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Toxic Chemical and Product Safety News for Investors

Headline stories are selected by IEHN staff from environmentalhealthnews.com's "Above the Fold" daily news service. IEHN releases annotated versions several times monthly. Headlines listed here are linked to their original sources and are subject to those sources' archiving policies.

June 17, 2009

An effort is underway in Congress to transform the FDA from a slow and reactive government apparatus into a preventive food-safety system. New research on nanoparticles in the lung: inhalation of carbon nanotubes is linked with suppressed immune systems, and nanoparticles used in medicine trigger programmed cell death. CT Attorney General charges that the chemical industry used "confusion and concealment" in its unsuccessful attempt to kill legislation banning the use of bisphenol-A in baby bottles and infant food jars. The Endocrine Society released its first-ever scientific statement on BPA, saying that these hormone-like chemicals in plastics, pesticides and other products pose "significant concern for public health," possibly causing infertility, cancer and malformations. The debate continues over the regulation of hydraulic fracturing, which is currently exempted under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The House Energy and Minerals subcommittee called a hearing to explore the economic and environmental risks associated with the practice after a string of reports of water contamination related to drilling across the country were reported. CPSC imposes a $2.3 million civil penalty on Mattel for violating a ban on bringing dangerous products to the United States, because of recent recalls of toys that contain lead paint.

Carbon nanotubes may suppress immunity
London Guardian
June 15, 2009

Inhaling carbon nanotubes can suppress the immune system, according to scientists. The findings raise possible health concerns for those working in the manufacture of the materials.

Blumenthal: Chemical industry tried to kill legislation
Bridgeport Connecticut Post
June 15, 2009

The chemical industry used "confusion and concealment" in its unsuccessful attempt to kill legislation banning the use of bisphenol-A in baby bottles and infant food jars, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal charged Monday. The attorney general charged that the industry's strategy was to use pregnant women to "dupe" consumers into thinking that BPA, which has been linked to cancer, diabetes, miscarriages and other reproductive ailments, is safe. "We're here to tell the industry that they cannot stop the laws that are necessary to protect against BPA," Blumenthal said.

Congress finally gets tough on food safety
Time Magazine
June 13, 2009

As profits and consumer confidence have plummeted with each recent outbreak of food-borne illness, the political climate has changed — so much so that earlier this week, a House panel reached unusual bipartisan consensus on the most sweeping reform of the food-safety system in at least 50 years. At the center of the legislation is an effort to transform a slow and reactive government apparatus into a preventive food-safety system.

Researchers uncover how nanoparticles may damage lungs
Reuters
June 12, 2009

Researchers in China appear to have uncovered how nanoparticles which are used in medicine for diagnosis and delivering drugs may cause lung damage. In an article published in the Journal of Molecular Cell Biology, the Chinese experts said a class of nanoparticles used in medicine, ployamidoamine dendrimers (PAMAMs), may cause lung damage by triggering a type of programed cell death known as autophagic cell death. Scientists hope nanoparticles will be able to improve the effectiveness of drugs and gene therapy by carrying them to the right place in the body and by targeting specific tissues, regulating the release of drugs and reducing damage to healthy tissues.

Industry Warns On Bill To Regulate Natural-Gas Technique
Dow Jones Newswire
June 10, 2009

U.S. lawmakers Tuesday unveiled a bill that industry warns could prevent development of trillions of cubic feet of natural gas by putting regulation of a key production technique under federal oversight. Critics of the exemption say federal oversight is needed to protect drinking- water supplies, but proponents say state regulation is sufficient. Industry officials say the EPA isn't prepared to administer oil and gas permitting and federal regulation could lead to long delays, court cases and possible permit rejections.

Medical group calls for reducing use of BPA
USA Today
June 10, 2009

Hormone-like chemicals in plastics, pesticides and other products pose "significant concern for public health," possibly causing infertility, cancer and malformations, a medical society announced Wednesday. There is strong evidence that chemicals that interfere with the hormone system can cause serious health problems, according to a scientific report from the Endocrine Society, now meeting in Washington, D.C. Although scientists still have many questions about the chemicals, the report says that it's important for people to take a "precautionary approach" by reducing their exposures. The Endocrine Society decided to release the scientific statement — the first it has ever issued — because these chemicals "affect everyone," says society president Robert Carey. The report notes that 93% of Americans tested have been exposed to BPA.

Mattel fined $2.3 million over lead in toys
CNN Money
June 5, 2009

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission on Friday said it imposed a $2.3 million civil penalty against Mattel Inc. for violating a ban on bringing dangerous products to the United States. The fine stems from Mattel's recall of 95 types of toys and up to 2 million units, from shelves in recent years, primarily for excessive lead content in paint. The toys were all made in China, the CPSC said. The Consumer Product Safety Commission said the fine against the No. 1 toymaker and its Fisher-Price pre-school division was the highest ever for the agency's regulated product violations and the third largest in its history. While agreeing to the penalty, Mattel and Fisher-Price denied violating any laws, the CPSC said.

Industry Defends Federal Loophole for Drilling Before Packed Congressional Hearing
ProPublica
June 5, 2009

In a packed and sometimes contentious hearing on Capitol Hill Thursday, representatives of the oil and gas industry and their state regulators vigorously defended the practice of injecting toxic fluids underground without federal regulatory oversight. The House Energy and Minerals subcommittee called the hearing to explore the economic and environmental risks associated with the practice, called hydraulic fracturing after a string of reports of water contamination related to drilling across the country were reported. Hydraulic fracturing is currently exempted from the Safe Drinking Water Act, but both the House and Senate are drawing up legislation that would close the Bush-era loophole and reinstate the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority over the fracturing process.

Drilling method's exemption challenged by bill
Denver Post
June 5, 2009

US Rep. Diana DeGette plans to introduce a bill next week that will regulate a widespread drilling technology that uses benzene and other toxic chemicals but also has been a main driver of the West's natural-gas boom. The legislation is meant to address growing concern over the technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," which pumps tens of thousands of gallons of the chemicals deep into the ground. It is the only large-scale industrial process currently exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act. The proposal, which would probably make the drilling of natural-gas wells more expensive, has split Democrats in Colorado's delegation. It has also drawn howls from an industry that has transformed the economies of much o Wyoming, New Mexico, Utah, and western Colorado.

"The problem is not natural gas or even hydraulic fracturing itself but the unregulated and unnecessary use of dangerous chemicals in the 'fracking' process," said Rep. Jared Polis, the Boulder Democrat who is sponsoring the bill along with DeGette. "We need to make sure that as the industry grows, it does not endanger the health of our communities or our precious water supplies."


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