US Born Kids Have More Allergies/Asthma

Reuters Health) - Kids and teens who are born abroad and immigrate to the United States are about half as likely to have asthma and allergies as those who are born in the U.S., according to a new study.

Researchers surveyed the parents of 80,000 children in one of six languages and found that association held even after they took into account where families lived and how often they moved, as well as their race and income.

"This is definitely something we see clinically and we're trying to better understand, what is it in our environment that's increasing the risk of allergic disease?" said Dr. Ruchi Gupta, who studies allergies at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago but wasn't involved in the new research.

"Food allergies have increased tremendously," she told Reuters Health. "We do see people who come from other countries don't tend to have it, but immigrants who are maybe second generation, they're identical (to U.S.-born people)."

It's not obvious what explains that pattern, researchers said.

According to Gupta, two possible culprits are the so-called hygiene hypothesis - which suggests kids in the U.S. are too clean, and their immune systems never get exposed to common allergens - or the poor quality of American diets.

Lead researcher Dr. Jonathan Silverberg from Beth Israel Medical Center and St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York said climate, obesity and various infections might also be playing a role.

"The results of the study suggest that there are environmental factors in the U.S. that trigger allergic disease," he told Reuters Health in an email.

"Children born outside the U.S. are likely not exposed to these factors early in life and are therefore less likely to develop allergic diseases."

Surveys were completed by parents of kids and teens in 2007 and 2008. Just over 20 percent of children born outside the U.S. had any type of allergic disease - including asthma, eczema, hay fever or food allergies - compared to between 34 and 35 percent of those born in the U.S.

What's more, the risk of allergies increased with the more time foreign-born children spent in the U.S., Silverberg and his colleagues wrote in JAMA Pediatrics.

For example, 27 percent of foreign-born kids who had immigrated more than a decade earlier had any type of allergy, according to their parents' reports, versus 17 to 18 percent of those who had moved to the U.S. within the past two years.

"You acclimate to wherever you are and you pick up whatever is going on there," Gupta explained. "The findings here are very interesting - and not surprising."

Silverberg said he hoped the results would lead to further discoveries of what puts U.S. kids at risk for allergies and how to prevent them.

For now, Gupta recommended parents make sure their children eat a diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables. And allowing them to play in the mud a little bit probably wouldn't hurt, she said - with proper hand-washing afterward, of course.

SOURCE: JAMA Pediatrics, online April 29, 2013.

PVC in Back-to-School Supplies

Lab Results Are In! Toxic School Products & Alternatives

This year, to gear up for the back-to-school season, our friends at the Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ) and Empire State Consumer Project decided to do a little science experiment of their own. They sent off some ordinary school gear, like backpacks, binders, and raincoats, to a chemistry lab. The lab technicians cut them up and tested them for phthalates, a group of harmful chemical additives used to make PVC plastic products soft and flexible.

Well, the results are in, and many of the products failed the test. The technicians discovered elevated levels of toxic DEHP and other phthalates.

Why should you be concerned? A growing body of evidence links phthalates with birth defects, obesity, and asthma.  These are toxic chemicals made by Exxon Mobil.  And phthalates aren’t the only toxic chemical released by this nasty plastic! Dioxins released throughout the PVC life-cycle are also known to be harmful to children’s health.

Luckily, there are many PVC-free alternatives on the market, and CHEJ has investigated and compiled them in one easy guide. Check out the 5th Annual Back-to-School Guide to PVC-Free School Supplies, with over 40 product categories of safer gear for the fall, including backpacks, lunchboxes, binders, art supplies, electronics, and more. Pass it on to other parents and teachers!

Don’t let toxic chemicals endanger your child’s health – choose to go PVC-free!

Download the guide here:
Download the wallet-sized version here:


Air in expectant moms’ homes contains pesticides, border study finds
  Low-cost, less-toxic pest control methods urged

HARLINGEN (July 11, 2012) — Air samples from homes of Hispanic mothers-to-be along the Texas-Mexico border contained multiple pesticides in a majority of the houses, according to a study conducted by the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio.

