Some of Canada's biggest retailers started testing alternatives to receipt paper that's coated in potentially dangerous chemicals, as pressure mounts for them to phase it out by the end of this year.
Research indicates chemicals used as alternatives to bisphenol A in polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins aren't always safer.
From obesity to autism, the effects of bisphenol A (BPA) during pregnancy and childhood are well known. However, new research shows that BPA exposure during pregnancy at levels once considered safe could disrupt circadian rhythms as well as lead to hyperactivity later in life.
Two chemicals used as substitutes for bisphenol A (BPA) may contribute to childhood weight gain and obesity, according to a study published today in the Journal of the Endocrine Society.
The study adds to mounting evidence that bisphenol chemicals are associated with an increased body mass index in children and teens. It will continue to be an issue "given that human exposure to these compounds is likely to continue to increase in the future," said the study's authors.
Bisphenol S (BPS) and bisphenol F (BPF) are chemicals similar to BPA, which has been used for decades in plastic and metal food packaging, receipts, and electronics. While BPA use in products has declined due to increased awareness about its role as an endocrine disrupting chemical, BPS and BPF are increasingly used as replacements but, as structurally similar chemicals to BPA, they seem to have similar health effects — a phenomenon researchers refer to as "regrettable substitutions.".
Bisphenol chemicals mimic the hormone estrogen and can affect the endocrine system. The main way they enter the body is through leaching out of containers that hold food and beverages; however, they can also be absorbed through the skin.
The new study was led by Melanie Jacobson, a research scientist at NYU School of Medicine. It examined data from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES), which measured urinary BPA, BPS, and BPF levels in 1,831 children and adolescents between 2013-2016. Nearly all study subjects, 97.5 percent, had detectable concentrations of BPA in urine, while BPS and BPF were found in 87.8 percent and 55.2 percent of urine samples, respectively.
The researchers found a correlation between BPS concentrations in urine and being overweight in childhood. As BPS concentration in urine increased, the more likely it was for a child to be obese. BPF detection in urine, meanwhile, was not significantly associated with general obesity – but it was significantly associated with being overweight, and with abdominal obesity specifically.
Abdominal obesity, also called central obesity, is the presence of excess fat surrounding the stomach and abdomen. People who have abdominal obesity are more likely to develop insulin resistance, which can lead to type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
"Although diet and exercise are still understood to the main drivers of obesity, this research suggests that common chemical exposures may also play a role, specifically among children," said Jacobson in a press release.
The study didn't determine bisphenol exposure as the cause of the children's weight gain, but researchers say it's plausible. Previous studies similar to this one have found associations between bisphenols and obesity, and toxicological studies in micehave suggested that these chemicals play a role by making fat cells bigger and decreasing adiponectin, a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels.
One thing that complicates the results is that people who eat more are not only more likely to be obese, but also more likely to be exposed to more food packaging that contains bisphenol chemicals. However, when the researchers controlled for caloric intake, they did not have substantial differences in their findings.
Many products are now labeled BPA-free, but not as many are labeled as BPS- or BPF-free, and it can be hard for consumers to tell if a product contains these chemicals. Some researchers recommend precautionary measures such as avoiding touching receipts, but since bisphenol chemicals are in so many everyday products, exposure can be hard to avoid.
Since bisphenol chemicals are so commonly used, their health effects need to continue to be researched and monitored, said the study's authors. "Replacing BPA with similar chemicals does nothing to mitigate the harms chemical exposure has on our health," Jacobson said.
Though its health effects are still debated, the EPA says it is concerned about bisphenol (such as BPA) because 'it is a reproductive, developmental and systemic toxicant.'
It's Surprisingly Hard to Ban Toxic Sex Toys, But Here's How to Protect Yourself
OCTOBER 13, 2017 3:05 PM
PHOTO: COMEDY CENTRAL
These days, most of us will carefully check ingredients lists for gluten and trans fats, demand that our water bottles be made without BPA, and seek out paraben-free, body-safe cosmetics. But the average person can’t tell you what a toxic sex toy is—or even that they exist. Unfortunately, in the unregulated sex toy industry, plenty of sex toys are potentially rife with products that can hurt you (and not even in the fun, kinky way).
