Hidden Health Hazards: Everyday Exposures to Environmental Pollutants Anne C. Steinemann Professor Civil and Environmental Engineering and Public Affairs Director, The Water Center University of Washington Science & Technology Roundtable November 10, 2005 Overview of Presentation • The Problem • The Science, Technology, and Policy • The Solutions National Increases in Diseases with Links to Pollutant Exposures • Asthma in children under five has increased by 160% (1980-1994) • Autism has increased by 1,000% (since mid-1980s) • Cancer in children has increased by 26% (1975-1999), with sharp increases in acute lymphocytic leukemia, 62% and brain and nervous system cancers, 50% • Testicular cancer in young men has increased by 85% (1973- 1999), and is now the most common cancer in men ages 15 to 35. Hypospadias has increased by 100% (1968-1993) and now affects one of every 125 male babies. Disease Increases, Continued • Breast cancer has increased by more than 40% (1973-1998) and now affects nearly 1 in 8 women today. If trends continue, breast cancer will affect 1 in 4 of our granddaughters. • Washington State has the highest incidence of female breast cancer among all states in the U.S. (145.2 per 100,000 per year; 1996-2000). Links to Pollutants Cancer • The American Cancer Society estimates that only 5% to 10% of all cancers can be attributed to inherited factors. The rest are attributable to environmental exposures and other damage in our own lifetime. Non-cancer • Affecting immune, endocrine, neurological, reproductive, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, respiratory, genitourinary and other systems. The Science and Technology of Human Exposure Assessment Human Exposure Science: Measuring what, where, when, and how pollutants reach humans Personal Exposure Monitors Indoor/Outdoor Pollutant Monitors Biomonitoring Chemical Analysis The Science and Technology of Human Exposure Assessment EPA TEAM Studies (1980s, 1990s) • more than 3,000 participants, 18 U.S. cities • VOCs, pesticides, CO, particles, pthalates, PAHs Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Studies: Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals (2001, 2003, 2005); 148 chemicals monitored • biomonitoring of human exposure to environmental chemicals (including heavy metals, pesticides, PAHs, VOCs, phthalates, dioxins, PCBs) Human Exposure Studies: Surprising Results • We are regularly exposed to a variety of hazardous chemicals, and carry many of them in our bodies. • Most of our pollutant exposures are not from sources traditionally regulated. • Rather, more than 90% of our pollutant exposures come from sources that are close to us and within our control, yet largely unregulated and unrecognized. What are those sources? The Primary Sources Our indoor environments (homes, workplaces, schools, airplanes, etc.) and the products and practices inside those environments: • Consumer Products • Building Materials and Furnishings • Personal Activities Primary Hazards: Consumer Products • pesticides and herbicides • air fresheners, deodorizers, sprays and plug-ins • cleansers, disinfectants, anti-bacterial products • fragranced products • cologne, after-shave, perfume • personal care products (shampoo, soaps, lotions) • laundry supplies (dryer sheets, fabric softener, detergents) • moth repellants • nail polish and nail polish remover • hair spray and gels • cosmetics • dry-cleaned clothes • plastics • anti-bacterial soaps • hand sanitizers Primary Hazards: Building Materials and Furnishings • carpets • paints • varnishes • adhesives • solvents • vinyl flooring • pressed wood products • upholstered furniture • mattresses, bedding • wallpaper, shelf paper • combustion appliances Primary Hazards: Personal Activities • bathing and washing in chlorinated water • wood-burning smoke • scented candles • refueling an automobile tank • recently driven car in attached garage • cigarette smoking Specific Results: Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) • VOC exposures indoors are 5 to 50 times higher than outdoors, even in large urban cities. • VOC levels in new buildings are often 100s times higher than outdoor levels. • VOC health effects include sensory irritation, headaches, dizziness, breathing difficulties, neurological damage, seizures, loss of consciousness, cancer. Specific Results: Fragrances Significant Source of Toxic VOCs Lack of regulation, testing, reporting Products include: • air fresheners • shampoo • deodorizers • soap • laundry detergents • lotions • dishwashing detergents • hairspray • chlorine bleach • after-shave • dryer sheets • nail polish and remover More than 95% of chemicals used in fragrances are toxic synthetic compounds linked to birth defects, central nervous system disorders and allergic reactions. (U.S. House of Representatives) Studies found 31%-33% of Americans experience adverse health effects from fragrances. Air Fresheners • Benzyl acetate: Linked to pancreatic cancer • Ethanol: Causes central nervous