Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Congressional Hearing Targets Dentists as Major Source of Mercury Pollution

/PRNewswire/ -- Testimony today by a mercury watchdog group charges that the American Dental Association has provided misleading information that dentists are voluntarily controlling their mercury pollution and that the toxic metal doesn't get taken up in fish that people eat. The Mercury Policy Project will provide evidence to the contrary during a 2 PM hearing today of the U.S. House Government Oversight Domestic Policy Subcommittee in Rayburn House Office Building 2154.

"Dental mercury ends up in the fish we eat, although ADA denies it," said Michael Bender, director of the Mercury Policy Project (MPP). "Dentists are the largest polluter of mercury to wastewater. Yet ADA ignores the latest science from the U.S. Navy[1] and others, and pretends that dental mercury doesn't end up in fish."

Bender says the following statement on ADA's website is "misinformation":

"Dental amalgam has little effect on the environment...Even this amount is not in the form found in fish, which is the greatest concern."[2]

Yet EPA states on its website that dental mercury pollution does contaminate fish:

"When amalgam enters the water, microorganisms can change it into methylmercury, a highly toxic form that builds up in fish."[3]

MPP also charges that ADA has intentionally misled EPA into believing that voluntary pollution prevention initiatives were sufficient to reduce dental mercury pollution. This was reflected in the voluntary agreement[4] that EPA signed with ADA in 2008.

Evidence of the failure of voluntary programs was extensively documented by a 2008 Domestic Policy Subcommittee report, following hearings.[5] Since then, the Quicksilver Caucus, a coalition of state government officials, has found that amalgam separator installation rates are low unless there is a mandatory component.[6]

Again, according to ADA's website, ADA convinced EPA:

"...that a national pretreatment standard for dental offices was not necessary because dentistry was already acting voluntarily to address environmental impacts from dental amalgam. The ADA pointed out support of its position that the use of amalgam separators is part of the ADA's Best Management Practices (BMP). The EPA agreed and concluded that a national standard was not warranted at that time. Following this, EPA proposed an agreement among EPA, ADA and National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) to further promote voluntary compliance with ADA's BMPs, including the use of amalgam separators."[7]

ADA messaging is contradictory when it comes to promoting pollution prevention, Bender said.

"The need for dentists to install amalgam separators was well-established years ago," Bender said. "Yet, working with its state chapters, ADA has blocked any further mandates for separators since 2008, pretending that voluntary programs work."

www.mercurypolicy.org

Endnotes

[1]-Stone,ME et al, "Determination of methylmercury in dental-unit wastewater," Dent Mater. 2003 Nov;19(7):675-9; mark.stone@ndri.med.navy.mil

[2]-See: http://www.ada.org/1540.aspx
[3]-See: http://www.epa.gov/mercury/dentalamalgam.html
[4]-See: http://www.epa.gov/guide/dental/files/mou.pdf

[5]-See: http://oversight.house.gov/images/stories/documents/20080910144322.pdf

[6]-Letter from Mark McDermid, Quicksilver Caucus, Lead ECOS Representative to the EPA Water Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2008-0517, March 31, 2010.

[7]-See: http://www.ada.org/sections/professionalResources/pdfs/topics_amalgamseparator s_flyer.pdf

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Report: 15 National Parks, Other Natural Areas Most at Risk From BP Oil Blowout Identified

/PRNewswire/ -- From Padre Island National Seashore in Texas to the Everglades National Park in Florida, the 15 national parks, wildlife refuges and state parks in Gulf states most threatened by the ongoing BP oil blowout are identified in a new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization (RMCO).

