tv Earth Focus LINKTV October 31, 2015 12:00pm-12:31pm PDT
>> today on "earth focus," everyday chemicals and how they may be harming us, coming up on "earth focus." [captioning made possible by kcet public television] they are everywhere in our environment. in the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat. they are in everyday products we use for personal care and cleaning. they are in our furniture, our children's toys, and the products we use in gardening and agriculture. and almost all of us have them inside our bodies. >> chemicals, right now, according to the best evidence
we have, are contributing to the chronic disease burden in this country in ways that are substantial. >> we are seeing increases, clearly, in certain kinds of illnesses. asthma is one. autism is another. adhd is a third. >> one out of every third child born today is going to have diabetes. and if you're a minority, it's one out of two. >> chemicals contribute to the incidence of leukemia. >> breast cancer, infertility. >> alzheimer's, parkinson's. >> people are more obese or higher weight than they were 10 to 20 years ago. >> childhood cancers are going up. >> we're seeing effects on sperm count in men. um, the catch line is, you know, men today are not the men their grandfathers were. >> there are more of these bizarre birth defects, particularly around male
reproductive development. >> if i were a parent... i would be very concerned. >> they were meant to make life easier, and they do. >> better things for better living through chemistry. >> chemicals fight disease, bolster food production, and support manufacturing. they're big business, a keystone of the u.s. economy. from consumer goods to high technology, almost all aspects of modern life depend on the chemical industry. chemical production in the united states has grown 25-fold since world war ii. with sales of over $763 billion in 2011, the chemical industry supports
over 3 million u.s. jobs and invests billions into research and development. our bodies take in a soup of chemicals every day, and this exposure has consequences, for our health, our safety, and our future. >> there's 84,000 chemicals that are legal for commerce in the united states, to be used to make all kinds of things, go into the products we bring into our homes, our work places. and they are basically unregulated. >> of course, every year, new chemicals are coming on the line that have not been fully tested. >> there's almost 13,000 chemicals that are used in cosmetics, and just about 10% of them have actually been evaluated for their safety. we found lead in lipstick. there's mercury out there in skin lightening creams. we have found formaldehyde in products.
>> this is stuff that you use to embalm the dead, yet they're in products that people are applying to their faces and their skin daily. >> pesticides are clearly poisonous. and it should be obvious to us that if they kill insects that they are going to have the possibility of hurting us. >> in your kitchen cabinet, if you opened up the doors and you counted up all the tin cans in there, all of them are going to be lined with bisphenol a, unless they're labeled that say they're not. >> pcbs might be in plastics, might be in cups, might be in containers that we put in our microwaves, might be perfectly safe when they are first put on the shelf, but quite dangerous once they start to break down. >> what we have is chemical companies that have created products that have contaminated literally every living thing on the planet. >> i think that the corporations who are profiting from this really have run away
with our system. >> industrial chemical pollution begins in the womb. >> everything that we're bringing into our bodies if we choose to have children, we actually pass that right on through to a developing child. >> some of these chemicals we know can cross the placenta and enter the womb and have effects at incredibly tiny, tiny doses. >> about 10 years ago, a seminal study was done on 10 newborns' cord blood. the cord blood, as the baby was born, contained several hundred toxic elements. which terrified all of us. >> chemicals like bisphenol a, many different classes of flame retardants. >> we found ddt and pcbs, polychlorinated biphenyls. chemicals that we interact with every day from consumer products.
>> we now know that along with the nutrients and oxygen that the mother supplies the developing baby comes a cocktail of toxic chemicals. [baby cooing] >> we know that chemicals will affect younger children, fetuses, newborns, babies, and young children in general more than older children and adults. and the reason for that is that younger children and fetuses are developing much more rapidly. their organ systems are much more sensitive. >> what science is starting to show now is that early exposures to toxic chemicals at critical points when a child's in the womb has effects later in life. >> endocrine disruptors are chemicals of growing concern. fetuses and children exposed to even minute amounts may develop a wide range of health conditions, from diminished intelligence to cancers later in life.
