Archive for the ‘Synthetics’ Category

What’s This About Tritan, the new ‘BPA-Free” Plastic?

March 5, 2014

This week we learned that Tritan, the new plastic being used in commercial products, including the new bins Whole Foods is renovating their stores with, is more estrogenic than BPA (Bisphenol-A), the plastic we have been trying to avoid. Now, we learn that Tritan, produced by Eastman Chemicals, is not being regulated by the EPA due to slick maneuvering reminiscent of the Tobacco industry’s saga which claimed that tobacco smoke was not a health hazard.

Mariah Blake‘s piece in the March/April issue of Mother Jones, “The Scarey New Evidence on BPA-free Plastics: And the Big Tobacco-style campaign to bury it,” sounds an alarm for us. We learn that the BPA-free Nalgene, Camelback, Evenflo, Tupperware, Rubbermaid, and Cuisinart products we thought were safe, all contain Tritan, without warning labels for us.

Plastic water bottles have also been found to be estrogenic, with increasing amounts of the chemicals released into water when exposed to UV waves, left in the car, sitting on grocery shelves, or run through the dishwasher. There is a long list of estrogenic health problems, including brain and organ development in utero, cancer, diabetes, obesity, problems with bone growth, ovulation, heart function, and more.

When George Bittner, professor of neurobiology at U Texas-Austin released a research paper he coauthored in the NIH (National Institutes of Health) journal, Environmental Health Perspectives, stating that virtually all commercially available plastics were estrogenic, he was successfully sued by Eastman Chemicals. How is this possible? Simple: for their research tests, Eastman used Charles River Sprague Dawley Lab Rats, which are insensitive to estrogens and can stand a 100x higher dose than can humans without effect. The jury did not grasp the significance of this ploy. Of course, their results were negative.

The above tactics, combined with well-oiled rhetoric in the court proceedings that snowed the jury, mean that our health effects were jeopardized again, just as in the tobacco years.

According to Blake, “The EPA quietly withdrew a request for White House approval to add some endocrine disrupting chemicals- among them BPA [and others] to its ‘chemicals of concern’ list because it found that they may present an unreasonable risk to human health. This would require chemical makers to share safe-testing data with federal regulators.” This despite the 1996 law passed by congress requiring the EPA to screen 80,000 chemicals for endocrine-disrupting effects and report back by 2000. That report has not been forthcoming.

Meantime, for our own safety, we need to consider storing foods in glass jars, give tap water the respect it deserves, check out stainless containers for our packs, and look to whole foods a meal at a time, as we create safety measures that give us some control over our health.



What’s gotten into us?

March 11, 2012

Miracles happen to people. We  call them miracles because they can’t be replicated on someone else. That’s what happened to McKay Jenkins, an English professor at  he wrote a book about it entitled, What’s gotten into us? 

As a runner, Jenkins was having trouble with his left leg and thought he had some orthopedic problem. Diagnostic tests showed that he had an orange-sized tumor in his abdomen that was pressing on his femoral nerve and there was a chance that it might be cancerous.

 The miracle is that it was not cancerous, had not spread to or damaged other organs, was isolated and surgically removed. But what caused the tumor in the first place? His was growing out of a nerve cell and the surgeon was able to peel it off the femoral nerve (which runs down the leg from the spinal cord.)

 Jenkins became obsessed with figuring out what caused the tumor in the first place. That quest took him to the 1918 birth of synthetic chemicals when a German scientist, Fritz Haber, figured out how to make synthetic nitrogen. Since then, petrochemicals have been used to make plastics, fertilizers, pesticides, clothes, personal care products, cars, bedding, cooking utensils, home cleaning products, and more. As they ushered in the Synthetic Century, products have proliferated faster than our ability to monitor their effects on our bodies or our environment.

 The good news is that our bodies come equipped with an immune system organized to get rid of any foreign matter. Hence the orange-sized tumor, a benign collection of stuff the body needed to get rid of. Sometimes, a powerful immune system will actually break the unwanted growth up and get rid of it. The bad news is that sometimes the tumor has damaged a vital organ beyond repair or become invasive elsewhere. In Jenkins case, the fact that his body warned him with pain, and his surgeon’s timely skill was able to remove it safely, gave him a miracle.

 However, Jenkins wanted to know the root causes, why this century spawned so many deaths whose roots related to insecticide and pesticide exposure. Tumors previously related to old age now are being found increasingly in children.

 Rachel Carson’s question was, “Can anyone believe it is possible to lay down such a barrage of poisons on the surface of the earth without making it unfit for life?”

 Just as Michael Pollan has advised us not to buy any food with more than 5 ingredients listed on the label, we need to also check ANY product we buy and realize that the synthetics we’ve become so dependent on may be contributing to our health problems. Skin products are easily absorbed: lipstick, skin creams, toothpaste, sun block, soaps. Cleaning products like detergents, furniture polish, tile cleaners, car wash. Toys like rattles made of plastic, teething rings, and small plastic animals, stuffed animals made of synthetic material and stuffed with more synthetics. Clothes for active sport and work breathability. Fabrics for drapes and stuffing for furniture and pillows. Building supplies like insulation, paints, plastic woods and blowing sawdust.

 Compound this responsibility with the fact that labeling often only includes an “active ingredient” and may or may not include all the chemicals in the product. In theUS, corporations control what is allowed on labels. Unless we buy organically grown foods, we have no guarantee that the food is synthetic free. Plastic containers have taken over most cooking oils and products. Even a can of organic food my be lined with bisphenol A, a plasticizer known to cause hormone imbalances that can then lead to breast and other cancers.

 So, what’s the bottom line? To reduce medical bills and the inconvenience of health problems, we need to begin taking small steps and consciously simplify our food, clothing and shelter needs, monitor our water supply, and push for clear labeling in English with appropriate warnings as needed. We need to shop smarter and vote better. Every small step counts.