Feb 2016 News Bulletin: The EU’s diesel problem; glyphosate cancer row; full story of DuPont PFC court battle

February 9, 2016 at 6:51 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Feb 2016 News Bulletin

Beyond a One-Time Scandal: Europe’s Ongoing Diesel Pollution Problem. More than half of Europe’s passenger fleet is diesel-powered: the emissions scandal has spotlighted the persistent problem of NOx pollution in Europe, where diesel emissions are a major contributor to poor urban air quality. To understand the potential health consequences of the emissions breach, however, one must first understand the risks associated with different components of diesel exhaust. (Environmental Health Perspectives)

EU scientists in row over safety of Glyphosate weedkiller. A bitter row has broken out over the allegedly carcinogenic qualities of a widely-used weedkiller, ahead of an EU decision on whether to continue to allow its use. At issue is a call by the European Food and Safety Authority (Efsa) to disregard an opinion by the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) on the health effects of Glyphosate. (The Guardian)

The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare. “The thought that DuPont could get away with this for this long,” Bilott says, his tone landing halfway between wonder and rage, “that they could keep making a profit off it, then get the agreement of the governmental agencies to slowly phase it out, only to replace it with an alternative with unknown human effects — we told the agencies about this in 2001, and they’ve essentially done nothing.” (New York Times)

Weak EU tests for diesel emissions are ‘illegal’, say lawyers. Loopholes in planned ‘real world’ tests allow cars to emit double the standard for NOx pollution and are ‘legally indefensible’ say MEPs, after new advice revealed. (The Guardian)

Science-based medicine versus the Flint water crisis. One aspect of science-based medicine that is not covered frequently on this blog, aside from vaccines and antivaccine pseudoscience, but perhaps should be, is the intersection of SBM and public health. Unfortunately, living as I do in southeast Michigan right now, I’ve been on the receiving end of an inescapable lesson in what happens when the government fails in its mission to enforce science-based public health issues. I’m referring, of course, to what has become known worldwide as the Flint water crisis. (Science-Based Medicine)

Feb 2016 Science Bulletin: Organophosphates increase risk of impaired behaviour, neurodegenerative diseases, & other research

February 9, 2016 at 6:44 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Human research

Organophosphate pesticides, neurobehavioural performance | A 10-month prospective study of organophosphorus pesticide exposure and neurobehavioral performance among adolescents in Egypt. Changes in neurobehavioral performance across the application season indicate a pattern of impaired performance in the high exposure group compared to the low exposure group. Deficits increased during the application season and remained even months after application ceased. This study is the first to examine the impact of changes in pesticide exposure and neurobehavioral performance not only before and after the application season, but also within the application season.

Organophosphate pesticides, neurodegenerative disease | Organophosphate pesticide exposure and neurodegeneration. Here we review the main neurological and/or cognitive deficits described and the experimental and epidemiological relationships found between pesticide exposure and Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) diseases.

Organophosphate pesticides, mental health | Assessing the connection between organophosphate pesticide poisoning and mental health: A comparison of neuropsychological symptoms from clinical observations, animal models and epidemiological studies. The purpose of this review is to examine the biological foundations for the epidemiological observations previously identified by reviewing the toxicology literature and relating it to epidemiological studies addressing the role of poisoning with organophosphate pesticides (OPs) in neurobehavioral and neuropsychological disorders. The goal of this review is to raise awareness in the mental health community about the possibility that affective disorders might be the result of contributions from environmental and occupational pesticide poisoning.

Flame retardants, exposure routes | Inhalation a significant exposure route for chlorinated organophosphate flame retardants. Total intake of ClOPFRs via the inhalation exposure route was estimated to exceed intake via dust ingestion, indicating that inhalation is an important route that should be taken into consideration in assessments of these compounds.

Flame retardants, decreased exposure | PBDE levels in breast milk are decreasing in California. Using the same sample extraction procedures and analytical instrumentation method (GC-HRMS), we compared PBDE as well as PCB levels in these breast milk samples to those from our previous study (n = 82, sampled during 2003-2005) and found that the sum of PBDEs over the 7 year course declined by 39%. Our study confirmed that breastfeeding babies are still exposed to high levels of PBDEs, even though PBDE levels are decreasing.

Other research

BPA, reproductive health | The effects of in utero bisphenol A exposure on the ovaries in multiple generations of mice. In utero BPA exposure did not have transgenerational effects on germ cell nest breakdown and gene expression on PND 4, but it caused transgenerational changes in expression in multiple genes on PND 21. Collectively, these data indicate that in utero BPA exposure has some transgenerational effects in mice.

Flame retardants, endocrine disruption | Organophosphate Flame Retardants act as Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals in MA-10 Mouse Tumor Leydig Cells. All the OPFRs tested affected mitochondrial activity, cell survival, and superoxide production. Basal or stimulated steroid secretion was affected by all of the OPFRs except triphenyl phosphate production; BDE-47 had no effect. Hence, the OPFRs currently used as alternatives affect Leydig cells to a greater extent than the brominated flame retardants that they have replaced.

Research highlight: Enforcement question for pesticide laws

January 18, 2016 at 10:37 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


Readers will be familiar with concerns that traditional chemical risk assessment methods give results which are either insufficiently complete (ignoring mixture effects, for example) or insufficiently accurate (e.g. by potentially under-estimating risks from individual compounds).

There is also the concern that chemical regulations might be insufficiently enforced, as highlighted in a recent paper in Environmental Science and Pollution Research (Stehle & Schulz 2015a).

In this paper, the researchers reviewed the published literature measuring pesticide levels in EU surface waters, aggregating a total of 1566 measured insecticide concentrations. Of these, 45% exceeded the maximum limit as determined by their respective risk assessments.

This paints a worrying picture of pesticide risk assessment in the EU: even if the results of the risk assessment are sufficiently protective (which seems doubtful), they are not being adequately enforced. So in what sense are EU pesticides laws sufficiently protective of the environment?

The research follows on from another study by the same authors, published earlier in 2015, which found that more than 50% of global surface waters contain pesticide residues exceeding the limit determined by their risk assessments (Stehle and Schulz 2015b), and was covered by the Washington Post.

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