Chemical Toxicity

The FDA has never met a synthetic chemical it didn’t like

- Health Ranger Report


We live in a chemical world. The American Chemical Society Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) has 83 million chemicals  and 71 million commercially available products registered in its comprehensive database. Most of these were created after World War II. In the entire history of the E.P.A. it has mandated safety testing for only a small percentage of the 85,000 industrial chemicals available for use today. The laws of chemical testing are outdated and is the reason why every newborn baby born today has a toxic mixture of 200 chemicals in its body.

Unlike the Pharmaceutical and Pesticide industry which is required to do significant amounts of product testing and prove the product is safe before it is sold, the chemical industry is in the opposite position of  being considered safe until proven it is dangerous. Because of this backwards law, once chemicals are in common use, the burden on the E.P.A. is high.

Dr. Hideaki Chihara, Ph.D. chemist and former president of Japan Association for International Chemical Information says “A novel substance is either isolated or synthesized every 2.6 seconds on the average during the past 12 months, day and night, seven days a week in the world,”

The rate new chemicals are being produced and isolated is truly astonishing:

  1. It took 33 years to get the first 10 million chemicals registered
  2. It took 9 months to get the last 10 million chemicals into the database

While part of this is due to the American Chemical Society tracking new chemicals more effectively,  industry is producing a tremendous amount of new molecules. While the Chemical Abstracts Service registry is the most comprehensive list around, there are undoubtedly more proprietary substances that remain off the books.

We look at chemical toxins from two perspectives:

  1. Policy issues which keep the outdated and dangerous policies in place
  2. The health effects of chemical toxins


Policy Issues

The Outdated US Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)

Most people think somebody must be making sure the chemicals we use are safe, … but it’s essentially the Wild West. 

- EDF biochemist Richard Denison, Ph.D

Within the United States, the regulatory body that regulates chemical usage is the EPA and the specific governing act is called the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA),  15 U.S.C. §2601 et seq. (1976). Specifically:

The Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 provides EPA with authority to require reporting, record-keeping and testing requirements, and restrictions relating to chemical substances and/or mixtures. Certain substances are generally excluded from TSCA, including, among others, food, drugs, cosmetics and pesticides.

TSCA addresses the production, importation, use, and disposal of specific chemicals including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs),asbestos, radon and lead-based paint.

The Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 provides EPA with authority to require reporting, record-keeping and testing requirements, and restrictions relating to chemical substances and/or mixtures. Certain substances are generally excluded from TSCA, including, among others, food, drugs, cosmetics and pesticides.

Here is how this outdated and ineffective rule works::

  1. Currently this burden rests almost entirely on the federal government to prove the potential danger of a new chemical.
  2. Companies have to alert the Environmental Protection Agency before manufacturing or importing new chemicals.
  3. But then it is the E.P.A.’s job to review academic or industry data, or use computer modeling, to determine whether a new chemical poses risks.
  4. Companies are not required to provide any safety data when they notify the agency about a new chemical, and they rarely do it voluntarily, although the E.P.A. can later request data if it can show there is a potential risk.
  5. If the E.P.A. does not take steps to block the new chemical within 90 days or suspend review until a company provides any requested data, the chemical is by default given a green light.

Environmental Defense Fund’s View of TSCA

The Environmental Defense Fund points out the two biggest flaws of TSCA’s:

  1. Companies don’t have to test a chemical before using it in consumer products
  2. the Environmental Protection Agency has little power to remove hazardous chemicals from the marketplace

The law puts federal authorities in a bind. “It’s the worst kind of Catch-22,”  Dr. Richard Denison, senior scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund said in an interview with the New York Times. “Under this law, the E.P.A. can’t even require testing to determine whether a risk exists without first showing a risk is likely.”