The new NRDC/RMCO report, "Special Places at Risk in the Gulf: Effects of the BP Oil Catastrophe," lists the following 15 top national and state parks and wildlife areas at risk to contamination because of the BP oil blowout:

1. Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, Texas
2. Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, Alabama
3. Breton National Wildlife Refuge, Louisiana
4. Delta National Wildlife Refuge, Louisiana
5. Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida
6. Everglades National Park, Florida
7. Lower Suwanee National Wildlife Refuge, Florida
8. Grand Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi and Alabama
9. Gulf Islands National Seashore, Mississippi and Florida
10. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Florida
11. Key West National Wildlife Refuge, Florida
12. Padre Island National Seashore, Texas
13. Pass a Loutre Wildlife Management Area, Louisiana
14. Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge, Louisiana
15. St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, Florida


Theo Spencer, senior advocate, Climate Center, Natural Resources Defense Council, said: "This could become America's greatest environmental disaster. Oil contamination from the explosion of BP's drilling rig threatens precious natural resources and livelihoods across the Gulf of Mexico and beyond. By highlighting special places that belong to all Americans, this report sheds light on one stark aspect of the BP disaster: our country's dangerous over-dependence on fossil fuels. That dependence threatens part of America's 'Best Idea,' some National Parks and other protected places with unique natural resources in a region of great natural value."

Stephen Saunders, president, Rocky Mountain Climate Organization, said: "The 15 special places highlighted in our report were chosen to include the best examples of the full range of both the protected public areas and the resources within them that are vulnerable to contamination by the BP disaster. Because the potential reach of this catastrophe is so broad, our list certainly cannot include more than a tiny fraction of what is at stake as oil continues to gush into and spread around the Gulf."

Julie Wraithmell, wildlife policy coordinator, Florida Audubon, said: "For Gulf Coast states, our coastal areas are our lifeblood, ecologically and economically. Blindingly white sand beaches where marine turtles and diminutive snowy plovers nest; vast seagrass meadows flush with redfish and trout; mangrove islands blanketed with nesting pelicans; vibrant coral reefs and cool, clear coastal springs; oyster bars and vast marshes, nurseries for the seafood that feeds a nation. These habitats were already under tremendous pressure when the Deepwater Horizon accident brought oil to our shores. It is our job now to do all we can to protect and restore our coastal wealth, and find a way forward with renewable energy policies so that as Americans we can all tell our children, 'Never again,' and know we can keep our promise."

Enid Sisskin, PhD, University of West Florida and board member of several local and regional environmental organizations, including the Gulf Coast Environmental Defense, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, and the Florida Conservation Alliance, said: "For years, the fear of the environmental catastrophe such as we are now seeing, has united Floridians in opposition to drilling near our coasts. Now we all realize that there is no place far enough away that we can be certain that the pollution and other environmentally damaging effects of drilling will spare our shores. This disaster will affect our environment and economy for many years to come."

Captain Louis Skrmetta, of Gulfport, Mississippi, a third generation ferry pilot and CEO of Ship Island Excursions, the official passenger ferry service for the National Park Service and Gulf Islands National Seashore in Mississippi, said, "Gulf Islands National Seashore is the Yosemite, Canyonlands, and Grand Teton of the Central Gulf Coast region. These resilient white sand islands have experienced more than a hundred major hurricanes, and each time the eco-system endured. The BP catastrophe is occurring approximately 40 miles south of the Mississippi islands, and for the first time our national seashore and its magnificent natural recourses are truly endangered and could be transformed into a 'dead zone.' We need a miracle."

For the full report, go to www.rockymountainclimate.org on the Web.

METHODOLOGY


The list of 15 sites included in "Special Places at Risk in the Gulf: Effects of the BP Oil Catastrophe" was chosen to include the best examples of the full range of both the protected coastal public areas and the resources within them that are vulnerable to contamination by the BP disaster. Because the potential reach of this catastrophe is so broad, our list certainly cannot include more than a tiny fraction of what is at stake as oil continues to gush into and spread around the Gulf. But by highlighting some of these special places and what they protect, this report may shed some light on the amazing environment of the Gulf of Mexico that now threatened by the BP oil disaster.

This list does not reflect any judgment or opinion on where the oil from the BP oil blowout may go and which areas may be most affected. Instead, the list reflects the judgment of government agencies and scientists that the oil may go anywhere in the Gulf (and potentially even beyond the Gulf, a possibility which we have not addressed in this report.) For example, the National Park Service has identified eight units of the national park system that are potentially vulnerable to the oil. Those eight units encircle the entire Gulf, and include Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, in and around New Orleans, Louisiana; Gulf Islands National Seashore, with units in both Mississippi and northwestern Florida; De Soto National Memorial, on the Manatee River at Bradenton, Florida; Big Cypress National Preserve and Everglades, Biscayne, and Dry Tortugas national parks, all in south Florida; and Padre Island National Seashore, on the coast of south Texas.

