Science & Policy Blog: Six Classes

Forty years later TSCA gets an overhaul

In June, President Obama signed into law the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (TSCA reform, hereafter), a revision to the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA. The amended law removes several roadblocks that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) faced when trying to determine the safety of chemicals in household products. There are significant improvements and some drawbacks concerning the revisions…

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Monitoring chemicals in our environment with wristbands

Whether to show support for a cause or track daily activity, wristbands and tracking bracelets have become a trendy modern accessory. Silicone strips can also be useful chemical monitoring devices. They have long chainlike structures that create channels similar in size to the pores in human cell membranes…

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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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Bacteria get an image makeover

In the 1963 animated film The Sword in the Stone, two wizards face off in a climactic duel, transforming themselves into an increasingly fearsome series of creatures in a magical arms race. In the end, the clever Merlin defeats his rival, the Mad Madam Mim, with an unexpected tactic. Mim’s mighty dragon is no match for Merlin’s lowly microscopic germ. This victory helps the film recast the legend of King Arthur as a story about the end of medieval superstition…

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