Due to this antiquated pro-industry/anti-health law, the overwhelming majority of chemicals in use today have never been independently and adequately tested for safety. This report details how the U.S. legal system and TSCA itself have helped the chemical industry to be effective in its efforts to delay regulations. Congress needs to reform TSCA to make it a more effective regulatory tool. The chemical industry should not be able to endlessly postpone regulatory decisions while profiting from unregulated chemical sales until all scientific controversies and uncertainties, large and small, have been eliminated. With good public policy, the EPA should be empowered to make the best decisions it can on a timely basis using existing information, and apply new science to update its evaluations as it becomes available.

Natural Resources Defense Council Response to TSCA

The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) is in desperate need of reform. Its weaknesses have allowed chemical companies to exploit the act by thwarting the EPA’s attempts to finalize health assessments and delaying regulation of chemicals — sometimes for decades. The chemical industry’s roadblocks often follow predictable patterns:


  • Attack early drafts of health assessments
  • Force new reviews
  • Hold workshops populated with industry-funded panelists
  • Introduce new industry-funded studies when assessments are close to final
  • Force more reviews
  • Enlist elected officials to assist with political interference
  • Attack new assessment drafts

Using these tactics, the chemical industry has effectively prevented the EPA from achieving its mission to protect human health.

Potential Policy Changes in the US

450 organizations have lobbied for a timely US Federal reform of the outdated toxic substances act. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, Democrat of New Jersey, and Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, Democrat of New York,  introduced a bill called the Safe Chemicals Act of 2013, placing the onus of proof of safety on the chemical industry. In essence, it would reverse the current situation and chemicals would no longer be sold unless they were proven safe.  The bill would put limits on trade secret practices and requires industry to reduce use of the chemicals designated by the E.P.A. as being of “greatest concern” because they are most toxic.

Predictably, the bill has strong support from environmentalists but strong opposition from the chemical industry. Industry has been proven repeatedly to be unable to police itself,  always finding  itself in the position of the fox guarding the henhouse. It is abominable that the chemical industry has been allowed to get away with poisoning our world for so long and they rehash the same old misleading fears. Calvin Dooley, president of the American Chemistry Council, falsely argues that the bill risks raising costs, squelching innovation and putting American companies at a competitive disadvantage. All industries must have built in costs to ensure their products are safe. American companies must take an attitude of leading, not following.

In contrast to the sane Chemical Act of 2013, the Republicans, led by Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) want to introduce their own insane version of a “reform” federal chemicals management law would leave the public at even greater risk of exposure to toxic substances than under the outdated current law.

“The Shimkus plan codifies the worst features of current law while tying the hands of states that seek to protect their own citizens from harmful chemicals,” said Ken Cook, president and co-founder of the prestigious Environmental Working Group.

Lowlights of Shimkus’ “Chemicals in Commerce Act,” which would “update” the 1976 Toxics Substances Control Act, include:

  • perpetuate the existing weak safety standard based on “unreasonable risk,” adding layers of cost-benefit analysis and tipping the scales in favor of chemical companies at the expense of public health.
  • does not include disadvantaged communities in the definition of “potentially exposed sub-populations” that would be factored in when EPA decides how to prioritize a chemical for safety review.
  • contains sweeping preemption language that, among other things, would prevent states from regulating chemicals that EPA considers a low priority.
  • includes broad protections for confidential business information that would allow chemical companies to keep secret the chemical identity of their products.
  • would not require the chemical industry to pay fees to EPA to defray the cost of ensuring the safety of chemicals.
  • would not require companies to submit minimum data sets to EPA to provide the critical baseline information needed to review a chemicals’ safety.
  • would not establish meaningful deadlines for regulatory action to protect public health.
  • does not require that EPA conduct a minimum number of chemical reviews annually.

“The only thing this bill would do is add additional layers of protection for the chemical industry allowing it to continue unleashing hazardous materials into commerce,” added Cook.

