Rachel's Democracy & Health News #883
Thursday, November 30, 2006

From: Rachel's Democracy & Health News ...............[This story printer-friendly]
November 30, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: 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?]

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.


From: Washington Post ....................................[This story printer-friendly]
November 28, 2006


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

[Rachel's introduction: 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."]

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."


From: San Francisco Chronicle (pg. A1) ...................[This story printer-friendly]
November 19, 2006


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

[Rachel's introduction: 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.]

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.



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



From: Universities Allied for Essential Medicines .........[This story printer-friendly]
October 1, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: Join leaders in science, medicine, law, and health policy. Call on universities to make the fruits of their research available in the developing world.]

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.


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.


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.


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.


Rachel's Democracy & Health News (formerly Rachel's Environment & Health News) highlights the connections between issues that are often considered separately or not at all.

The natural world is deteriorating and human health is declining because those who make the important decisions aren't the ones who bear the brunt. Our purpose is to connect the dots between human health, the destruction of nature, the decline of community, the rise of economic insecurity and inequalities, growing stress among workers and families, and the crippling legacies of patriarchy, intolerance, and racial injustice that allow us to be divided and therefore ruled by the few.

In a democracy, there are no more fundamental questions than, "Who gets to decide?" And, "How DO the few control the many, and what might be done about it?"

Rachel's Democracy and Health News is published as often as necessary to provide readers with up-to-date coverage of the subject.

Peter Montague - peter@rachel.org
Tim Montague - tim@rachel.org


To start your own free Email subscription to Rachel's Democracy & Health News send a blank Email to: join-rachel@gselist.org

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