Toxic Chemical and Product Safety News for Investors

Headline stories are selected by IEHN staff from environmentalhealthnews.com's "Above the Fold" daily news service. IEHN releases annotated versions several times monthly. Headlines listed here are linked to their original sources and are subject to those sources' archiving policies.

May 29, 2009

Face-Off Over 'Fracking': Water Battle Brews On Hill
NPR: Morning Edition
May 27, 2009

Environmentalists and the natural gas industry are getting ready for a battle in Congress over something known as "hydraulic fracturing." "Fracking," as the industry calls it, involves injecting a million gallons or more of water and chemicals deep underground to pry out gas that's locked away in tight spaces. Hydraulic fracturing allows drillers to dramatically increase production. The industry says regulation should be left up to the states. Environmentalists want the federal government to regulate the practice because, in some cases, fracking may be harming nearby water wells. For the most part, people nearby don't even know what chemicals are being injected into the ground — companies don't have to report that.

Natural Gas Politics
May 26, 2009

Four years after Vice President Dick Cheney spearheaded a massive energy bill that exempted natural gas drilling from federal clean water laws, Congress is having second thoughts about the environmental dangers posed by the burgeoning industry. With growing evidence that the drilling can damage water supplies, Democratic leaders in Congress are circulating legislation that would repeal the extraordinary exemption and for the first time require companies to disclose all chemicals used in the key drilling process, called hydraulic fracturing. The proposed legislation has already stirred sharp debate. The energy industry has launched a broad effort in Washington to fend off this proposed tightening of federal oversight, lobbying members of Congress and publishing studies that highlight what it says are the dangers of regulation.

Consumer group pushes J&J; on chemicals in shampoo
Associated Press
May 25, 2009

A coalition of health, environmental and consumer groups is demanding that health products giant Johnson & Johnson remove tiny amounts of two chemicals suspected of causing cancer from its Johnson's Baby Shampoo and other products. In a letter sent late Friday by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics to J&J's chief executive, William Weldon, the seven-year-old group asks the company by the end of August to reformulate its personal care products so that they are free of 1,4-dioxane and any preservatives that release formaldehyde. Though the amounts in question are so small that many deem them safe, Dr. Sidney Wolfe, acting director of consumer group Public Citizen, said, "Generally with carcinogens, there isn't any safe level." The campaign notes that the two chemicals are not listed on product labels because they are contaminants, not ingredients.

Harvard study backs BPA bottle concern
The Boston Globe
May 22, 2009

A Harvard study released yesterday supports what many public health specialists have long assumed: Hard plastic drinking bottles containing bisphenol A are leaching notable amounts of the controversial chemical into people's bodies. Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health found that people who drank for a week from the clear plastic polycarbonate bottles increased concentrations of bisphenol A - or BPA - in their urine by 69 percent. The study is the first to definitively show that drinking from BPA bottles increases the levels of the chemical in urine, researchers said. It was published on the website of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

EPA administrator forecasts potential shift on Bush-era drilling loophole.
May 22, 2009

Signaling the potential for a policy reversal, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a congressional hearing that the agency would consider revisiting its controversial position that a popular natural gas drilling technique doesn't harm groundwater. An often-cited 2004 study conducted by the EPA concluded that hydraulic fracturing- a process that involves pummeling the earth with millions of gallons of water mixed with sand and chemicals to extract natural gas- causes "no threat" to underground drinking water. However, a recent investigation found that the EPA negotiated directly with the gas industry before finalizing its conclusions and ignored evidence that the process might indeed contaminate water supplies. This study was the main basis for a provision in a 2005 energy bill that exempts hydraulic fracturing from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Conn. lawmakers vote to ban BPA in food containers
Associated Press
May 22, 2009

Connecticut on Friday joined a growing number of state and local governments banning the sale of plastic baby bottles, food containers and cups containing Bisphenol-A.The bill now goes to Gov. M. Jodi Rell for her signature. The ban would take effect October 1, 2011.

Shift toward state rules on product liability
Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
May 21, 2009

In a sweeping order Wednesday, President Barack Obama called for a rollback of Bush administration regulations designed to protect companies from product-liability lawsuits in state courts. The move could affect a wide range of consumer products.

FDA relied heavily on BPA lobby
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
May 16, 2009

As federal regulators hold fast to their claim that a chemical in baby bottles is safe, e-mails obtained by the Journal Sentinel show that they relied on chemical industry lobbyists to examine bisphenol A's risks, track legislation to ban it and even monitor press coverage. In October, the FDA's own advisory committee said that its examination was not thorough enough and that FDA scientists improperly discounted dozens of studies that showed the chemical caused harm. The committee recommended that the FDA reopen its review of the chemical, but so far the agency has not changed its opinion.

Chicago becomes first city to ban BPA bottles, cups
Chicago Sun Times
May 13, 2009

Chicago on Wednesday became the first city in the nation to ban baby bottles and sippy cups containing the potentially-harmful chemical bisphenol A (BPA). Tests of laboratory animals have linked the chemical to breast cancer, prostate cancer, diabetes and neurological disorders. The City Council moved to fill a consumer protection void created when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration concluded there is no harm from the low doses of BPA that come from eating foods from containers made with the chemical. "The FDA has dropped the ball. They've been wishy-washy at best and, at worst, they're playing hanky-panky with the [plastics] industry," said Ald. Manny Flores.