Health Effects

The Disease Link – the Chemical Contamination of the Human Species and Global Ecology through the Epigenome

“This (Epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of altered stress responses), I think, is the first causal demonstration that environmental contamination may be the root cause of the great increase in obesity and the great increase in mental disorders, … It’s as if the exposure three generations before has reprogrammed the brain so it responds in a different way to a life challenge.”

- David Crews, professor of psychology and zoology at the University of Texas at Austin

With this sheer volume of new chemicals coming out each year, it would be foolhardy to think that the dramatic rise in autoimmune diseases, cancer and many others are not related to this astounding rise. And yet most of these have not been tested for either ecological or human health effects. A number of studies is showing a definite correlation between diseases and the dramatic exposure to new chemicals after World War II.

Some startling statistics:

  • E.P.A.  has succeeded in banning or restricting only 5 of 87,000 chemical substances in its database, and often only in specific applications: polychlorinated biphenyls, dioxin, hexavalent chromium, asbestos and chlorofluorocarbons.
  • less than half of the 3,000 high-production volume chemicals on the marketplace have toxicity data
  • less than one-fifth have toxicity testing data on the effects on developing organs

David Crews, professor of psychology and zoology at the University of Texas at Austin published a paper in 2012 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, entitled  Epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of altered stress responses. This paper is the first to demonstrate a causal relationship between initial chemical exposure and trans generational effect passed on to offsprings many generations onwards. It provides compelling causal evidence on the astronomical rise in chemicals after World War II and the exploding rates of disease. Crow’s disconcerting finding is that there is no cure. Once imprinted, it will continue indefinitely. Hence obesity, cancer, diabetes, autism and many other diseases at these extreme rates are here to stay or worsen.

His research is part of a growing field of study that suggests that environmental damage to cells can cause inherited changes and susceptibility to disease. Crews et al showed that descendants of rats exposed to a common crop fungicide sprayed on fruits and vegetables called vinclozolin were less sociable, more obese and more anxious than offspring of the unexposed control group. In the study, the single contact altered the activiation of the rats genes, and future generations also carried this change, though they never had been exposed to the chemical.

Abstract from Epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of altered stress responses. 

Ancestral environmental exposures have previously been shown to promote epigenetic transgenerational inheritance and influence all aspects of an individual’s life history. In addition, proximate life events such as chronic stress have documented effects on the development of physiological, neural, and behavioral phenotypes in adulthood. We used a systems biology approach to investigate in male rats the interaction of the ancestral modifications carried transgenerationally in the germ line and the proximate modifications involving chronic restraint stress during adolescence. We find that a single exposure to a common-use fungicide (vinclozolin) three generations removed alters the physiology, behavior,metabolic activity, and transcriptome in discrete brain nuclei in descendant males, causing them to respond differently to chronic restraint stress. This alteration of baseline brain development promotes a change in neural genomic activity that correlates with changes in physiology and behavior, revealing the interaction of genetics, environment, and epigenetic transgenerational inheritance in the shaping of the adult phenotype. This is an important demonstration in an animal that ancestral exposure to an environmental compound modifies how descendants of these progenitor individuals perceive and respond to a stress challenge experienced during their own life history.

Transgenerational epigenetic transmission occurs when there is a chemical challenge with a pesticide or fungicide. When pregnant female is expose and embryos are 10 or 12 days of age. During the window between the 1st trimester to 2nd trimester in the human pregnancy cycle – the germ line is established and this is what gives rise to subsequent generations.  If you hit these cells with a particular chemical, they will be permanently changed. The DNA itself is not changed but how they are regulated is changed and that affect will appear each and every generation thereafter without any further exposure to the chemical.

So if your great grandmother was exposed to a fungicide,..you may be poisoned by it as well, even if you haven’t been exposed to it. There are certain classes of compounds – organic, synthetic chemicals – not just fungicides and pesticides but plastercizers, jet fuel that can have all these effects. We have permanently contaminated the world. We will never be able to clean it up. We need to develop therapeutics to treat living organisms.