As this is being written, it still is not clear how much oil has already escaped from the BP blowout, when the gush of oil will be stopped, where the Gulf's currents and winds will take the oil, and what may happen if one or more hurricanes enters the Gulf this year.

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Pampers Statement in Response to Dry Max Class Action Lawsuit

/PRNewswire/ -- Intensive safety assessments, clinical testing, and consumer testing before, during, and after the launch shows that Pampers Dry Max is safe and does not cause skin conditions. Further review by pediatricians, pediatric dermatologists, and children's public health risk experts confirm these findings. While we have great empathy for any parent dealing with diaper rash - a common and sometimes severe condition - the claims made in this lawsuit are completely false.

Diaper rash affects more than 2.5 million babies at any given moment, and 250,000 cases are typically severe. In other words, one out of every four babies at any given time will be experiencing diaper rash. To attribute these conditions to the Dry Max disposable diaper is incorrect and misguided. Such a misperception only contributes to the real problem, which is lack of awareness of the nature and cause of diaper rash, and may cause some parents to delay pursuing important and timely treatment. Our own research, validated by outside experts and physicians, shows that Dry Max is a wonderful product that helps keep babies away from the very wetness that may contribute to rashes in the first place.

We continue to encourage all of our customers seeking honest answers concerning our products and the well-being of their children to contact us toll-free at 1-800-PAMPERS, and we want to reassure them once again that, although some attorneys may wish to profit from rumors and misinformation, the Dry Max product is completely safe and does not cause skin irritations. We have every confidence that we will prevail in this meritless lawsuit.

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

FDA: Serious Side Effects from Swallowing Topical Benadryl Product

/PRNewswire/ -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers about potentially serious side effects from mistakenly swallowing Benadryl Extra Strength Itch Stopping Gel, an over-the-counter (OTC) product that should only be used on the skin.

The FDA has received reports of serious side effects in people who have mistakenly swallowed the product. Some OTC Benadryl products are intended to be swallowed. However, Benadryl Extra Strength Itch Stopping Gel is only safe and effective when used, as directed, on the skin.. People swallowing the gel can ingest a dangerous amount of the active ingredient, diphenhydramine. Large doses of diphenhydramine can result in serious side effects such as unconsciousness, hallucinations, and confusion.

"Consumer confusion and incorrect product use are serious public health issues," said Carol Holquist, R.Ph., director of FDA's Division of Medication Error Prevention and Analysis. "FDA is advising consumers and pharmacies to store products for the skin separately from products that should be swallowed."

Many pharmacies and grocery stores sell diphenhydramine topical gels that look very similar in packaging to Benadryl Extra Strength Itch Stopping Gel. It is important that consumers also avoid swallowing these products.

To help consumers recognize that Benadryl Extra Strength Itch Stopping Gel is meant for use on the skin, the manufacturer, Johnson and Johnson, has taken the following actions:

-- Changed the product label to add a new, prominent statement "For Skin
Use Only."
-- Attached a sticker to the cap of the product that says "For Skin Use
Only."
-- Initiated consumer studies to better understand factors that may
contribute to consumers mistakenly swallowing Benadryl Extra Strength
Itch Stopping Gel.


The FDA encourages manufacturers of similar products to adopt similar changes to their labeling and packaging.

The repackaged product is currently stocked in retail stores. The FDA reminds consumers and health care professionals to always read the "Drug Facts" box to identify active ingredients, directions for use, and warnings before using any OTC drug product.
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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Gulf Oil Spill: Dispersants Have Potential to Cause More Harm Than Good

/PRNewswire/ -- The chemical dispersants being used to break up the oil leaking into the gulf following the explosion of British Petroleum's Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig have the potential to cause just as much, if not more, harm to the environment and the humans coming into contact with it than the oil possibly would if left untreated.

That is the warning of toxicology experts, led by Dr. William Sawyer, addressing the Gulf Oil Disaster Recovery Group, a group of lawyers working to protect the rights and interests of environmental groups and persons affected by the Deepwater Horizon disaster. The group represents the United Fishermen's Association and the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN), among others.

