A report recently published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health (part of the British Medical Journal) adds further scientific evidence to the presence of synthetic toxics in food packaging. When food and beverages come in contact with the packaging, chemicals can leach out and are ingested by anyone who consumes that item.
In this study, over 400 chemicals, including formaldehyde, bisphenol A (BPA), triclosan, and phthalates, were found in food contact materials. Many of the chemicals detected are known or suspected carcinogens and others are endocrine disrupting chemicals (chemicals which alter normal hormone functioning in the body). Despite being measured at trace levels, scientists suspect that tiny amounts over a lifetime could be linked to a variety of health consequences including infertility, birth defects, developmental problems, and cancer.
The chemicals in question are typically byproducts of the manufacturing process. Since they are not intentional ingredients, they are rarely listed on product labels and therefore, difficult to avoid.
Luckily, a dietary intervention study conducted by our sister organization, Silent Spring Institute, provides a bit of insight on ways to avoid BPA and phthalates in food packaging. Results of this study, released in 2011 showed that a fresh food diet reduced levels of BPA and a common phthalate in half after only three days. Here are some tips:
- Choose fresh foods, instead of canned, whenever possible.
- Store food in glass or stainless steel containers instead of plastic.
- Never microwave food or beverages in plastic containers.
- Try cooking more meals at home where you can choose fresh ingredients and safe food packaging (this is not guaranteed with meals prepared elsewhere).
- Try using a French press instead of an automatic coffee maker which could have BPA and phthalates in its plastic containers and tubing.
The comment period on NSTAR’s plan to spray chemical herbicides on Cape Cod ends today [2/18]!
Send your comment via email today to: Commissioner Greg Watson (MA Department of Agricultural Resources) Greg.Watson@state.ma.us and Michael McClean (Director of Rights-of-Way Programs at the MA State Pesticide Bureau) Michael.McClean@state.ma.us
CLICK THE LETTER BELOW TO VIEW ONE OF MBCC’S COMMENTS
The continuing saga of the NSTAR spraying on Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard (see earlier MBCC newsletters) involves NSTAR submitting yet another plan to spray the Cape and Martha’s Vineyard in the spring of 2014. Click here to see the NSTAR Yearly Operational Plan (YOP) for 2014 . Your town’s plan will be nearly identical. PLEASE contact us if you are an abutter to NSTAR’s Rights-of-Way (aka ROWs).
Cape Cod isn’t unique however. NSTAR’s contractors are spraying the same herbicides in most towns in their service areas throughout New England. Call your town and ask to be notified when they receive NSTAR’s Yearly Operational Plan (YOP) and ask your town to pass a resolution objecting to the spraying-as all 15 towns did on the Cape. See our website for a resolution template www.GreenCAPE.org and for more info on rights-of-way spraying and how to stop it.
Between Nov. 18 and Dec. 12 of 2013, NSTAR contractors surreptitiously sprayed 800 acres of Cape Cod without the knowledge or consent of the owners! As we have seen in the past months of NSTAR’s subcontractor spraying, they seem to think the label specifications, their own Yearly Operational Plan, and the Code of Mass Regulations are merely “suggestions” rather than laws. This can’t be allowed to continue in 2014 as all 15 Cape towns have signed resolutions opposing the spraying and thousands or residents and tourists have complained along with local businesses, public health professionals, scientists. We have the support of the entire Cape legislative delegation in encouraging NSTAR to halt the spraying above our only drinking water supply. We continue to demand NSTAR to immediately transition to non-chemical means of ROW vegetation management as other utilities have. STILL-they persist in their polluting practices. This is the time to hang tough and not back off!
You may recall that on December 4th, GreenCAPE and 26 other individuals filed an administrative appeal with NSTAR’s state regulator -MDAR- voicing our concerns with the process, violations of the regulations, lack of supervision and enforcement by the state regulator, and personal health concerns related to the use of herbicides on residential property. NSTAR has since filed a motion to become an intervener so they can actively be part of the hearings and their lawyer can question the appellants. MDAR has filed a motion to dismiss the appeal. The judge will rule on these motions in a few weeks.