May 7, 2009

Two new studies on compounds used in nonstick-products such as candy wrappers and cookware show that these chemicals are found in the blood, and are associated with low sperm count and motility. An international consortium of industry, academic and government scientists has rejected the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's case that bisphenol A is safe, calling the FDA's decision-making process incomplete and unreliable. In another case of misinterpreting or misrepresenting scientific data, evidence emerges that industry knew early on that the scientific evidence supported a human influence on global warming and climate change, but that the evidence was ignored for the sake of companies’ fight against curbs on greenhouse gas emissions and delay government action. A lack of science exists within the realm of cosmetics testing. According to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, people are exposed to roughly 126 different chemicals daily through cosmetics, many of which haven't been thoroughly tested. The EPA is taking steps to pursuing companies that are manufacturing or importing carbon nanotubes without first filing premanufacture notices. Dow AgroSciences has decided to sue the federal government over Quebec's ban on the residential use of the pesticide 2,4 D.

Non-stick chemicals linked to sperm problems
Environmental Health News
May 7, 2009

Men with high levels of chemicals used as anti-adhesive, stain and water repellents had fewer normal sperms and a tendency for lower sperm concentration. This study is the first to evaluate the potential impact of exposure to chemicals known as perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs) on male fertility. PFAAs are a subset of a larger group of chemicals called polyfluorinated compounds (PFCs). The most abundant types–PFOA and PFOS–form when PFCs break down. PFCs are used in a variety of products, including carpets, paper food packaging and clothing. One type is a component of Teflon©, widely used as an anti-adhesive in pots and pans, and another is found in Scotchguard©, which is a popular stain repellent used in clothing, carpets and furniture.


Saving Face: How Safe Are Cosmetics and Body Care Products?
Scientific American
May 5, 2009

According to the FDA, a cosmetic is anything used for "cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness or altering the appearance." People are exposed to roughly 126 different chemicals daily through these cosmetics, many of which haven't been thoroughly tested.As chemistry has ramped up in the past century, ingredients in cosmetics have become increasingly complex and cutting-edge. According to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, there is no need for some potentially harmful chemicals now in cosmetics to be in the mix. Among those that should be nixed, the CSC says: formaldehyde (a known carcinogen that's used as a preservative) and 1,4 dioxane (an industrial solvent or foaming agent that is a suspected carcinogen). Today, the FDA oversees the multi-billion-dollar-a-year cosmetics industry but it lacks the power to approve products or ingredients before they hit store shelves, even though their contents have been shown to enter the body.

Study finds food-wrapper chemicals in blood
Charleston Gazette
April 30, 2009

A new scientific study has for the first time found a group of chemicals used in coatings on food wrappers in human blood. Previous reports have documented low levels of certain perfluorochemicals -- those used to make commercial products like food wrapper coatings -- in the blood of the general human population. Scott Mabury, one of the study authors, said the results indicate that these food wrapper coatings are likely breaking down in the body into C8, which is also known as PFOA, and a related chemical called PFOS.

Industry ignored its scientists on climate
New York Times
April 24, 2009

For more than a decade, a fossil fuels industry group campaigned against an idea its own scientists called irrefutable: a link between heat-trapping gases and climate change.Environmentalists have long maintained that industry knew early on that the scientific evidence supported a human influence on rising temperatures, but that the evidence was ignored for the sake of companies’ fight against curbs on greenhouse gas emissions. Some environmentalists have compared the tactic to that once used by tobacco companies, which for decades insisted that the science linking cigarette smoking to lung cancer was uncertain. By questioning the science on global warming, these environmentalists say, groups like the Global Climate Coalition were able to sow enough doubt to blunt public concern about a consequential issue and delay government action.

EPA pursuing industry for failing to seek premanufacture notices for carbon nanotubes
Inside Washington Publishers (Subscription Required)
April 22, 2009

EPA officials are indicating they are pursuing companies that are manufacturing or importing carbon nanotubes (CNTs)- one of the most promising and widely used nanomaterials- without filing premanufacture notices (PMNs), a regulatory mechanism under federal toxics law that allows EPA to assess the materials' risks. An EPA official says the agency has received around 12 PMNs for CNTs, though industry sources estimate there could be as many as 100 U.S. companies that claim to manufacture or import CNTs.  Environmentalists and public health officials have called for EPA regulation of the materials because they are concerned that they exhibit properties similar to asbestos and may pose significant human health risks.

Washington Senate OKs ban on lead tire weights
The Spokesman-Review
April 15, 2009

Washington’s state Senate voted to ban the installation of lead tire weights by 2011. Tire dealers will be required to use alternatives like zinc or a steel alloy. “The Asian and European car makers have used alternative wheel weights for years now,” said Rep. Tom Campbell, R-Roy, the prime sponsor of House Bill 1033. “We are just catching up to them.” Lead is highly toxic, Campbell says, and it only makes sense to use less hazardous alternatives. It has been linked to brain damage and other nervous system damage, particularly in young children.

Consortium rejects FDA claim of BPA's safety
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
April 11, 2009

An international consortium of industry, academic and government scientists has rejected as incomplete and unreliable the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's case that a chemical found in food containers and other household products is safe. The group raises questions about the two studies that the FDA has used as its foundation to declare that bisphenol A is safe in food and beverage containers. It calls for a much broader look at the chemical than the FDA has given. The scientists' consensus statement will contradict claims by industry spokesmen who have been citing the FDA and European assessments as proof that BPA is safe.

Dow to sue over Quebec pesticide ban
Toronto Globe and Mail
April 9, 2009

Dow AgroSciences LLC has decided to sue the federal government over Quebec's ban on the residential use of pesticides. The U.S.-based company, maker of the herbicide 2,4-D, is claiming $2-million (U.S.) in damages, using controversial provisions in the North American Free Trade Agreement that allow businesses to sue governments over regulations that harm their interests. Dow said in its notice of arbitration that its dispute has arisen because Quebec has “no scientific basis to impose the ban.”