our endocrine glands produce hormones that regulate the basic processes of our body, like metabolism, growth, reproduction, and development. endocrine disruptors disturb how these processes work. >> endocrine disrupting chemicals interfere with hormone signaling. proper hormone signaling is very important for fetal development and for childhood development, as well as sexual maturation. therefore, compounds that interfere with these processes could have very profound effects. >> many of these and other chemicals appear to be associated with lower i.q.s, and/or behavioral problems in children. >> if you look at what these chemicals can do to the brain, we know now these chemicals are also interfering with how we process information. >> they affect our genetic
outcome. they increase the possibility that we lose a baby. they change the activity of our hormones, our sex hormones, in a variety of different ways. >> we're seeing children starting puberty at younger ages. so there are many little girls that have, for example, breast buds by the age of 7 in the african american community and 8 in the white community. this is too young for our children. >> 980 endocrine disrupting chemicals have now been identified. among the most ubiquitous are a class of compounds called phthalates, bisphenol a, and flame retardants, including pbdes, chemicals so common that almost all of us have them inside our bodies.
>> so you may have vinyl floors, you may have vinyl shower curtains, you may have vinyl toys that your kids are using. those, if it's soft and pliable plastic, it's leaching pthalates, which are known to be toxic, into the environment where you get exposed. >> pthalates are in many common products, including food packaging, building materials, and pharmaceuticals. they're in our cars, and even in new car smell. they're used in cosmetics to hold fragrance and help products to more effectively penetrate and moisturize the skin. >> we're concerned about their effects on males, on baby boys. >> we see problems with testicular development, problems with sperm development. >> they can be associated with a decrease in testosterone levels. so if you interfere with the testosterone levels, they don't quite go up all the way. in animal studies, it's been shown to be linked to
cryptorchidism, so, undescended testicles, and hypospadias, which is incomplete formation of the male reproductive organs. >> pthalates may also be feminizing boys. scientists found that pthalates may be associated with a shorter ano-genital distance-- the distance between the genitals and anus, a subtle marker of feminization in boys. the american chemistry council, which represents chemical manufacturers, says pthalates are among the most thoroughly studied compounds in the world and have a history of safe use. but pthalates are banned from children's toys in more than 10 countries and the european union. in the united states, 3 pthalates were permanently banned from children's toys and child-care articles in 2008 because of their potential to leach from plastic that's chewed or sucked. >> the worst actors have been
taken out of children's toys, but they're still widely used in many other types of consumer products, and bio-monitoring studies show that these chemicals are still showing up in people. >> we're deep in the hold of bisphenol a. there's widespread exposure. it's biologically active at very low levels. >> bpa is of concern, because it looks like an estrogen. and it's been shown to have a weak estrogenic effect. and so if you're exposed to a chemical that might interfere with your hormone levels, in this case your estrogen, that can have effects, particularly if it happens during development. >> and there is preliminary data that says that it may in fact directly--an early life exposure might directly increase the risk of breast cancer in animals. >> if there are chemicals that affect the development of the breast even before birth, if there are chemicals
that cause breast tumors in animals, these are chemicals that we want to be worried about and start thinking about reducing exposure. >> in addition to breast cancer, bpa may be associated with genetic damage and a wide variety of reproductive, metabolic, behavioral, and developmental problems. it's one of the top industrial chemicals in the world. about 6 billion pounds of bpa are produced globally each year, earning manufacturers a profit of some $8 billion. >> we've made some progress with eliminating bpa from infant products, including infant formula packaging, baby bottles, and plastic drinking cups. >> but bpa remains widely used in many consumer products, from electronics to medical equipment. and it's in the resin of can linings and in plastic bottles, where it can leach into
the food or liquid contents inside. the food and drug administration, which has jurisdiction over food packaging, says bpa is safe at the low doses that occur in food. but many research and health organizations remain concerned about bpa's impact on human health at current levels of exposure. over 1.5 million tons of flame retardants are used worldwide each year. they're added to consumer products to meet flammability standards, though their effectiveness remains questionable. >> any furniture that you have that has polyurethane foam in it, which is most of our furniture, may contain toxic flame retardants. and those flame retardants don't stay put in that foam. they leech out and they end up in the dust in our house, where we're all exposed and particularly kids who are on the ground low,
