Annie's Homegrown will eliminate ortho-phthalates, which make plastics more flexible but may also pose health risks, from its production equipment.
Your hormones have been hijacked.
On fertility, we are running out of time.
And the growing number of plastics in our lives are accelerating the crunch.
Many chemicals found in plastics can have adverse effects on human health, including increased risk of infertility.<p>But what's really needed, panelists agreed, is education and policy change "at every level."</p><p>"Every aspect of government and of course regulatory agencies have to change," Collins said. "Advocacy and the media has to change. This is our challenge. We have almost no time."</p>
Editor's note: The following is an excerpt from the book "Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race" by EHS adjunct scientist Shanna Swan, PhD.
Author Shanna Swan (Credit: Axel Dupeux)<p><em>Shanna H. Swan, Ph.D., is one of the world's leading environmental and reproductive epidemiologists and a professor of environmental medicine and public health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. She is also an adjunct scientist at Environmental Health Sciences, publisher of EHN.org, DailyClimate.org and FairElex.com. </em></p><p><em>An award-winning scientist, Dr. Swan's work examines the impact of environmental exposures, including chemicals such as phthalates and Bisphenol A, on men's and women's reproductive health and the neurodevelopment of children.</em></p><p><em>For more information about Dr. Swan and her book, including where to buy it, visit Dr. Swan's website at <a href="https://www.shannaswan.com/" target="_blank">www.shannaswan.com</a>.</em></p>
Disinfectant use has exploded during the coronavirus pandemic as people try to keep their hands and surfaces clean. But one family of cleaning chemicals is receiving scrutiny for potential health concerns.
Bacteria sample inside petri dish. (Credit: IRRI Photos/flickr)<p>The pandemic has increased demand for products like Lysol wipes that use quats as active ingredients: sales of Lysol wipes were<a href="https://www.cnbc.com/2020/07/16/ceo-of-durex-condom-maker-intimate-occasions-down-during-pandemic.html" target="_blank"> up</a> nearly 50 percent in spring of 2020 compared to 2019. Other cleaning products are also in high demand — aerosol disinfectant<a href="https://www.jpmorgan.com/solutions/cib/research/covid-spending-habits" target="_blank"> sales as a whole have doubled</a> in 2020 in the U.S., a large fraction of which also contain quats.</p><p>All those additional sales mean quats are becoming more present in the environment. "We're in an era now where the concentration [of quats] is certainly higher than ever before," William Arnold, an environmental engineer at the University of Minnesota, told EHN. He published<a href="https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.estlett.0c00437" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> a paper</a> in June that revealed an increased load of quats may be ending up in wastewater plants, with some worrisome implications. Quats can end up in wastewater plants after they're flushed down the drain — at the levels of use during the pandemic, some plants can't keep up, so quats have the potential to pollute waterways. There, they might disrupt marine food chains, as quats have been found to be <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0269749115302025?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">toxic</a> to small invertebrates like plankton in lakes. </p><p>The ingredients also may be spurring antibiotic-resistant germs, Arnold said.</p><p>Bacteria are constantly working to shore up their defenses against the antiseptics we use. "We've had an 80- or 90-year head start, but we really need to keep innovating" to stay ahead of microbial evolution,<a href="http://kminbiol.clasit.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> Kevin Minbiole</a>, a Villanova University chemist who studies how quats affect bacteria and<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7233851/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> viruses,</a> told EHN.</p><p>Quats work like spears, penetrating the shell on the outside of a bacteria or virus. But some bacteria are getting better at recognizing quats and getting rid of them, or becoming resistant, said Minbiole. He and his collaborator, Emory University chemist William Wuest, are experimenting with new antimicrobial ingredients and recently <a href="https://patents.google.com/patent/US20200277263A1/en" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">patented their own quats</a> that can mount multiple attacks on a single microbe. These quats are likely even more effective antiseptics than current quats on the market, but the new chemicals haven't yet been tested for safety, so it's not clear how their health or environmental impacts might differ, or not, from current quats, according to Wuest.</p>
