Atlantic Chapter

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Avoid these Chemicals!

For the full list of common and toxic chemicals to avoid from the Sustainable and Green Products Purchasing Advisory Committee of NY.

Toxins to watch out for:

1) Persistent bioaccumulative toxic chemicals (PBTs)

A targeted list of priority PBT chemicals has been developed by the EPA.  New Yorkers are still exposed to persistent toxic substances and their degradation products even though they were banned many years ago (such as DDT).  All PBTs, such as mercury, are toxic in very small quantities and cause a wide range of health effects.  Many are also carcinogenic.  Their failure to degrade rapidly in the environment contributes to their ability to bioaccumulate to higher levels in the food chain, increasing total exposure to multiple PBTs and posing serious risks to human health.  Despite the priority attention by EPA to reduce PBTs in the environment, 90% of PBTs are leaving factories in consumer, commercial, and industrial products - not as waste - according to an analysis by the national group INFORM

2) Carcinogens

A targeted list of substances "known or reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen" is listed in the National Toxicology Program's Biennial Report on Carcinogens.  In the United States, men have slightly less than a 1 in 2 lifetime risk of developing cancer.  For women, the risk is a little more than a 1 in 3 lifetime risk (American Cancer Society Report, 2008).  Any exposure to a carcinogen causes an increased risk of cancer.  We can help reduce exposures by selecting products without known or reasonably anticipated as carcinogens, whenever safer alternatives are available.   

3) Polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDEs)

PBDEs are a class of persistent toxic chemicals used for their fire retardant properties.  They can impact the developing brain and reproductive system.  Also, liver tumors developed in mice and rats that were fed large amounts of Deca-PBDE throughout their lifetime.  On the basis of cancer in animals, Deca is classified as a possible human carcinogen by EPA (ATSDR 2008).  Minnesota's Pollution Control Agency concluded that Deca shows potential to accumulate and concentrate in the food chain; is toxic; and breaks down in the environment to more harmful forms.  They also found that effective alternatives are available (Minnesota PCA 2008).  The national Environmental Working Group has issued studies showing PBDE body burden levels in US citizens.  Many international, national, and state actions have taken place to phase out this class of chemicals.


4) Bisphenol A (BPA)

Bisphenol A is a chemical commonly used in the manufacture of clear polycarbonate plastic.  The adverse health effects of bisphenol A included diabetes, breast cancer, sperm defects, prostate disease and cancer, hyperactivity, early onset of puberty and other health problems.  A growing number of state and national government agencies are taking action to phase out the use of BPA.  


5) Perfluorinated Compounds (PFOs)

Perfluorinated compounds are persistent, bioaccumulative, widespread in the environment and toxic at doses close to the range already found in humans and wildlife.  Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a perfluorinated compound, is used to make architectural fabrics.  It is used as a processing aid in the manufacture of fluoropolymers for use in non-stick surfaces such as Teflon-coated cookware.  In 2006, DuPont voluntarily agreed with an EPA request to work toward elimintating emissions of PFOA and to gradually cap the levels of PFOA in products.  In 2006, the EPA's scientific advisory board determined that PFOA is a "likely human carcinogen."  A study found that pregnant women and women of child-bearing age are at greater risk for infertility and reproductive problems as a result of PFOA exposure (Human Reproduction).  Now, major retailers, such as Wal-Mart are moving to reduce PFOA in products.


Tuesday, July 3, 2012
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