system disorders • Limonene: Known carcinogen • A-Terpineol: Can cause respiratory problems, including fatal edema, and central nervous system damage • Camphor: Causes central nervous system disorders • Chloroform: Neurotoxic, anesthetic and carcinogenic • Linalool: Causes central nervous system disorders • Benzyl alcohol: Causes central nervous system damage and respiratory problems • G-Terpinene: Causes asthma and central nervous system disorders Nearly 20% of Americans experience breathing difficulties, headaches, and other health effects when exposed to air fresheners. Laundry Products, Dryer Sheets • Benzyl acetate: Linked to pancreatic cancer • Ethanol: Causes central nervous system disorders • Limonene: Known carcinogen • A-Terpineol: Can cause respiratory problems, including fatal edema, and central nervous system damage • Ethyl Acetate: On EPA's Hazardous Waste list • Camphor: Causes central nervous system disorders • Chloroform: Neurotoxic, anesthetic and carcinogenic • Linalool: Causes central nervous system disorders • Pentane: Known to be harmful if inhaled In addition to indoor exposures, consumer products contribute more than 10% to outdoor VOC emissions. Specific Results: Pthalates Sources: Effects: soft plastics, pesticides, developmental and pharmaceuticals, lotion, reproductive abnormalities, children's toys, adhesives, such as infertility, precocious detergents, lubricants, food thelarche (onset of breast packaging, soap, shampoo, development before age eight hairspray, nail polish, and in girls), sperm damage, and products made from polyvinyl birth defects chloride (PVC) Specific Results: Pesticides Findings: Effects: DDT found in children, Cancer, brain damage, endocrine even if born after the ban disruption, birth defects, (1972); DDT also found developmental abnormalities, in carpet dust of 25% of reproductive system defects, sampled homes neurological diseases, Chlorpyrifos metabolites miscarriages, and immune nearly twice as high in system damage; specifically children (age 6-11) than linked to Parkinson’s Disease, as in adults Alzheimer’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, ALS “Skin Deep” Database Just released by the Environmental Working Group • Evaluates (listed) ingredients in 14,172 personal care products. • Problem: only listed ingredients—many ingredients unlisted and untested (nearly 90 % of the 10,500+ ingredients) Example: Baby Magic Bubble Bath Hazards of one or more ingredients: cancer hazard, reproductive developmental toxicity, potentially harmful impurities, ingredients not disclosed on label, estrogenic chemicals and other endocrine disruptors, immune system toxicants, … If these products are sold, why aren’t they safe? • Overall lack of regulation • Even if regulated, “safe” not implied • Exemptions under “trade secrets” and other industry protections • Reliance on voluntary testing and reporting • Virtually no testing for many health effects of concern Lack of Regulation The Paradox: U.S. environmental regulations intended to protect human health generally fail to address the major sources of pollutants that endanger human health Why? Trouble with the Laws • Lack of attention to human exposure • No law addresses indoor air (e.g., Clean Air Act: “ambient air” = “outdoor air”) • Difficulty of proof (e.g., multiple sources, multiple effects, lag time) • Burden of proof (e.g., TSCA, “unreasonable risk” not defined; depends on industry data) • Industry influence (e.g., exemptions for consumer products, air fresheners, fragrances; reliance on voluntary testing and disclosure) Example: Inadequate Testing and Labeling Federal laws do not require disclosure of “inert,” “fragrance,” or “trade secret” chemicals, even though they can be more toxic than the active ingredients. • Most consumer pesticide products contain over 95% “inert” ingredients that are classified as hazardous pollutants. • More than 95% of “fragrance” ingredients are known carcinogens and neurotoxic chemicals, and even registered pesticides. I’ll avoid the really toxic stuff, so why worry? • Cumulative and synergistic effects • “Body Burden” and persistence • Unrecognized, subtle, delayed damage • Mounting evidence that “safe” is not safe • Low-level exposures harmful; sometimes more harmful than high-level exposures Low Levels; High Stakes Chlorinated tap water • Miscarriages at 75 ppb • MCL is 100 ppb (1998) Atrazine • Demasculinization of frogs at 0.1 ppb • MCL is 3 ppb Exposures defy traditional dose-response relationships Non-monotonic dose-response (response increases as dose decreases) Example: Bisphenol-A (plastics) • 5.0 mg/kg/day “no effects” but… • 0.020 decreased sperm • 0.0020 damage to prostate The Missing Males? Normally 106 males for every 100 females born (ratio of 0.5146) • Seveso, Italy: Dioxin and Pesticide exposure accident (1976). During 10 years after accident, 54 males for every 100 females born (ratio of 0.3506) • Netherlands: Children of pesticide-exposed workers, 33 males for every 100 