On February 4, 2014, GreenCAPE, as a holder of NSTAR/NU stock, filed a shareholder proposal for consideration at the Annual Meeting of NSTAR/NU Shareholders in May. We encourage others to purchase stock and make their objections known at future annual meetings of NSTAR/NU.
The comment period for the 2014 HERBICIDE PLAN for CAPE COD ended on Feb. 18, 2014. GreenCAPE submitted a 12-page document of our objections to the plan and reiterated the spray violations committed in 2013 (at least the ones we were aware of…) It is certain that the state regulator of NSTAR -the MA Department of Agricultural Resources or MDAR will once again approve the plan. They always have. However they are supposed to oversee and supervise the implementation of the plan and they don’t so it’s a Wild West type of situation on the electrical easements and a potential exposure threat to abutters. It is more important than ever that citizens be engaged in the process and state their objections to the NSTAR 2014 Yearly Operational Plan (YOP) to their town officials, state legislators, state officials, and the NSTAR company itself.
Given that successful vegetation control is possible without chemicals, why risk spraying an untested mixture of herbicides over 78% of zones of contribution to public water supply wells in an area of the state with a high rate of breast and prostate cancer? NSTAR’s insistence on chemical treatment of easements that interface residential and municipal properties overlaying an EPA-designated sole-source aquifer is irresponsible at best and demonstrates a callous disregard for the expressed desires of the community.
Please help this effort to protect the health and safety of our neighbors and yours by calling NSTAR’s CEO Tom May and asking him to halt the spraying. Call 781.441.8338 during business hours and ask to speak with CEO Tom May.
ROCKLAND, Mass., Feb. 17 – Students throughout Massachusetts are helping redefine the breast cancer movement. While many people think of breast cancer as corporate marketing campaigns and ribbons saturated in shades of pink, there exists a growing movement among students and others that challenges these assumptions. Although attention to the diagnosis and treatment is obviously necessary, this younger generation recognizes that prevention of the disease would save countless hours of expensive and trying treatments, as well as many lives. With the help of The Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition’s (MBCC) annual Against the Tide event to be held this year in Hopkinton, MA on June 21 and in Brewster, MA on August 16, the emphasis is shifting from treatment to prevention.
MBCC’s annual Against the Tide event has a reputation for inclusivity – and students of various ages are championing the cause. With the option of swimming, kayaking, walking, or running, there’s a way for everyone to take on the unique cause of breast cancer prevention.
“I believe that it does not matter how old or how young you are. Anyone can make a difference,” explains high school student and MBCC volunteer Charley Lei.
“These students are helping change the way people approach breast cancer,” states MBCC Executive Director Cheryl Osimo. “They are our future, and it’s up to us to do everything we can to ensure that this next generation doesn’t have to struggle with the breast cancer epidemic we are now up against. Now is the time to shift our focus from breast cancer awareness to primary prevention.”
MBCC invites students throughout the country to get involved with the Against the Tide event. Register yourself and invite your friends to do the same. You can swim, kayak, walk, or run – or do a combination of the four. There are many ways to get involved, and your energy and participation are greatly needed and valued. If you can’t attend, consider making a pledge of $10 or more to the “MBCC Breast Cancer Prevention Team.”
Visit www.mbcc.org/swim today to register or make a pledge.
Methylene chloride has been added to the Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Act (TURA) list of Higher Hazard Substances. Under the Higher Hazard Substance designation, companies that use 1,000 lbs. or more per year of methylene chloride and have more than 10 full time employees are required to conduct TURA reporting and planning.
About methylene chloride:
Methylene chloride is an industrial solvent used as a paint stripper and component of some aerosols and pesticides. It is also a component of indoor air pollution due to its use in consumer products including fabric cleaners, furniture polish, auto products, wood finishing products (sealants, stains, varnishes, etc.), paint products (spray paints, paint thinners, strippers and removers), adhesives and adhesive removers, art supplies, and insecticides. According to an analysis of Massachusetts industry carcinogen use/release reporting by Toxics Use Reduction Institute, methylene chloride was the third highest breast carcinogen used and the highest breast carcinogen released by MA industries in 2013.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies methylene chloride as possibly carcinogenic to humans with sufficient evidence in animals at multiple tumor sites but inadequate evidence in humans. Similarly, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lists methylene chloride as probably carcinogenic to humans and the U.S. National Toxicology Program’s 12th Report on Carcinogens lists it as a reasonably anticipated human carcinogen citing clear evidence of carcinogenicity in mice and rats of both genders.