Perhaps the most well-known offender in terms of toy toxicity is a group of chemicals known as phthalates, a plasticizer that can be blended with other substances to make them softer and more flexible. A spotlight’s been shone on phthalates in recent years, as publications like Bustle and Bitch, and feminist-oriented sex shops like Good Vibes and Babeland have spoken out against them.
So why all the hullabaloo? It turns out that phthalates may have side effects when they come into contact with your body that could potentially be terrible for you—and aren’t disclosed by most sex toy manufacturers. According to Amanda Morgan, D.H.S., a faculty member at the School of Community Health Sciences at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, who wrote her master’s thesis on harmful sex toy materials, phthalates are known endocrine disruptors that can cause health problems. “[Phthalates] mess with your hormones; they can cause birth defects, or other things related to liver or kidney functioning,” Morgan told me, referencing studies that have linked phthalates to irregular fetal development, early-onset puberty, and lower sperm counts, among other issues. “They can really mess you up because they pretend to be your hormones, and so your body’s hormonal cycle gets knocked out of whack from exposure to these things.”
With the short-term effects of chlorine and the long-term effects of phthalates, PVC is, Morgan said, “definitely one of the worst sex toy materials we’ve seen.”
When you hear horror stories about sex toys, though, it’s not necessarily phthalates that are to blame. One of the most common anecdotal complaints about toxic toys is that they cause skin irritation: “I first thought [it] was a yeast infection or BV, because of extreme itching and burning on my inner labia,” reports one reader who wrote in to sex toy review blog Dangerous Lilly. “My ass suddenly felt like it was on fire. A burning sensation spread throughout my butt,” recalled sex educator Tristan Taormino about a questionable dildo she used. One Playboy story described a dildo that caused a woman “such severe pain that she could barely speak.”
I asked Emily S. Barrett, Ph.D., a professor at the Rutgers University School of Public Health who has done extensive research on the prenatal effects of endocrine disruptors like phthalates, whether these reported burning sensations fit with her understanding of the chemicals. She told me she hasn’t seen evidence that phthalates irritate the skin in this way, and that they tend to “act on a much more subtle level most of the time.”
So what is causing these health problems? According to Amanda Morgan, phthalates aren’t the only sketchy ingredient still getting into our sex toys. As part of her thesis research, Morgan tested 32 sex toys to determine their chemical makeup. What she found was pretty scary: The toys she tested typically contained 30 to 35 percent chlorine. She said PVC, a material commonly used to make inexpensive sex toys, always contains chlorine (hence the chemical name “polyvinyl chloride”). Even scarier, in 2006, BadVibes.org—an organization that, full disclosure, is linked to pro-toy-safety sex shop The Smitten Kitten—ran lab tests on four popular sex toys. They found that two of them were made of PVC and contained “very high levels of phthalate plasticizer.”
“We use chlorine to kill bacteria in things,” Morgan said. “If you are being exposed to this high level of chlorine, especially in a sensitive membrane area [like the vagina or rectum], we could definitely chalk that up to causing irritation, burning, or messing up the environment by exposing it to something that is, as we know, a sterilization product.” So with the short-term burning effects of chlorine and the long-term endocrine effects of phthalates, PVC is, Morgan said, “definitely one of the worst sex toy materials we’ve seen.”
Now, you might be thinking, “OK, great to know! I’ll just buy only safe toys from now on!” Well, it’s not so simple. Since the sex toy industry is unregulated, it doesn’t fall under the current purview of the Food and Drug Administration. According to FDA press officer Angela Stark, that’s because the agency “does not regulate devices meant purely for sexual pleasure. It does, however, regulate genital devices that have a medical purpose such as vibrators intended for therapeutic use to treat sexual dysfunction or to supplement Kegel exercises.” Of course, the vast majority of sex toys don’t fall under this “health aid” umbrella.
The current Congress likely wouldn't rush to make a bold, sex-positive statement like mandating sex toy safety.
The responsibility of regulating sex toys could potentially fall to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, but Morgan told me the understaffed CPSC is already in charge of regulating over 15,000 types of products—not to mention the products themselves. The complex issue of sex toy regulation would be a big ask on top of all that.
Add to all of this the fact that the current Congress likely wouldn’t rush to make a bold, sex-positive statement by mandating sex toy safety, and there are plenty of reasons your sex toy might not meet body-safe standards. “Our government doesn’t generally like to talk about people pleasuring themselves,” Morgan pointed out.