Other studies in epigenetics (a field that investigates the inheritance of cellular changes outside the realm of DNA) have shown chemical exposure can affect fertility. A project by researchers at Washington State University published in PLoS One in February found that when pregnant rats are injected with common environmental toxins, such as chemicals used in insect repellents, plastics and jet fuel, offspring for three generations have reproductive problems.

Toxins in Babies

A two-year study involving five independent research laboratories in the United States, Canada and the Netherlands has found up to 232 toxic chemicals in the umbilical cord blood of 10 babies from racial and ethnic minority groups. The findings constitute hard evidence that each child was exposed to a host of dangerous substances while still in its mother’s womb. The research, commissioned by the Environmental Working Group in partnership with Rachel’s Network, marks the most extensive investigation of the particular environmental health risks faced by children of African American, Hispanic and Asian heritage.

The laboratory analyses represent the first reported detections in American newborns for 21 contaminants. Among them:

  • Bisphenol A (BPA), a derivative of the petrochemical benzene essential to the manufacture of tough polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins that are fabricated into a wide variety of modern products, including metal food cans, hard plastic infant formula bottles, water bottles, safety helmets and glasses, television, computer and cell phone housings, compact discs and high performance coatings. BPA is a synthetic estrogen that researchers have found to disrupt the endocrine system, disrupt normal reproductive system development and diminish test animals’ intellectual and behavioral capacity.
  • Tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA), a fire retardant for circuit boards that interferes with thyroid function and may inhibit the production of T cells the body uses to fight disease, undermining immune defenses against bacteria, viruses and cancer. TBBPA can break down to BPA, and when incinerated it creates brominated dioxins, which are considered likely human carcinogens.
  • Galaxolide and Tonalide, polycyclic musks that are synthetic fragrances in cosmetics, laundry detergent and other scented products and that have been detected in numerous biomonitoring studies of pollution in people and in the aquatic environment.
  • Perfluorobutanoic acid (PFBA, or C4), a member of the perfluorocarbon (PFC) chemical family used to make non-stick, grease-, stain- and water-resistant coatings for consumer products, including brands Teflon, Scotchgard and Goretex. The most studied PFCs, the Teflon chemical PFOA and the Scotchgard chemical PFOS, are linked to cancer, birth defects and infertility. PFCs are extremely persistent in the environment. There is almost no toxicological data for PFBA in the public domain.
  • Previously Undetected Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Developed as industrial lubricants, coolants and insulating materials, also used in caulk, PCBs were effectively banned in the late 1970s but are long-lasting in the environment. The U.S. government lists PCBs as probable human carcinogens. According government and academic scientistsscientists, PCBs have been shown to disrupt the endocrine system and damage the immune system, and are toxic to the developing brain.

In the paper Histological Evidence of Oxidative Stress and Premature Senescence in Preterm Premature Rupture of the Human Fetal Membranes Recapitulated in VitroRamkumar Menon et al. discovered that oxidative stress, caused by cigarette smoke can induce senescence, or aging of the placenta dramatically causing premature child birth. Oxidative stress is caused by environmental toxins. There are 15 million premature childbirths a year and previous studies indicated that infection was the cause of ruptures of the placenta and following this theory, antibiotics have normally been prescribed as the standard treatment. However, they have been unsuccessful. The new findings shed light and may lead to new treatment or prevention regimes that may reduce the number of preterm births.

Endocrine Disruptors

For vertebrates, the endocrine system is one of the body’s most important internal communication systems. Cells use this biochemical messaging system to communicate with each other to keep the body working correctly. Hormones are the names of the actual chemical messengers which cells use to communicate back and forth. Disrupting these hormone messages has very serious individual and ecosystem health implications.