All the women were in the third trimester of pregnancy, when the fetal brain undergoes a growth spurt. Several studies have reported that pesticide exposure may adversely affect mental and motor development during infancy and childhood. The new report is in the summer issue of the Texas Public Health Journal sent to members this week.

Two-thirds of the families surveyed said they used pest control methods to kill cockroaches, rodents and other pests. Pregnant women and infants often spend 90 percent of their day indoors.

“There is a lack of education in our communities regarding the health hazards of these toxic pest control methods,” said lead author Beatriz Tapia, M.D., M.P.H., lecturer at the UT Health Science Center — Regional Academic Health Center campus in Harlingen, located 10 miles from the border. “We should concentrate on trying to educate families about low-cost methods that prevent infestations and use the least toxic pest control methods first.”

A wise alternative

Integrated pest management (IPM) is a low-cost strategy to replace the use of residential pesticides, Dr. Tapia said. IPM focuses on installing screens and caulking doors and windows to keep out pests, putting away food and placing boric acid, a low-impact alternative, in walls.

“Once we educate our women of childbearing age about how they can safely and in a healthy manner diminish pests in their homes, they will feel empowered that they can make a difference in their family’s life,” Dr. Tapia said. She is a faculty associate in the university’s Department of Family and Community Medicine and serves as environmental medicine training coordinator for the South Texas Environmental Education and Research Center (STEER). She co-coordinates a 30-day Harlingen student elective in environmental and occupational medicine.

Samples show presence

The team sampled air in 25 households, finding at least five pesticides in 60 percent of the dwellings. Nine other pesticides were identified in less than one-third of the homes.

Ninety-two percent of the air samples contained o-phenylphenol, which is used as a fungicide, germicide and household disinfectant, while 80 percent included chlorpyrifos, employed in agriculture to kill mosquitoes and other pests. Propoxur, present in granular baits, pet collars and other products, showed up in 76 percent of samples, along with the insecticide diazinon in 72 percent. The herbicide trifluralin turned up in 60 percent of samples.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in June 2000 entered into an agreement to eliminate virtually all homeowner uses of chlorpyrifos, except ant and roach baits in child-resistant packaging. The EPA banned residential use of diazinon as of Dec. 31, 2004.

Pregnancy and pesticides don’t mix

"Increasingly, pesticide exposures are being linked to neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD),” said co-author and STEER Director Claudia S. Miller, M.D., M.S., professor in environmental and occupational medicine with the Department of Family and Community Medicine. “Planning for pregnancy today should include not only prenatal vitamins and a good diet, but also avoiding potentially hazardous pesticides. Instead, use non-toxic approaches for pest control and IPM."

Environmental medicine researchers at the Harlingen campus modeled the pilot project on studies conducted by the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health. These studies, which sampled air in homes of mother/newborn pairs in northern Manhattan or South Bronx, showed that fetal and childhood exposure to pesticides can be measured in indoor air and can adversely affect fetal growth in a minority population.

Young Hispanics recruited

The Harlingen researchers recruited pregnant Hispanic women from two maternity clinics in Hidalgo County. Enrolled women were 18-35 years old, had no serious medical conditions and had reached 30-34 weeks of gestation. The team asked the women questions about pesticide use and exposure, proximity to agricultural fields, and how often they saw spraying operations or detected pesticide or other odors drifting from fields.

Air samples were measured for multiple pesticides used in agriculture, given the close proximity of the fields to participant homes. These pesticides turned up in 12 percent of the homes, not as high a number as expected. “The reality is, when these pesticides are used outdoors, the sun and soil do their part and eliminate them from the environment,” Dr. Tapia said. “Indoors you don’t have nature helping you.”

Outdoor exposures may not be reflected

Outdoor and indoor exposures are measured differently. “Agricultural spraying tends to result in shorter-term bursts, so-called acute exposures that may not be captured in a study like ours,” Dr. Miller said. “This is a limitation of most pesticide exposure studies in agricultural areas.”