Beyond that, though, Morgan adds that regulating the sex toy industry might not even be the best solution to getting rid of toxic toys anyway. “If something is federally regulated, that means that the federal government—depending on where they are in their political leanings at that time—could potentially make it illegal to have these products, by saying they are ‘dangerous’ and then regulating them out of existence,” she reasoned. “You get certain types of people in power, and they may not believe in sexual health, wellness, [or] self-pleasuring. It might go against their core values, and therefore they [might] use their political agenda and the federal regulation system to regulate these products out of people’s hands.”
It’s a conclusion that Zach Biesanz, a legal assistant in the office of New York’s Attorney General, came to in his 2007 paper in the journal Law & Inequality: "Special regulation of the sex toy industry would be unreasonably burdensome from a regulatory standpoint,” he wrote. "Only banning these toxins outright will suffice to protect consumers from phthalates' harmful and even lethal effects.”
"Sniff your sex toy. That's the easiest thing you can do [to protect yourself]."
In the meantime, how do you tell if a toy is safe? Sex toy experts like Morgan, Smitten Kitten founder Jennifer Pritchett, and seasoned sex toy reviewer Epiphora all recommend buying toys made of phthalate-free, body-safe materials like pure silicone, stainless steel, glass, and hard plastic. Still, it’s difficult to know what’s what in an industry that mislabels its products so frequently. “Sniff your sex toy,” said Morgan. “That’s the easiest thing you can do. If you smell these products and they don’t smell like anything, then it most likely is a stable chemical compound like silicone.” Phthalates and PVC, however, smell “like chemicals,” according to Morgan, “like a new shower curtain,” according to Epiphora, and “like a headache,” according to Pritchett. The sex toy smell test might sound a little weird, but it’s a pretty good first line of defense.
Morgan also recommends buying toys made by “companies that take a lot of pride in making good-quality, body-safe toys,” citing Tantus and Jimmyjane as examples. Other companies that proudly declare their products body-safe include We-Vibe, Fun Factory, Vixen Creations, and Funkit Toys.
And when in doubt, find a reviewer you can trust. Sex toy review blogs abound on the internet —Epiphora, Dangerous Lilly, and Formidable Femme, to name just a few—and while you’d be wise to take claims about sex toys with a grain of salt in this unregulated industry, sometimes the preponderance of good or bad reviews about a particular company or toy can suggest conclusions about its safety (or lack thereof).
Most important, though, demand body-safe sex toys by buying only from companies you can trust. “Consumers vote with their pocketbook,” said Tantus founder Metis Black. “Support the businesses that make safe toys a priority, that use their resources to educate, that take a stand and advocate for consumers.” She added that while pure silicone toys are expensive now—especially in comparison to PVC toys, which can often be under $30 a pop versus $100+ for silicone—more consumer demand for body-safe toys will create a larger supply at lower prices, as bigger companies with more resources start making nontoxic toys in larger quantities. That’s just sex toy economics.
Bloggers, consumers, and ethical toymakers alike all dream of a future in which no sex toys will burn your junk, give you infections, or cause long-term bodily harm. It seems reasonable enough. And if we keep fighting for it, maybe one day it’ll be reality.
By Lynn Desjardins | email@example.com
Tuesday 10 October, 2017 , No Comments ↓
Five environmental groups say Canada’s law governing toxic chemicals is outdated and they urge the government to amend soon it to protect children and the general population. Muhannad Malas of Environmental Defence uses the example of a class of chemicals called phthalates to highlight the need to change the law.
Europe, some U.S. states have acted
“The Canadian government assessment of phthalates concluded, surprisingly, that none of that phthalates that were in the assessment…pose a risk to the health of Canadians,” he said. “And this is really not consistent with what we have seen in other jurisdictions like in Europe and in the United States where several states have designated a number of phthalates as harmful to health.”
These chemicals are used in plastic toys, personal care products, and food packaging. They are also used in fragrances and other scented products and there is no obligation for them to be mentioned on the labels of these products.
Phthalates may be in fragrances and other scented products. © iStock/Getty Images
Links to reproductive abnormalities
Environmental Defence says this group of chemicals has been linked to many health impacts including reproductive abnormalities and infertility.
