With two young nephews, I’m very concerned about their exposures to chemicals in consumer products and food, since we don’t know how all the chemicals may add up or how they may interact. Based on what science we do have, it’s possible that multiple chemical exposures may lead to much higher risks.
With strong government support, scientists working in Europe continue to shed more light on these risks. Last week, Denmark’s Environmental Protection Agency released a stunning report by three researchers on the total exposure of two-year olds to selected endocrine disrupting chemicals in their environment.
The researchers tested 12 categories of consumer products to see whether a sample of endocrine disrupting chemicals leached out from the products during use. They also looked at likely exposures through the household dust, air, and food that children can ingest. They found some good news: due to European laws, a few chemicals were present at much lower levels. Yet there were plenty of bad news. For example, two-year olds are heavily over-exposed to parabens, found in oil-based creams, moisturising creams, lotions, and sunscreen.
The researchers say:
In summary, it can be concluded that not only is there a need to reduce exposure to anti-androgens and oestrogen-like substances from food products, indoor air and dust, but also to reduce exposure to the studied product groups, as these contribute to both indoor air and dust and to direct exposure.
The best way that we can reduce exposure is for the US government to make the ingredients in all consumer products transparent – better still, totally non-toxic. Until this happens, we can limit the exposure of our children by buying products free from parabens and phthalates. I’m going to tell my brother about this, since my nephews use a lot of lotion in the summer when they swim.
This post was written by Professor Alastair Iles is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management at the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Iles studies science, technology, and environment, with a focus on how technologies – ranging from chemistry, energy systems, environmental health monitoring, to information technology – affect society and the environment. He received his PhD in Environmental Law and Policy from Harvard University, and previously studied Law at the University of Melbourne, Australia.