Excerpt from Huff Post Green February 10, 2014:
When chemical companies hired Grant Gillham in 2007 to manage a campaign in defense of flame retardants in couches and other consumer goods, Gillham recalled being “assured that the scientific information they had supporting the safety and effectiveness of their products was valid.” The companies’ claim turned out to be a “big lie,” Gillham, a corporate affairs consultant who has also worked for the tobacco industry, told The Huffington Post.
Flame retardant makers, according to Gillham and other advocates and experts, are following a playbook first drafted by lead paint manufacturers in the early 20th century, revised and expanded by Big Tobacco in subsequent decades, and chock full of legal and public relations tactics designed to preserve profitability, with little regard for public health. All three industries are currently embroiled in ongoing legal battles tied to health concerns. Sources told HuffPost that they recognize many of the classic moves, from deception to denial to delays.
“It’s déjà vu all over again, and again,” said Steven Gilbert, director of the Institute of Neurotoxicology and Neurological Disorders and affiliate professor at the University of Washington.
Chemtura, a leading manufacturer of flame retardants, filed a lawsuit in mid-January seeking to overturn California’s newly enacted fire safety regulations. The revision of Technical Bulletin 117 dissolves a decades-old state requirement — and de facto U.S. standard — that flame retardants be included in upholstered furniture. The change was spurred by mounting evidence of health problems associated with exposure to the chemicals, as well as an investigation by the Chicago Tribune that found the additives may offer no meaningful fire protection.
The company, however, continues to stand by its product.
“California’s revised, weakened fire safety standard could tragically lead to more fires and more injuries, deaths and property damage nationwide,” John Gustavsen, a spokesperson for Chemtura, told HuffPost in an emailed statement. “Flame retardants are extensively tested with regulatory oversight and are safe and effective for their intended use.”
“Like climate change,” Gilbert countered, “the data against flame retardants is overwhelming.”
It took several decades of accumulated data before the harms from lead and tobacco became widely recognized. Both industries are now attempting to fend off court-ordered penalties for past behavior, including hiding known health risks.
On November 15th 2013 the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) released the draft of their new, proposed carcinogen policy, to replace the original policy issued in 1978. This draft is available for public comment and all comments must be received in writing at the NIOSH docket office by February 13th 2014. We encourage all supporters to print, sign, and send the example comment below. As always, please feel free to create a comment in your own writing.
The new policy would change the way occupational carcinogens are classified to correspond with existing classifications used by other agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency and National Toxicology Program, and others. If any of these agencies classifies a chemical as carcinogenic or potentials carcinogenic, NIOSH will determine the occupational relevance of this classification.
A second change in the proposed policy regards the Recommended Exposure Limits for workers (RELs) with the new limit set at 1 in 1,000 excess cancer cases in a working lifetime. However, as a target goal for workplace cancer risk, this level is too high. For example, the EPA sets a general population limit of 1 additional case per million exposed (and this goal is set to zero for drinking water limits). The Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition expressed this concern in our public comment submitted to NIOSH. We also recommended that more attention be paid to potential breast carcinogens.
Download (& Print) the Sample Comment or write your own message and mail it to the following address before February 13th 2014:
NIOSH Docket Office
Robert A. Taft Laboratories,
MS–C34, 4676 Columbia Parkway,
Cincinnati, OH, 45226
NSTAR Rally: click here to see photos from the Rally
Despite vigorous objections from all 15 Cape towns, the Cape legislative delegation, thousands of residents, businesses, and public health professionals, the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) – NSTAR’s compliant state “regulator”- approved NSTAR’s plan to spray a mixture of 5 herbicides under the power easements (aka rights-of-way or ROWs) over the Cape’s only drinking water supply. Herbicides are a class of pesticides that kill unwanted plants. Much of the spraying, targeted on trees and shrubs beneath the utility power lines, takes place on property the NSTAR company does not own. If they haven’t already, private residential and municipal properties are scheduled to be sprayed without the knowledge or consent of the owners. In prior years, utilities cleared the vegetation under the power lines with mechanical cutting and mowing. Some utilities now employ grazing animals but NSTAR has refused to consider this.