Malas says the law governing toxics, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) was passed in 1999 and science has discovered much since then about the effects of hormone disruptors on the human body.
Environmental groups call for better protection for pregnant women, children and other vulnerable groups.
Groups call for proof chemicals are safe
He and other environmentalists would like the law to be amended to better protect vulnerable populations like children and pregnant women and to require proof chemicals are safe before they are used in consumer products.
“What we need to see here is…the idea of reversing the burden of proof onto industry when it comes to these substances of very high concern, like some phthalates like BPA, to make sure that they’re only used when their use is proven to be safe,” says Malas.
Government committee called for law changes
He says a House of Commons committee recently reviewed the CEPA and listed this burden of proof issue as one of 87 recommendations it made to update and reform the law. The environment minister has promised to consider the recommendations but the groups are calling on her to act soon. They are Environmental Defence, Ecojustice, David Suzuki Foundation, Equiterre, and the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE).
Tagged with: CEPA, health, phthalates, toxic chemicals
Posted in Environment, Health
The Washington Department of Ecology has added 20 chemicals and deleted three others from the list of substances reportable under the state's Children's Safe Products Reporting Rule.
The department's final decision, published on 29 September, significantly expands the Chemicals of High Concern for Children (CHCC) list, which had contained 66 substances. Manufacturers must report the use of the substances in children's products, including toys, personal care products, and clothing.
The additions include 13 flame retardants, four phthalates, and two chemicals – bisphenol S and bisphenol F – often used as a replacement in hard plastic for bisphenol A (BPA), which the state banned from baby bottles, sippy cups, and sports bottles in 2010.
Three substances were removed from the list because the agency decided they do not meet the statutory criteria.
Substances added to the CHCC list include:
bisphenol S (BPS);
dicyclohexyl phthalate (DCHP);
diisobutyl phthalate (DIBP);
triphenyl phosphate (TPP);
di(2-methoxyethyl) phthalate (DMEP);
tris (2,3-dibromopropyl) phosphate (TDBPP);
tri-n-butyl phosphate (TNBP);
dipentyl phthalate (DPP);
perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA);
bisphenol F (BPF);
ethylhexyl diphenyl phosphate (EHDPP);
tricresyl phosphate (TCP);
tris (2chloroisopropyl) phosphate (TCPP);
nonylphenol 4-nonylphenol (branched);
bis (2-ethylhexyl) 2,3,4,5-tetra bromophthalate (TPBH);
bis(chloromethyl)propane-1,3-diyl tetrakis-(2-chloroethyl) bis(phosphate);
isopropylated triphenyl phosphate (IPTPP);
decabromodiphenyl ethane (DBDPE);
short-chain chlorinated paraffins; and
Substances removed from the list are:
octamethylcyclotetrasiloxane (D4); and
The state published its initial proposal in March, following a stakeholder consultation that began in August 2016. Several dozen substances were considered for removal or addition during the process. The department received input from 13 organisations and 249 individuals during the comment period that ended on 12 May.
After considering the comments, the state agency:
agreed to add DMEP to the CHCC list but refused NGOs' request to add the phthalates DIPP and DIOP, concluding that they had not produced sufficient evidence of potential exposure;
found that a request to add chemicals that degrade into PFOA is "outside the scope of this rulemaking," but amended the listing for PFOA to add the phrase "and related chemicals";
refused to keep D4 on the CHCC list because "mixed results" on reproductive toxicity were insufficient;
refused an NGO request to add dechlorane plus because "available toxicity data are limited" and inconclusive; and
removed the flame retardants tris(4-tertbutyl phenyl) phosphate and butylated triphenyl phosphate from consideration after industry representatives offered additional evidence regarding toxicity and indicating that they are used only in mixtures that are already listed.
The manufacturing plant responsible for PFAS-coated fast food packaging pumps out loads of a banned ozone-depleting compound along with "forever chemicals."
"We already know enough about the harm being caused by these very persistent substances to take action to stop all non-essential uses and to limit exposure from legacy contamination."
Pennsylvania vows to regulate PFAS in drinking water—again—but regulations are at least two years away
The chemicals, linked to health problems including cancer and thyroid disease, have contaminated drinking water in Pittsburgh communities like Coraopolis and McKeesport.