Chemicals in the spotlight

 TOYS, pharmaceuticals, deodorants and more will come under a more intense spotlight after a United Nations-sponsored report declared "a global threat that needs to be resolved" in relation to artificial manmade chemicals.

The team of international academics said these substances, in everyday products, are likely to be at least the partial cause of a global surge in birth deformities, hormonal cancers and psychiatric diseases.

They may also be linked to a decline in the human male sperm count and female fertility, to an increase in once-rare childhood cancers and to the disappearance of some animal species, they said.

We live in a world in which artificial chemicals have become part of everyday life, said the 289-page report, State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals, 2012, issued as a policy guide for governments. They identified at least 800 chemicals they said were interfering with the action of hormones.

Of particular concerns were EDCs such as phthalates used in making plastics soft and flexible and Bisphenol A (BPA) used to harden plastics and is found in food and beverage containers, including some babies' bottles and the coating of food cans.

A few countries - including the United States, Canada and some European Union members - have already banned the use of some of them in certain products, especially those destined for the use of by children, reports Reuters.

The research team used studies on the effect of chemicals on humans and animals to test links to EDCs.

Disturbingly, they reveal that diseases such as breast and prostate cancer, diabetes, infertility, asthma, obesity, strokes and Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases may all have some connection to our infatuation with modern chemicals.

They have called for more urgent research.

Ecostore founder Malcolm Rands says the report has not come out soon enough and sounds the alarm for an epidemic that could be making our kids and families sick.

"Trying to inform people about what their shampoos, their laundry detergents and their cleaning products could be doing to their health, let alone the combination of those products compounding over time, is a challenge," he said.

Malcolm says it can be really hard for people to make informed choices when most of the products on supermarket shelves are not transparent in what chemicals they are using.

A Duke University study recently found Bisphenol A may interfere with neurones in developing embryos.

The ABC reported that BPA has been banned from use in baby's bottles in the US, Canada and the European Union.

In Australia, major retailers began voluntarily phasing out BPA baby bottles three years ago after talks with the Federal Government.

To find out more about harmful chemicals, go to the United Nations Environment Program website and search for endocrine 

Topics:  chemicals health

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