With no notice to ROW abutters, NSTAR commenced spraying a mixture of herbicides Krenite and Escort over the Cape’s aquifer, in back yards where children play, and public lands where residents hike and walk their dogs. Krenite has NOT had all assessments performed on it because it was not ever expected to be used on residential properties. NSTAR and MDAR are ignoring this important information from the US EPA. In addition, NSTAR’s contractors are ignoring the regulations regarding restrictions on the herbicide label –which have the force of law–which state wind velocity must be within 3-10 miles per hour for spraying. Most days when NSTAR contractors sprayed, the wind was well over 10 mph with 25+ mph gusting winds which ensure that the herbicides will drift off-target and expose nearby residents. A few of the herbicides are suspected endocrine disruptors.
Earlier studies, including the Silent Spring Institute Household Exposure Study, report that pesticides can be tracked in from outdoors on shoes and pets where they remain as a source of continued exposure. This is of particular concern for small children and pets that spend more time close to the floor and the contaminated dust. MDAR ignores this.
Cape Cod Times published the My View column NSTAR Herbicide Use Raises Concerns from Laurel Schaider, Silent Spring Institute Research Scientist, and Cheryl Osimo, Executive Director of MBCC and co-founder and Outreach Director of Silent Spring Institute. It explains that no comprehensive water testing for NSTAR herbicides has been done on Cape Cod’s water supply.
GreenCAPE and 29 other individuals and organizations filed an administrative appeal with MDAR voicing our concerns with the process, violations of the regulations, lack of supervision and enforcement by the state regulator, and personal health concerns. To date most have only received confirmation of the receipt of the appeal.
State Senator Dan Wolf’s letter “NSTAR Disrespects Democracy” appeared in the Cape Cod Times. Click here to read the article Senator Dan Wolf Speaks Out Against NSTAR Spraying.
MDAR Extends Comment Period 45 Days on Nstar Easement Chemical Clearing for their 2014 plan.
Sen. Dan Wolf’s Facebook page reports “MDAR has agreed to extend the comment period for NSTAR’s 2014 Yearly Operational Plan’s comment period by 45 days! I am pleased, that during this busy time of year, MDAR is allowing more time for public input into the use of Herbicides under the power lines in our communities. The outcome will hopefully be the use of methods of vegetation control that do not compromise our water resources”.
That is very good news for people who wanted to see their families over the holidays rather than reading vegetation management plans and yearly operational plans. As we have seen by the past few weeks of NSTAR’s subcontractor spraying, they seem to think the label specifications and the Code of Mass Regulations statements about wind drift are suggestions rather than laws. While they are so busy protecting us from power failures caused by 12 inch saplings, the power goes out all over the Cape due to exploding sub stations, wind, and snow. It’s very sad that NSTAR, a public utility, has strayed so far from its mission to its customers.
The extension for the comment period is great opportunity because now more people can help save Cape Cod and the Islands – national treasures. YOU can help! You don’t have to be a resident of Cape Cod. Even visitors from Germany have voiced their objections to MDAR. Show your love for Cape Cod and the Islands by sending a letter to the Comm. of MDAR with your objections by Valentine’s Day February 14, 2014. For information for your comments and to follow the progress of this campaign for Healthy ROWs and Safe Drinking Water for all -see www.GreenCAPE.org and Follow us on Facebook!
Please address your comments to:
Comm. Greg Watson/MDAR
251 Causeway St. Suite 500
Boston, MA 02114
MDAR is unclear about whether they accept and count e-mail submissions but if you won’t do snail mail, the Commissioner’s e-mail is Greg.Watson@state.ma.us.