The article is the first clinical research publication to come out of the RAHC Medical Education Division at Harlingen in Cameron County. Multiple scientific publications have come out of the RAHC Medical Research Division campus at Edinburg in Hidalgo County.

# # #

The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, one of the country’s leading health sciences universities, ranks in the top 3 percent of all institutions worldwide receiving federal funding. Research and other sponsored program activity totaled $231 million in fiscal year 2011. The university’s schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences have produced approximately 28,000 graduates. The $736 million operating budget supports eight campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. For more information on the many ways “We make lives better®,” visit


Child Obesity Linked to Chemical Phthalates

Editor's Choice
Academic Journal

Article Date: 23 Jan 2012 - 10:00 PST

According to a study published online in the journal Environmental Research, a connection has been found between obesity <>  in young children - including waist circumference and increased body mass index (BMI) - and exposure to the chemical group known as phthalates, by investigators from the Children's Environmental Health Center at The Mount Sinai Medical Center.

The National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences, The National Cancer Institute, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency funded the study.

Phthalates are manufactured, endocrine-disrupting chemicals that can mimic the body's natural hormones. Phthalates are primarily used to soften polyvinyl chloride (PVC) in products, such as wall and floor coverings, personal-care products, medical devices, and food processing materials.

Although it is known that poor diet and lack of exercise are associated with obesity, several studies suggest that environmental chemicals - including phthalates - could be linked to the increasing rates of childhood obesity.  

This is the first investigation to analyze the association between exposure to phthalates and measurements used to identify obesity in children.

387 black and Hispanic children in New York City were enrolled to participate in the study. Using urine samples from the participants, the researchers measured phthalate concentrations. One year later, the participants' BMI, waist circumference, and height were measured.

The team discovered that more than 97% of study participants had been exposed to phthalates commonly found in personal care products, such as cosmetics, varnishes, perfume, lotions, and medication or nutritional supplement coatings. The phthalates included monoethyl phthalate (MEP), as well as other low molecular-weight phthalates.

Furthermore, they discovered a link between BMI and waist circumference among overweight children with concentrations of these phthalates. For instance, overweight girls with the highest exposure to MEP had a BMI 10% higher than girls with the lowest exposure to MEP.

Lead author of the study Susan Teitelbaum, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine explained:

"Research has shown that exposure to these everyday chemicals may impair childhood neurodevelopment, but this is the first evidence demonstrating that they may contribute to childhood obesity. This study also further emphasizes the importance of reducing exposure to these chemicals where possible."

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of obese children aged 6 to 11 in the U.S. has increased from 7% in 1980, to over 40% in 2008. Currently, over 15% of children in the U.S. between 6 to 19 years of are considered obese, while over 1 in 5 children in public schools in New York City are obese.

Dr. Teitelbaum said:

"While the data are significant, more research is needed to definitively determine whether phthalate exposure causes increase in body size."

Written by Grace Rattue

The Mattress Matters: Protecting Babies from Toxic Chemicals While They Sleep

Don't wipe out: The hidden hazards of antibacterial wipes

Chemical Emissions from Residential Dryer Vents

Array of flame retardants found in baby car seats, changing pads, other items. Eighty percent of cushions used in car seats, portable cribs and other baby furnishings contain chemical flame retardants that can accumulate in babies’ bodies, according to a new study published Wednesday.

Environmental illness in U.S. kids cost $76.6 billion in one year. It cost a "staggering" $76.6 billion to cover the health expenses of American children who were sick because of exposure to toxic chemicals and air pollutants in 2008, according to new research by senior scientists at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.

Studies link low IQ to prenatal pesticide exposure. High levels of pesticide exposure in pregnant women have been linked to lower IQs in their children, according to three separate US studies.

Utah researcher says autism-pollution link needs serious study. Could Utah’s high autism rates be related to Salt Lake County’s large number of toxic chemical releases?