picking things up, putting their hands in their mouths, they're exposed to that dust, which is gonna have flame retardant chemicals in it. >> there are many different kinds of flame retardants. among the most studied are polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or pbdes. scientists have linked pbdes to a wide range of conditions, from delayed development to learning problems and diminished intelligence. >> the neuro-developmental effects--so that's exposures during pregnancy or early in life, linking to neuro-developmental effects in animals, have now been evaluated in two human studies. so there's one in a population in new york and one in a population in california. and what they find is actually remarkably similar. these developmental exposures to pbdes are actually linked to detriments in i.q. >> two pbdes, penta and octa, were taken off the u.s. market
voluntarily in 2004 because of growing health concerns. production of the pbde deca is in the process of being terminated. >> the problem with all of these pbdes is that they are very persistent in the environment. >> the issue with pbdes is that they've been replaced with other types of chemicals that may have very similar concerns and perhaps even the same mechanism of action, in terms of their ability to disrupt the endocrine system. >> the flame retardants chlorinated tris and fire master 550, which may be linked to dna damage, cancer, or neurological defects, continue to be widely used in polyurethane foam in a number of common children's' products. >> so i think that the whole issue of flame retardants is one for which there is some concern, and i think the real question we should ask, and maybe we need to ask this more broadly of other kinds of chemicals
as well, is, do we really need them? >> when it comes to endocrine disruptors, one of the most toxic places is your home. the silent spring institute conducted the first household endocrine disruptor exposure study in 2004. their focus was cape cod. >> we went into 120 homes on the cape and tested air and dust samples and women's urine, looking for 89 hormone disruptors. and we found 67 of them. >> we were surprised to find pcbs in house dust and in indoor air in these suburban homes. >> we see some links between certain ones of these pcbs and breast cancer diagnosis years later. >> we measured 27 different pesticides. we've measured 44
different flame retardants. in two thirds of the homes, we still found ddt. >> a 2007 study found a possible link between early exposure to ddt and later development of breast cancer, even though ddt was banned 40 years ago. >> we see in that study that the women who were under 14 years old when they were exposed to ddt are at much higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer under the age of 50. about 5-fold higher risk in these women who had been exposed to ddt as girls. if we can look in the lab and see what chemicals are doing biologically and then we can look in our bodies and in our homes and see which ones we're exposed to, where they're coming from in the products or pollution, then we have the opportunity to reduce exposure to these suspect chemicals, uh, now.
>> the emerging science on endocrine disrupting chemicals really means that we have to have a complete overhaul of our chemical safety system. >> you know, we're dealing with chemicals for which there is no safe level of exposure. >> it's the tiny, repeated exposure that more adequately mimics our own hormone system that is really concerning. >> the hormones in our bodies are operating at parts per billion and parts per trillion concentrations. >> the one thing that's clear is that our current system isn't working, and it doesn't take these low chronic doses into account. >> i think it's very important for us to make sure that we investigate effects that at least approach human exposure levels. >> our current system does not look at aggregate exposures, basically a fancy way of saying, what do all these low dose chemicals do in combination
together? >> but looking at low dose exposures means a sea change in how we do toxicological testing and risk assessment, and that's controversial, costly, and something the chemical industry opposes. >> one of the areas of science that is emerging, and very interesting and very troubling, is called epigenetics, which shows that an acute chemical exposure can actually result into a genetic change. and that genetic change can be passed down from generation to generation based on a chemical exposure. >> your grandmother could have been exposed to something that you didn't know about, she didn't know about, that is affecting your health today. >> the evidence that we do have from laboratory experiments in animals certainly gives us cause for concern. >> some people are more exposed to chemicals because of the job they do or where they live. low income and minority
communities often live near points of pollution like chemical plants and waste dump sites, or in aged and substandard housing. and these communities share a disproportionate burden of disease. >> higher rates of asthma, higher rates of obesity, higher rates of lead poisoning. >> so the asthma rate in what we call central and east harlem is at one in 4 children. um, and when you go basically 10 blocks south to the upper eastside, you find that the asthma rate for children is like half of that. >> we house over one third of the new york city's diesel bus fleet. and when you figure that we've got 5 depots, each with 200 or more buses, these are depots right across from people's homes, uh, from schools, across from parks. >> researches at columbia university found that pregnant african american and dominican