Dr. Louis Guillette Jr. is professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Medical University of South Carolina and an expert on the study of mechanisms by which environmental factors such as contaminants, climate factors and human disturbances influence the evolution of reproduction in vertebrates. His over 40 years study of alligators as a “sentinel” species has increasingly pointed to the serious ecological impacts of anthropogenic chemicals known as endocrine disruptors. Dr. Guillette explains the endocrine system’s function by way of an analogy with music. The way in which hormones create different effects in the body is like music, he explains. “Think about all of the ways you could play ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little

Star’ and you could still understand that it is ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’. You could make the notes loud, or play them softer. You could play them slower or faster…Each one of us is a little bit different. We each play ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ a little bit differently.” As long as the body recognizes the message, the “music” played by its chemical messengers, it works correctly.

The idea of endocrine messages as music also describes the effect of environmental contaminants that act as endocrine disruptors. “If ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ is so loud that it no longer is music, it’s noise, or if it’s so soft that you can’t hear it, now all of the sudden, that’s not good.” Contaminants can cause either of these situations, breaking down the harmony of the body’s communication systems. If the body is overwhelmed with false messengers, or blocked from receiving its own messengers, it won’t be able to function properly. If other chemicals interact with the body’s own chemicals in unexpected ways, they confuse cells, and provide them with incorrect instructions.

(source: Science Daily)

Figure 1: The Endocrine System (Source: RSC.org)

The chemical industry has produced around 87,000 chemicals in use today and many of these behave like hormones. Once they enter the body, they can bind to hormone receptors and fool them to do things such as: create a response which is even more powerful than the original hormone, create a less powerful response than the original hormone, create a totally different response than the original hormone The class of chemicals that do this are called Endocrine Disruptors.” The endocrine system is a complex system of glands which secrete hormones that enter the body and bind to hormone receptors found throughout our body to regulate such vital functions as:

  • body growth,
  • response to stress,
  • sexual development and behavior,
  • production and utilization of insulin,
  • rate of metabolism,
  • intelligence and behavior,
  • ability to reproduce.

hormones are very powerful. Only a small amount is required to activate body functions. They are usually measured in PPT (part per trillion). Hormones are chemicals such as:

  • insulin,
  • thyroxin,
  • estrogen,
  • testosterone

that interact with specific target cells. The interactions occur through a number of mechanisms, the easiest of which to conceptualize is the lock and key. For example, target cells such as those in the uterus contain receptors (locks) into which specific estrogenic hormones (keys) can attach and thereby cause specific biological actions, such as regulating ovulation or terminating pregnancy. Other endocrine disrupting mechanisms include binding hormone transport proteins or other proteins involved in signaling pathways, inhibiting or inducing enzymes, interfering with uptake and export from cells, and modifying gene expression.

The chemical industry has produced around 87,000 chemicals in use today and many of these behave like hormones. Once they enter the body, they can bind to hormone receptors and fool them to do things such as:

  • create a response which is even more powerful than the original hormone,
  • create a less powerful response than the original hormone,
  • create a totally different response than the original hormone

The class of chemicals that do this are called Endocrine Disruptors. Over the past 60 years, synthetic chemicals containing endocrine disruptors have become ubiquitous:

  • cosmetics,
  • cleaning compounds,
  • baby and children’s toys,
  • food storage containers,
  • furniture,
  • carpets,
  • computers,
  • phones,
  • appliances,
  • fish,
  • meat,
  • receipt paper

We encounter them as plastics and resins every day:

  • at home,
  • in our cars,
  • trucks,
  • planes,
  • trains,
  • sporting goods,
  • outdoor equipment,
  • medical equipment,
  • dental sealants,
  • pharmaceuticals,
  • pesticides,
  • fire retardents in plastics

The health effects of constant everyday low-dose exposure  is just beginning to be explored by the academic community.

To date, no chemical in use has been thoroughly tested for its endocrine disrupting effects. Traditional toxicological testing protocols were not designed to test for endocrine disruption and to test at ambient or low exposure levels.