Various publications from the National Academy of Sciences and the National Research Council show that baseline data on the environmental and ecologic fate of petroleum spills and their effects in the marine environment is substantially deficient, said Dr. Sawyer. The lack of substantial research in these areas makes many of the decision-making processes pertaining to successful major spill containment and remediation rife with speculation.

The ongoing discharge of petroleum from the BP site, with a concurrent substantial use of surface and deep-water dispersants, demonstrates an environmental release of toxicants into the marine, marsh and beach environments in an unprecedented way, said Lead Counsel Stuart Smith for Gulf Oil Disaster Recovery Group. Mr. Smith was the first to challenge British Petroleum on the failure of its cofferdam cap on the DEEPWATER HORIZON and has won two successful injunctions requiring British Petroleum to respect fishermen's legal rights and protect their health in all areas impacted by the Gulf oil spill.

"The dispersants used in the BP clean-up efforts, known as 'Corexit 9500' and 'Corexit EC9527A,' are also known as deodorized kerosene," said Dr. Sawyer. "With respect to marine toxicity and potential human health risks, studies of kerosene exposures strongly indicate potential health risks to volunteers, workers, sea turtles, dolphins, breathing reptiles and all species which need to surface for air exchanges, as well as birds and all other mammals. Additionally, I have considered marine species which surface for atmospheric inhalation such as sea turtles, dolphins and other species which are especially vulnerable to aspiration toxicity of 'Corexit 9500' into the lung while surfacing."

The "Corexit 9500" dispersant is designed to breakup the slick at the water's surface, sending the oil into the water column, and from there, to the bottom of the seabed where bottom residing organisms such as shrimp, crabs and oysters reside. One concern with the usage of such dispersants is that, aside from being themselves toxic, they do little more than hide the problem, said Mr. Smith. Many leading experts, doctors and environmentalists have discredited the use of Corexit as a tool for oil spill clean up.

"Toxicity of the petroleum products is increased when it is dissolved into the water by dispersants," said Co-Counsel Robert McKee, Gulf Oil Disaster Recovery Group. "In essence, this activity is making aquatic organisms more exposed to chemicals' harm. The attempt to make these floating tars and oils disappear from view by the use of dispersants increases the likelihood of poisonous effects in these oil polluted waters."

Mr. McKee added, "The use of dispersants, without knowing the cascade of toxic events which may flow from the practice, mandates that those who may be forced to prove their losses in a court of law obtain competent and environmentally knowledgeable legal representatives who can establish the pre-damage baseline ecology now, in order to compare to post-oil spill contamination effects seen later. Without that immediate effort, victims who did not seek that type of early assistance may lose their ability to prove a full accounting of their rightful compensation for losses they actually sustain. The use of dispersants not only hides the amount of oil actually being discharged from view, but also serves to undermine damage proof for the unwary victim who chooses to wait to see what is going to happen."

"What, if any, published testing data has BP used to understand and quantify the long term and short term risks presented to marine environments and fisheries populations by the ongoing spillage of petroleum? What facts supported the decision that dispersants would effectively protect shorelines without significantly impacting the water column and benthic marine populations of the Gulf?" said Mr. Smith. "BP must answer the many questions that arise from the usage of dispersants and be accountable for its actions and the harmful effects they have on marine life, the coastline and the livelihood of those who make their living off the fisheries and tourism industry."

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Thursday, May 06, 2010

President's Cancer Panel Report Finds True Burden of Environmentally Induced Cancer Greatly Underestimated

/PRNewswire/ -- Even with the growing body of evidence linking environmental exposures to cancer in recent years, a report released today by the President's Cancer Panel finds that the true burden of environmentally-induced cancer is greatly underestimated. The Panel's report, "Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now," concludes that while environmental exposure is not a new front on the war on cancer, the grievous harm from this group of carcinogens has not been addressed adequately by the National Cancer Program.