american mothers in new york city who are exposed to high levels of airborne pollutants from vehicle exhaust and burning solid waste gave birth to children who later developed cognitive and behavioral problems. dr. frederica perera led the study. >> developmental delay at age 3, with cognitive deficits at age 5, and behavioral problems, including anxiety, depression, and attention, symptoms of those problems, at ages 6 to 7. >> these children also scored more than 4 points lower on standardized intelligence tests at age 5. >> [indistinct chatter] >> even a very small drop in i.q. can affect or can be predicted to affect lifetime earnings of that individual. >> you have these types of injustices occurring in rural communities, like out on indian
reservations, for example. you have them occurring in suburbs that might be predominantly african american or latino. >> when you realize that some communities have, uh, have a disproportionate share of that pollution burden, then you begin to understand why we have communities that are sicker than others and why it is harder for those communities to recover. >> there is nothing more important than protecting the health of our children and generations to come. and no one's profit margin can justify harm brought to our children and to future generations. thank you. [cheering] >> the fact is that our chemical policy system in the united states, whether it's at the state level or at the federal level, is broken. >> the toxic substances control act, my joke is it's the law that never lived up to its name. >> when they passed the law in 1976, they grandfathered in about 62,000 chemicals, called
them safe because they were already in use. some of these chemicals that we knew nothing about at the time are turning out to be problematic. >> and according to the general accounting office, 85% of new chemical applications and their technical names of pre-manufacture notice include no testing data whatsoever. >> under the toxic substances control act, or tsca, the burden is on the environmental protection agency to show that an industrial chemical is unsafe. epa can only ask the company for data or require testing if epa can prove that there is a potential risk. and that's hard to do without access to the company's data in the first place. >> the burden of proof has to shift. it has to be on the companies, not on the government. the companies are making the profit, and theare government simply doesn't have the resources. >> the decisions about chemicals are made almost entirely on the basis of their functionality for a manufacturer.
>> in reality, we become the guinea pigs in the marketplace. >> safety only comes into play if people like us have made a stink about it. >> the chemical industry, scientists, and environmentalists all agree that change is needed. but efforts at reforming legislation are currently stalled between the chemical industry's push for profit and safety advocates' drive to protect the public from harm. with federal toxic law broken and no improved law likely coming soon, action on chemical safety on the state level has taken the spotlight. in 2013, 29 states introduced policies to reduce exposure to toxic chemicals in legislative sessions. >> states can actually forbid different products from coming in with these chemicals of concern. so that's really important. it's also important in that the more states take
action, the signal to the market is that you need to start looking for an alternative chemical. because there's enough of a consumer concern to support the state level action. >> so i think that that sort of intersection of the consumer power and policy advocacy is what's going to lead us to these real long-term changes. >> when people speak up and citizens speak up, companies are forced to listen because of the power of the purse, so to speak. >> johnson & johnson agreed to reformulate all of their products to remove carcinogens, mutagens, and reproductive toxins. they've made this commitment because they recognize that this is what their consumers want. >> i think shoppers should be able to go to the store without a chemistry degree and a magnifying glass and know that the products on the shelf have been evaluated for safety. >> it's our children and our grandchildren who are going to
suffer as these toxins build up in our bodies and in our environment over time. >> we don't want to kill the economy. we want to make sure that children are protected. >> no mother should have to worry and look at this baby from the minute it's born and watch it and wonder what is going to happen to this child. [captioning made possible by kcet public television] [captioned by the national captioning institute --www.ncicap.org--] g a a a x?x?
severine: there's so many of you. [laughter] um, my name is severine. he gave me a few more directorships than i deserve, but we'll let the ship sail for now. um, push. i'm severine. i'm coming to you from northern new york, from the adirondacks, on lake champlain. audience: whoo, whoo! severine: that's my land, um, that i love. and i think in this room are some people who love land. [cheers and applause]