structure, and thus also have similar adverse effects. Because of this, he strongly believes that hazardous chemicals should be regulated as classes, rather than continuing the common practice of replacing toxic chemicals with other chemicals in the same class.…

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Introducing Our Blog Series “Scientist Spotlight: The Scientists Behind our Consumer Products Petition”

Imagine you are reclining on your couch and turning on a horror movie. Did you know that the flame retardants in your couch may be scarier than the monster on the screen? The dangers of these chemicals led a coalition of medical, firefighter, consumer, and science groups to submit a petition to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) asking for a ban on four categories of household products that contain any halogenated flame retardants. The petition targets children’s products, mattresses,…

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Trading Health for Small Conveniences?

“Stain-resistant, Nonstick, Waterproof and Lethal” is how journalist Callie Lyons describes a highly fluorinated chemical called C8. When C8 was released into the air and water supply near processing plants in the mid-Ohio Valley, tens of thousands of people became seriously ill, with a range of health problems including cancer, liver malfunction, thyroid disruption, obesity, high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, and lower birth weight and size. The disturbing results of this large-scale inadvertent human study led to the recent phase-out of…

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Phthoughts on phthalates: odd spelling, clear problem

Have you ever heard of phthalates or DEHP? I hadn’t either, until I read a recent US study that monitored nearly 800 pregnant women and found that exposure to a common household chemical called DEHP may alter infant boys’ genitals before birth, along with potentially being linked to a host of other health problems. In 2008, the US issued a nationwide ban on DEHP and two other phthalates (DBP and BBP) in children’s toys at levels higher than 0.1%; the…

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To be, or not to be, BPA-free

When consumer outcry got loud enough and states started their own bans, manufacturers stopped using bisphenol-A (BPA) in some baby products. In 2012, the FDA took limited action – no BPA in baby bottles, sippy cups and infant formula cans. Thus, the “BPA-free” craze was born! Unfortunately, products that boast “BPA-free” may contain bisphenol-S (BPS), BPA’s less studied chemical cousin. Bisphenols, such as BPA and BPS, are found in polycarbonate plastics in products like sports bottles (the hard, transparent stuff),…

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HBCD is on the way out – but use of questionable alternatives will persist

This week, the United States celebrates Thanksgiving. But internationally, countries that have signed the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants have a different reason to give thanks: the amendment adding HBCD (hexabromocyclododecane) to Annex A (Elimination) takes effect today. Under Annex A of the Convention, countries have up to five years to eliminate uses of HBCD in plastic foam building insulation, and any insulation materials containing HBCD during that phase-out period will need to be labeled. HBCD is a persistent,…

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