"There remains a great deal to be done to identify the many existing but unrecognized environmental carcinogens and eliminate those that are known from our daily lives - our workplaces, schools and homes," said LaSalle D. Leffall, Jr., M.D., chair of the Panel. "The increasing number of known or suspected environmental carcinogens compels us to action, even though we may currently lack irrefutable proof of harm," he added.

Key Findings

With nearly 80,000 chemicals on the market in the US, many of which are used by millions of Americans in their daily lives and are un- or under-studied and largely unregulated, the report finds that exposure to potential environmental carcinogens is widespread. Yet, the public remains unaware of many of these carcinogens as well as their own level of exposure, especially to many common environmental carcinogens such as radon, formaldehyde and benzene.

In addition to environmental carcinogens, the report found that while improved imaging technologies have facilitated great strides in diagnosing and treating diseases, including cancer, some of these technologies also carry risks from increased radiation exposures. Many health care professionals, as well as the public, are unaware of the radiation dose associated with various tests or the total radiation dose and related increased cancer risk individuals may accumulate over a lifetime.

In addition, the report found that health care providers often fail to consider occupational and environmental factors when diagnosing patient illness. Physicians and other medical professionals ask infrequently about patient workplace and home environments when taking a medical history, thereby missing out on information that could be invaluable in discovering underlying causes of disease.

The report also recognizes the United States military as a major source of toxic occupational and environmental exposures that can increase cancer risk. Information is available about some military activities that have directly or indirectly exposed military and civilian personnel to carcinogens and contaminated soil and water in numerous locations in the United States and abroad, such as radiation exposure due to nuclear weapons testing. Nearly 900 Superfund sites are abandoned military facilities or facilities that produced materials and products for, or otherwise supported, military needs. In some cases, these contaminants have spread far beyond their points of origin because they have been transported by wind currents or have leached into drinking water supplies.

The Panel concluded that Federal responses to the plight of affected individuals have been unsatisfactory, and that those affected lack knowledge about the extent of their exposure or potential health problems they may face.

Recommendations

The Panel recommends concrete actions that government; industry; research, health care, and advocacy communities; and individuals can take to reduce cancer risk related to environmental contaminants, excess radiation and other harmful exposures. Key recommendations include -

-- Increase, broaden and improve research regarding environmental
contaminants and human health.
-- Raise consumer awareness of environmental cancer risks and improve
understanding and reporting of known exposures.
-- Increase awareness of environmental cancer risks and effects of
exposure among health care providers.
-- Enhance efforts to eliminate unnecessary radiation-emitting medical
tests, and to ensure that radiation doses are as low as reasonably
achievable without sacrificing quality.
-- Aggressively address the toxic environmental exposures the US military
has caused, and improve response to associated health problems among
both military personnel and civilians.


Additional recommendations that are underscored in the report include those related to the needs for a comprehensive and cohesive policy agenda on the issue, stronger regulation and safer alternatives to many currently used chemicals, among other highlights.

The Panel concluded, "Just as there are many opportunities for harmful environmental exposures, ample opportunities also exist for intervention, change, and prevention to protect the health of current and future generations and reduce the national burden of cancer."

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Monday, May 03, 2010

FDA Warns Consumers to Avoid Vita Breath Dietary Supplement

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is advising consumers not to purchase nor consume Vita Breath, a dietary supplement manufactured by American Herbal Lab Inc. of Rosemead, Calif., and marketed at health fairs and on the Internet, because the product may contain hazardous levels of lead.

The FDA was notified by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene about a patient with lead poisoning who reported taking Vita Breath and two other herbal products. The department analyzed a sample of Vita Breath and reported it contained 1,100 parts per million of lead. This level is more than 10,000 times higher than FDA’s maximum recommended level for lead in candy.

The FDA has collected and is currently analyzing its own samples of Vita Breath.

People with high blood levels of lead may show no symptoms, but the condition may cause damage to the nervous system and internal organs. Acute lead poisoning may cause a wide range of symptoms, including abdominal pain, muscle weakness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, and bloody or decreased urinary output. Children are particularly vulnerable to lead poisoning. Lead poisoning can be diagnosed through clinical testing, and individuals who have taken Vita Breath should talk to their health care providers about testing.

The FDA is working with state officials in New York and California to further investigate Vita Breath.

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