Trending Topics: Health Costs of EDCs & Pathways to Safer Alternatives - Week of June 16

Trending Topics: Health Costs of EDCs & Pathways to Safer Alternatives - Week of June 16 image

The cost of environmental and human health:


Eliminating EDCs in Europe could save billions in health care costs image

What are the societal costs of hazardous chemicals? A report from the European NGO, Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), finds that exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) in products and food may cost the EU up to €31 billion (more than $42 billion) annually. The calculation is based on costs of treating hormone-related health problems that include diabetes and obesity, reproductive and fertility problems, children’s neurological disorders and certain cancers. HEAL is calling on the EU to enact policies to reduce EDC exposure and replace them with safer alternatives.

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US EPA identifies HBCD alternatives image

Are the alternatives to HBCD safer? The US EPA’s Design for Environment program released its final report identifying alternatives to the flame retardant HBCD (hexabromocyclododecane). A persistent, bioaccumulative, toxic (PBT) chemical with adverse reproductive, developmental, and neurological effects, HBCD presents significant environmental and human health concerns. The “safer” alternative identified by EPA, butadiene styrene brominated copolymer, has the advantage of being a polymeric compound and thus has fewer toxicity concerns. Yet it is environmentally persistent and significant questions remain about its manufacturing and end-of-life stages. Receiving far less EPA attention is the option of alternative materials and products that require no flame retardants – and of first asking: Are flame retardants necessary?

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Plastics from Trees image

Is the chemistry safer? We’re excited about displacing fossil fuels as the feedstocks for plastics. Recent research in the UK demonstrates that plastics can be made out of chemicals extracted from lignin – a hydrocarbon that provides structural support in trees and other plants. As a wood products industry waste product, lignin could be an abundant and low-cost source material for bioplastics. As always our questions are, what are the chemicals being made from lignin? And are they safer than the existing plastics’ chemistries?

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