Apples top list of produce contaminated with pesticides. Apples are at the top of the list of produce most contaminated with pesticides in a report published today by the Environmental Working Group, a public health advocacy group

Study Reports on Cleaning Products, Beliefs About Breast Cancer, and Breast Cancer Risk

Women who report greater use of cleaning products may be at higher breast cancer risk than those who say they use them sparingly. "Women who reported the highest combined cleaning product use had a doubled risk of breast cancer compared to those with the lowest reported use..." Click here for more

Government says 2 common materials pose risk of cancer. The government issued warnings on Friday about two materials used daily by millions of Americans, saying that one-- formaldehyde-- causes cancer and the other-- styrene-- might.

Asthma rate rises sharply in U.S., government says. Americans are suffering from asthma in record numbers, according to a study released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly one in 10 children and almost one in 12 Americans of all ages now has asthma, government researchers said.

BPA exposure may be associated with wheezing in children

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Hershey, Pa. -- Exposure to the chemical bisphenol A during early pregnancy may be associated with wheezing in children, according to a Penn State College of Medicine researcher.

Bisphenol A, or BPA is a chemical found in many consumer products, including plastic water bottles and food containers. It is present in more than 90 percent of the U.S. population, suggesting widespread exposure. Experimental research suggests that prenatal BPA exposure causes asthma in mice, but no data exists for humans.

Study Reports on Cleaning Products, Beliefs About Breast Cancer, and Breast Cancer Risk

Women who report greater use of cleaning products may be at higher breast cancer risk than those who say they use them sparingly. "Women who reported the highest combined cleaning product use had a doubled risk of breast cancer compared to those with the lowest reported use..." Click here for more

Scented Products Emit a Bouquet of VOCs

A survey of selected scented consumer goods showed the products emitted more than 100 volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including some that are classified as toxic or hazardous by federal laws.

A single fragrance in a product can contain a mixture of hundreds of chemicals, some of which (e.g., limonene, a citrus scent) react with ozone in ambient air to form dangerous secondary pollutants, including formaldehyde. The researchers detected 133 different VOCs. Most commonly detected were limonene, α- and β-pinene (pine scents), and ethanol and acetone (often used as carriers for fragrance chemicals).

Environmental Health Perspectives;jsessionid=0432C2090898367F87E2D08F334D4636?articleURI=info%3Adoi%2F10.1289%2Fehp.119-a16

A chemical in toothpastes and soaps has been linked with brain damage to babies in the womb.

Scientists fear pregnant women who are exposed to high levels of the chemical, called triclosan, may be putting their babies at risk.

Alarming new findings suggest triclosan may disrupt the flow of blood to the uterus, starving a baby’s brain of the oxygen it needs to develop properly.

Last night researchers involved in the study called for urgent investigations into the dangers to unborn babies.

Professor Margaret James of the University of Florida said: ‘We know it’s a problem. But we just don’t know how much of a problem.’

Read more:

Everyday products are a major source of chemical exposure; Legislation needed to fix broken chemical safety system

Researchers, doctors, participants, advocates, and others gathered at the State House today to release the first-ever chemical body burden study of Vermont residents. As a project of River Network and the Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Vermont, Toxic Exposures in the Green Mountain State, tested the bodies of six Vermonters for a variety of common chemicals found in the environment and consumer products. These chemicals - including bisphenol A (BPA), mercury, organochlorine pesticides, and flame retardants known as Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) – have all been linked to harmful health impacts ranging from cancer to neurological damage to birth defects.

“While the results of this study are alarming, they confirm exactly what we always suspected to be true – Vermonters are no more protected from toxic exposures than any other population in the country,” said Steve Dickens, Health Program Director of River Network and lead author of the report. “Despite our reputation as a pristine state, our citizens are not immune from the effects of harmful chemicals.”

According to the study, three of the four classes of chemicals tested were found in the bodies of all six individuals and were present at levels suspected of causing health problems. Every single participant had a minimum of thirty-five of the chemicals tested for in their bodies, and thirty of the chemicals tested were found in all of the subjects.

