THE BLOG
02/19/2013 02:26 pm ET Updated Apr 21, 2013

Afternoon Tracks: Hormone Mimics, Toxic Air, Dirty Dare And More

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Chemicals that mess with hormones in humans and wildlife such as BPA bisphenol A (BPA) -- a common plasticizer in food packaging and water bottles -- have become "a global threat," according to experts from the United Nations and the World Health Organization.

Hormone-mimicking chemicals can disrupt metabolism, growth and development, sleep and mood, note the researchers in their report, which highlights the rise of many related diseases and disorders including diabetes, infertility and certain cancers.

Environmental Health News reports that a 2002 report called the evidence linking the chemicals to human health effects "weak." They interviewed Thomas Zoeller, a professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and a co-author of the report:

"Frankly, for BPA, the science is done. Flame retardants, phthalates ... the science is done," Zoeller said. "We have more than enough information on these chemicals to make the reasonable decision to ban, or at least take steps to limit exposure."

The authors also highlight how the "vast majority" of chemicals in use today have "not been tested at all."

"We seem to be accepting as a society that it's acceptable to load up our next generation with chemicals in an unregulated manner and hope they're not bad," Zoeller said. "We need to change that entire culture."

The international report comes just a few days after a panel of U.S. breast cancer experts urged prioritizing prevention, including a focus on environmental causes. Hormone-mimicking chemicals are high on the suspect list.

Also in the news today:

  • More evidence suggests that air pollution takes a toll on the heart. A new study out of Houston found that heart attack risk rises with pollution levels. Forbes reports:

    Air pollution is of particular concern in Houston, which is home to the nation's biggest petrochemical refining complex, and which ranks 8th in the nation in ozone levels and 13th on Forbes' Annual Ranking of the 20 Dirtiest Cities in America. But the findings are significant to any region with air quality issues. Nationwide, according the their study, 300,000 people suffer heart attacks outside of hospitals, and a remarkable 90% of them die.

    Both particulate matter and ozone levels are of concern to experts. Forbes continues:

    Respiratory health researches have for years suspected a relationship between raised levels of particulate matter (defined as airborne particles smaller than 2.5 micrograms) and cardiac arrest. But according to the researchers, this is the first time that a direct correlation has been made between ozone levels and heart attacks.

  • An entrepreneur in Zhejiang, China is offering $32,000 to any environmental protection official willing to swim in a local river for more than 20 minutes. The river flows through a neighborhood dense with manufacturing faciilties. China Daily reports:

    Referring to it as "the river I used to swim in when I was little" and the same used by his mother to wash the family's clothes, he claimed that residents have suffered from unusually high cancer rates as a result of pollutants in the water.

  • An Indiana farmer's case against the agribusiness giant Monsanto will be heard in the Supreme Court this week. NPR reports:

    The farmer is fighting the long reach of Monsanto's patents on seeds -- but he's up against more than just Monsanto. The biotech and computer software industries are taking Monsanto's side. Bowman also is battling a historic shift that's transformed the nation's seed business over the past 20 years.

    Meanwhile, a new report concludes that nearly half of surveyed farmers said they have weeds resistant to glyphospate -- the key ingredient in Monsanto's herbicide Roundup. As Mother Jones reports, more than 70 percent of all the the corn, soy and cotton grown in the U.S is now genetically modified to withstand glyphosate.