(Source: TEDX)

World Health Organization /UNEP Report: Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals 2012


This report is the high level summary of the full report entitled State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals-2012 which is a collaboration between UNEP and WHO and provides information for decision makers on the potential adverse effects of anthropogenic chemicals, specifically Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs).

The State of the Science of Endocrine DisruptingChemicals—2012 report begins with an explanation of what endocrine disruption is all about and then reviews the current (2012) knowledge of endocrine disrupting effects in humans and in wildlife. The document ends with a review of sources of and exposures to EDCs. Human and wildlife health depends on the ability to reproduce and develop normally. This is not possible without a healthy endocrine system. The key concerns of the study are given below.

Three strands of evidence fuel concerns over endocrine disruptors:

  1. The high incidence and the increasing trends of many endocrine-related disorders in humans;
  2. Observations of endocrine-related effects in wildlife populations;
  3. The identification of chemicals with endocrine disrupting properties linked to disease outcomes in laboratory studies.



The wonderful world of BPAs

BPAs on our money and our receipts

204 chemicals at birth

Center for Environmental Health 80,000 chemicals! Part 1

Center for Environmental Health 80,000 chemicals! Part 2

Don’t buy any food advertised 1

Don’t buy any food advertised 2

chemistry and cancer 1

chemistry and cancer 2

Endocrine Disruptors and Reproductivity

TEDX List of Endocrine Disruptors

The TEDX List of Potential Endocrine Disruptors is a database of chemicals with the potential to affect the endocrine system. Every chemical on the TEDX List has one or more verified citations to published, accessible, primary scientific research demonstrating effects on the endocrine system.

Endocrine effects include direct effects on traditional endocrine glands, their hormones and receptors (such as estrogens, anti-androgens, and thyroid hormones), as well as signaling cascades that affect many of the body’s systems, including:

  • reproductive function and fetal development,
  • the nervous system and behavior,
  • the immune and metabolic systems,
  • the liver,
  • bones,
  • many other organs, glands and tissues

As of October 13, 2011, the TEDX dbase has indexed approximately 870 endocrine disruptors available here.

Each row in the file shows the following columns:

  • Chemical Name,
  • Alternative Names,
  • CAS Number,
  • TEDX Number,
  • Year (of cited publication),
  • Citation – chemicals with multiple citations have multiple rows in the database; rows


Pesticides are chemical products which have always been surrounded by controversy. DDT was the most well known and a widely used pesticide…until marine biologist Rachel Carson exposed them for what they were in her now classic book Silent Spring. Late in the 1950s, Carson began to look at environmental problems that she believed were caused by synthetic pesticides. Carson’s book brought widespread exposure to and was initially met with fierce opposition by chemical companies. Eventually, however it brought about a reversal in national US pesticide policy and a nationwide ban on DDT and other pesticides. It also inspired a grassroots environmental movement that led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Today, pesticides, along with other chemicals are still wreeking havoc with public health. For example, Monsanto’s best selling herbicide called Roundup is implicated by recent scientific studies for Kidney disease in Sri Lanka.

Suicide by Pesticides

A surprising fact to many westerners is that the large proportion of suicides in Asia involve pesticides. This is because of highly toxic pesticides are readily available.



Figure 2: World Mapper showing global suicide rates. Asia is a world leader, mostly attributed to use of dangerous pesticides widely available (Source: Worldmapper)

Moving Forward

What are the solutions? Humans are too smart for our own good. Our attempts to make a better world, a better mousetrap continually lead to progress traps. Like fossil fuel CO2 emissions and GMO, our technologies  have negatively altered our global and human ecology forever. As in those cases, we must now plan for resiliency and learning how to adapt and minimize the impacts we have created. To this end there are a number of potential solutions including:

  • major policy changes that place proper regulatory rules in place
  • There are a few things you can do to protect yourself from toxicity
  • Institution of new green chemistry methodology rules which embed ecologically and health sound policies to govern all future chemical research
  • Advanced new testing regime that can effectively test all chemicals currently in use