The amount of each chemical found in the bodies of participants varied widely. Chemical levels were sometimes lower or higher – in some cases many times higher – than national norms. According to the study: BPA was found in every participant and levels of the chemical in three of the participants exceeded the national norm; Levels of mercury were found in four participants, each time equaling or exceeding the national norm; Seven types of organochlorine pesticides were found in the blood of all participants, and DDT – banned in 1972 – was found in the bodies of five of the six Vermonters; and Twenty different types of flame retardants were present in all of the participants, and Deca was found in all but one of the Vermonters.

“I’m surprised and disturbed to hear about the elevated levels of Deca in my body,” said Katy Farber, the participant with the highest level of Deca in her samples. “Now I question my electronics, my furniture, and the dust I don’t vacuum as regularly as I should. Most importantly, I wonder about the flame retardants my young daughters are exposed to in our home and what the health consequences for them might be. It shouldn’t be this way. We have enough to worry about as parents - we shouldn’t have to worry that merely living in our homes can cause serious health problems.”

According to Dickens, all people – including newborn children – carry a chemical body burden. Humans are exposed to chemicals through a variety of ways including breathing in contaminated air, eating tainted food, or using everyday products such as perfumes, water bottles, and electronics.

“ While most people imagine superfund sites or belching smokestacks when they think of pollution, toxic exposures can also come from consumer products that we are exposed to each day,” said Ellen Starr, Vice President of Health Center Operations for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. “Most people assume that chemicals and products on store shelves have been tested for safety. Unfortunately, this is a myth that could threaten public health.”

There are more than 80,000 chemicals used commercially in the United States and another 1,000 more are added each year. Yet, more than 90% of these chemicals have never been fully tested for their impacts on human health.

In 1976, the federal government passed the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) in an attempt to better regulate chemicals in the U.S. However, TSCA grandfathered in 62,000 chemicals and does not require industry to prove the safety of chemicals before they are used in consumer products. Since TSCA became law, the EPA has only restricted the use of five chemicals and has required testing for less than 200.

The failures of TSCA have left the public vulnerable to chemical contamination, and a growing body of scientific evidence demonstrates that these exposures are taking a toll on public health. The chemicals tested for in Toxic Exposures have been linked to a wide variety of serious health problems including miscarriages, neurological damage, cancers, heart conditions, hormone disruption, and more.

“Unfortunately, because our exposure to chemicals is so ubiquitous, no one can diet or shop their way out of this problem,” said Dr. Rebecca Jones, a Brattleboro physician who assisted with the study. “In order to be truly protective of public health, we must use safer alternatives and ask our government – at the state and national level – to adopt policies that prevent our exposure to these toxins.”

While efforts to reform our federal toxics law are already underway, many states – including Vermont –are working locally to protect consumers from toxins. Toxic Exposures recommends that Vermont adopt a comprehensive approach to chemical regulation that:

  • Phases out the most harmful chemicals and requires the use of safer alternatives;

  • Requires that all chemicals be screened for safety;

  • Honors the public’s right-to-know which hazardous chemicals are in what products; and

  • Promotes the development of safer alternatives and sustainable design.

In addition, the report emphasizes that until such a system is in place, Vermont should continue to immediately phase out individual chemicals known to be harmful and for which safer alternatives exist.

This legislative session, the Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Vermont will be throwing their support behind legislation that accomplishes these objectives, including bills that would establish a statewide system for identifying and regulating harmful chemicals in products (H.484), and phase out BPA in food containers (S.247).


River Network is leading a nationwide movement to preserve and restore clean and healthy waters. While rivers are our focal point, we work to protect the quality of all fresh waters and the health of all people and ecosystems dependent upon them. For more information go to

The Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Vermont is a healthbased coalition of citizens, children’s advocates, healthprofessionals, environmentalists, and others committed to protecting human health from exposure to toxic chemicals. For more information go to