females (ratio of 0.248) The Disappearing Frogs? The Disappearing Humans? • Average sperm counts among healthy American men have declined by nearly 60% over the past 50 years. • Sperm counts continue to decline at a rate of 1.5% per year. • In 1938, only 0.5% of American men were “functionally sterile” (sperm count less than 20 million). Today, it’s between 8%-12% of American men. What are everyday health effects of everyday exposures? • Flu-like feeling • Memory loss • Headaches • Joint pain and muscle aches • Fevers • Gastrointestinal problems • Cognitive difficulties • Rashes • Lethargy • Thyroid dysfunction • Dizziness • Immune system weakened • Sore throat • Breathing difficulties • Congestion • Seizures • Nausea • Loss of consciousness • Blurry vision • Disability What can we do about it? • Immediate, personal solutions • Future, larger solutions: the importance of science and technology Ten Toxics to Tackle • Pesticides • Dust • Fragrances • Furnishings • Cleaning Products • Flooring • Chlorine • Food • Mold • Combustion Pesticides • Includes herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, rodenticides, such as termite treatments, bug repellant, Roundup, Weed and Feed, etc. • Chemically “synthetic organic pesticides”; developed around WWII • EPA states: no pesticide can be considered “safe” What to do? • Integrated Pest Management (IPM) • Non- and less-toxic approaches; deal with sources of pest problem Fragrances • Synthetic organic compounds (thousands of times less expensive than natural scents) • Beware of misleading labels: “fragrance-free” or “unscented” (masking fragrance); “organic”; “99.44% pure”; “sensitive skin”; “hypoallergenic”; “natural” What to do? • Avoid products with “fragrance” • Use natural sources Cleaning Products • Exposure routes: inhalation, epidermal, ingestion • Beware of safe-sounding products (“Simple Green”) and “anti-bacterial” products • Avoid dry-cleaning (if must, use “green” dry cleaners and air out clothes afterwards) What to use instead? • Vinegar • Non-toxic products • Baking soda (soaps, detergents, etc.) • Hydrogen peroxide Chlorine • Major epidermal (and inhalation) exposure in shower and bath—chloroform • Drinking water exposure What to do? • Filters: activated charcoal; KDF (kinetic-degradation-fluxion); reverse- osmosis; distillation, and others • Air out shower; get a good exhaust fan • Caution: plastic filters and plastic piping; older filters Mold • Natural substances can be toxic. What to do? • Keep things dry (ventilate, expose to light/sunshine). • Use a dehumidifier (40%-50% humidity). • Check the basement (source of air for whole house). • Use hydrogen peroxide or vinegar (rather than bleach) for small clean up. Use an N95 mask. • Mold can spread quickly; be vigilant. • Professional clean-up? Beware of chemicals used. Dust • Your Bedroom: most important room • Your Pillows, Mattress, and Bedding: most important furnishings What to do? • Allergy covers • Air out; Wash bedding regularly; Empty room • Beware: air duct cleaning (stirs things up; often uses toxic chemicals); carpet cleaning (encourages mold; often uses toxic chemicals) • Air filters • Healthy flooring Flooring Good: Tile (some caution—grout, sealants) Hardwood (caution—finishes, sanding, manufactured floors) Concrete (caution—glazes) Okay: Vinyl flooring—after outgassing (may take months/years) Linoleum (real linoleum) also OK Problematic: Carpets—chemicals they harbor and emit, dust, mold Furnishings Remodeling; new furnishings; new construction What to do? • Paints—zero VOCs • Finishes—zero/low VOCs; water-based • Furnishings—glass, metal (steel), marble, hardwoods (solid maple, beech, birch, cherry; rather than cedar, pine) Caution: plywood and particle board (long-lasting VOCs) • Organic cotton mattress; Wool • Ventilate; Outgas Food • Plastics—avoid for long-term storage; microwaving; heating • Problems with teflon, paper goods • Pesticides, dyes, preservatives, chemicals What to do? • Store in glass, rather than plastic • Organic (see rankings—which foods have highest residues) • Cookware and storage: use glass, stainless steel, ceramics Combustion • Smoking • Gas-fired appliances • Wood-burning smoke • Attached garages What to do? • Ventilate • Air filters: HEPA, charcoal, pre-filter; inert housing (metal) Benefits • Improved human health • Improved environmental health • Cost savings • Less maintenance • Improved performance • Improved quality of life Even Workplace Benefits Most expensive part of a building is the human capital (labor), representing more than 90% of total cost Indoor air pollution—attributed to cost of > $400 billion annually in the U.S. in lost worker days and productivity Improve indoor air quality; Improve profits Example: VeriFone building Costa Mesa, CA Reduced absenteeism: 40% Energy savings: 50% The Future: The Importance of Science and Technology • Exposure Measurement • Toxicity Testing • Consumer Information • Pollutant Reduction • Healthier Products and Practices Questions?