Chemistry Professor Kevin Minbiole and his students discuss their research. (Credit: villanova.edu)<p>But the germs may be one step ahead. As they encounter quats and other antiseptics, bacteria can develop broad, rather than specific, resistance. These new bacterial shields, which evolved to block attacks by antiseptics, might also protect them against other threats, including the antibiotic medications doctors prescribe to help fight serious infections.</p><p>It's called cross resistance: when changes bacteria make to get around one threat make them better suited to survive other threats, too. "Those changes make bacteria capable of surviving different compounds, different chemicals that it hasn't seen before," <a href="http://tagkopouloslab.ucdavis.edu/?author=8" target="_blank">Beatriz Pereira</a>, a recent graduate student in microbiology from University of California, Davis, told EHN.</p><p>In lab experiments, Pereira has seen bacteria develop resistance to certain quats, even when she only exposes them to low concentrations of the chemicals. The bacteria shore up their defenses, strengthening their outer membrane — a good way to develop cross resistance to other chemicals as well. It's not clear whether bacteria are yet developing resistance in the wild in response to current levels of quat pollution, or even how much quat pollution currently exists. But to Pereira, these lab experiments alongside a growing <a href="https://aem.asm.org/content/85/13/e00377-19.full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">body of evidence</a> suggest that the best way to respond to the problem of antibiotic resistance may be not to develop new quats, which might cause the same problem of antibiotic resistance eventually, but to reconsider whether we should be using them at all, at least in some products.</p>
Applying disinfectant onto wipe for cleaning headphones. (Credit: Marco Verch Professional Photographer/flickr)<p>Not everyone agrees about how the research is being done. In a<a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25500365/" target="_blank"> letter to the editor</a> in response to one of Hrubec's<a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25483128/" target="_blank"> early studies</a>, Keith Hostetler, an industry representative, raised concerns about the experiment's design. One critique was the dose level — according to Hostetler, the level of disinfectant fed to the mice would be the equivalent of a 155-pound adult drinking about 1.5 quarts of disinfecting solution daily.</p><p>But toxicology studies are pretty typically performed with high doses at first, before being extrapolated down to more realistic doses, according to<a href="https://patisaullab.wordpress.ncsu.edu/" target="_blank"> Heather Patisaul</a>, a biologist at North Carolina State University who studies toxicological effects of hormone-disrupting compounds. She was not involved in Hrubec's studies.</p><p>"Complaining that the dose is too high and the sample size is too low is a common industry response," Patisaul told EHN via email. In this case, she said the dosage was particularly high for some groups. However, Patisaul also notes that Hrubec saw birth defects in fetuses when the father was fed less than 1/15 the dose Hostetler mentioned, which she said is more compelling evidence that quats might cause harm.</p><p>Still, "neither [dose] is anywhere near a human-relevant range," Patisaul said, so the results do not definitively show that quats could harm human health with normal levels of use.</p><p>The doses were high in order to determine whether quats warrant more research, said Hrubec, adding that many mice that were not fed quats, but were merely present in rooms where quats were used, were also found to develop birth defects. To her, this suggests that the disinfectants present in the lab from regular disinfecting were still enough to trigger health problems.</p>
MTA New York City Transit sanitizes stations and subway cars. (Credit: Metropolitan Transportation Authority of the State of New York)
Janitor disinfects elementary classroom. (Credit: Alliance for Excellent Education/flickr)
A new study demonstrates how high selenium concentrations, primarily from industrial and agricultural runoff, can affect wild fish.
Mealworms can eat and digest plastic and could potentially be deployed en masse to help rid the world of plastic garbage.
The start of the suburban sprawl changed the US into a nation of voracious consumers, and the chemical industry responded by creating products to meet those demands.
Jane Worthington moved her grandkids to protect them from oil and gas wells—but it didn't work. In US fracking communities, the industry's pervasiveness causes social strain and mental health problems.
"I was a total cheerleader for this industry at the beginning. Now I just want to make sure no one else makes the same mistake I did. It has ruined my life."
We tested families in fracking country for harmful chemicals and revealed unexplained exposures, sick children, and a family's "dream life" upended.
EHN.org scientific investigation finds western Pennsylvania families near fracking are exposed to harmful chemicals, and regulations fail to protect communities' mental, physical, and social health.
"Once they had the results of our study [families] felt like they had proof that these chemicals are in their air, their water, and making their way into their bodies."