First-ever quantitative data about the toll of BPA exposure

From Health Affairs:

The risks of exposure to Bisphenol A (BPA) have been well-known for some time. While exposure to BPA in the United States affects an estimated 92.6 percent of Americans over the age of five, there are gaps in the knowledge of the health consequences of BPA exposure. A new study, Further Limiting Bisphenol A In Food Uses Could Provide Health And Economic Benefits, presents the first estimate of the potential disease burden and costs associated with ongoing exposure to BPA. It found that $2.98 billion in annual costs are attributable to BPA-associated childhood obesity and adult coronary heart disease. Of the $2.98 billion, the study identified $1.49 billion in childhood obesity costs, the first environmentally attributable costs of child obesity to be documented.

The study modeled the potential health and economic benefits associated with replacing BPA in all food uses by quantifying childhood obesity and adult coronary heart disease attributable to BPA exposure in the United States in the year 2008. The data used were from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey for 2003-2008 as well as other sources. Its analysis methodology followed the approach developed by the Institute of Medicine in assessing the “fractional contribution” of the environment to the causation of illness in the United States. “This analysis suggests that regulatory action to reduce BPA exposure could produce net benefits to society,” concludes the author. “From an economic perspective, it might make sense for the Food and Drug Administration to require that an additive free of obesogenic and cardiovascular risks be substituted for BPA. However, pre-market testing of potential substitutes is needed to prevent the use of another synthetic chemical instead of BPA that may lead to the same or worse health consequences.”

Read the article here.

New from the National Academies Press: Caffeine in Food and Dietary Supplements: Examining Safety

From the NAP:

Caffeine in Food and Dietary Supplements is the summary of a workshop convened by the Institute of Medicine in August 2013 to review the available science on safe levels of caffeine consumption in foods, beverages, and dietary supplements and to identify data gaps.  Scientists with expertise in food safety, nutrition, pharmacology, psychology, toxicology, and related disciplines; medical professionals with pediatric and adult patient experience in cardiology, neurology, and psychiatry; public health professionals; food industry representatives; regulatory experts; and consumer advocates discussed the safety of caffeine in food and dietary supplements, including, but not limited to, caffeinated beverage products, and identified data gaps.

Caffeine, a central nervous stimulant, is arguably the most frequently ingested pharmacologically active substance in the world. Occurring naturally in more than 60 plants, including coffee beans, tea leaves, cola nuts and cocoa pods, caffeine has been part of innumerable cultures for centuries. But the caffeine-in-food landscape is changing. There are an array of new caffeine-containing energy products, from waffles to sunflower seeds, jelly beans to syrup, even bottled water, entering the marketplace. Years of scientific research have shown that moderate consumption by healthy adults of products containing naturally-occurring caffeine is not associated with adverse health effects. The changing caffeine landscape raises concerns about safety and whether any of these new products might be targeting populations not normally associated with caffeine consumption, namely children and adolescents, and whether caffeine poses a greater health risk to those populations than it does for healthy adults. This report delineates vulnerable populations who may be at risk from caffeine exposure; describes caffeine exposure and risk of cardiovascular and other health effects on vulnerable populations, including additive effects with other ingredients and effects related to pre-existing conditions; explores safe caffeine exposure levels for general and vulnerable populations; and identifies data gaps on caffeine stimulant effects.

Read, download, or buy the workshop summary here.

WISER for Windows 4.5 now available

The National Library of Medicine’s WISER for Windows 4.5 is now available. This new version of WISER (Wireless Information System for Emergency Responders) fully integrates Chemical Hazards Emergency Medical Management (CHEMM) content and updates the Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG) content to 2012.

Here is a closer look at What’s New in this release:

  • Full integration of CHEMM content, which includes:
    • New hospital provider and preparedness planner profiles, along with a customized home screen for all WISER profiles
    • Acute Care Guidelines for six known mass casualty agents/agent classes
    • The addition of a wealth of CHEMM reference material
    • CHEMM Intelligent Syndromes Tool (CHEMM-IST), a new help identify tool designed to diagnose the type of chemical exposure after a mass casualty incident
  • ERG content is now updated to the 2012 release. This includes the full ERG 2012 tool.

WISER for Windows 4.5 can be downloaded directly from the WISER Web site.

Coming Soon

  • WebWISER 4.5, which includes CHEMM integration, ERG 2012 updates, and more
  • WISER for Android 3.1, which adds Help Identify Chemical and protective distance mapping to this popular platform

Using information disclosure to achieve policy goals: Toxics release inventory & shale gas fracking

The Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy (CLOSUP) at the University of Michigan Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy has announced a panel discussion “Using Information Disclosure to Achieve Policy Goals: How Experience with the Toxics Release Inventory Can Inform Action on Shale Gas Fracking.”

The federal Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) is the premier national example of a non-regulatory environmental policy, and it illustrates well both the potential and limitations of using information disclosure to achieve policy goals. The TRI was adopted in 1986 as an amendment to the federal Superfund law, and since 1988 we have had annual reports on the release of over 650 toxic chemicals by some 20,000 industrial facilities around the nation. By most accounts, the disclosure of this information has had a remarkable impact on environmental performance of industry, with over a 60 percent decrease over time in the release of toxic chemicals by those facilities governed by the law. However, in our book Coming Clean: Information Disclosure and Environmental Performance (MIT Press 2011, written with Mark Stephan and Troy D. Abel), we found that facility performance varied widely, with some facilities significantly decreasing their release of chemicals and also the risk associated with chemical releases while others moved in the opposite direction. We sought to learn more about the potential for reliance on information disclosure as a policy strategy and also its limitations. This presentation summarizes the findings of Coming Clean, and applies the lessons of the TRI program to the emerging concern over natural gas fracking. How might the disclosure of information about use of chemicals during the fracking process and their health and environmental risks alert the public and policymakers to important aspects of the process and guide development of local, state, and federal policy on fracking? What is the best way to design such an information disclosure policy so that it can succeed in educating the public about those risks while not imposing excessive or unreasonable burdens on industry?

  • Date:  4 December 2013
  • Time:  10-11:30am
  • Location:  Annenberg Auditorium, 1120 Weill Hall
  • Panelists:   Michael E. Kraft, Professor of Political Science and Public Affairs Emeritus, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, and Author of Coming Clean: Information Disclosure and Environmental Performance; Christopher Borick, Director, Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion
  • Moderator:  Barry Rabe, Director, Center for Local, State and Urban Policy (CLOSUP)

For more information, visit the CLOSUP web site.

Farmers’ market chickens higher in bacteria

From the Well blog of the New York Times:

That chicken you bought at the farmers’ market may not be as healthful as you thought.

Researchers in Pennsylvania bought 100 whole chickens from grocery stores, half of which were organic, and 100 from farmers’ markets and tested them for the presence of Salmonella and Campylobacter, two species of bacteria that can cause food poisoning. The study appeared online last month in The Journal of Food Safety.

Among the grocery store chickens, 28 percent of the organic chickens tested positive for Campylobacter and 20 percent for Salmonella, while 52 percent of the nonorganic chickens were contaminated with Campylobacter and 8 percent with Salmonella. But the chickens from farmers’ markets were the most contaminated of all: 28 percent tested positive for Salmonella and 90 percent for Campylobacter.

Poultry farmers who process fewer than 20,000 birds a year are not subject to Department of Agriculture inspections, which may account for some of the differences.

Joshua Scheinberg, a doctoral student at Penn State who led the study, said he did not want to discourage people from shopping at farmers’ markets. But he said both sellers and buyers “have to make sure they’re handling the products properly, keeping them cold, making sure they’re not cross-contaminating tabletops or kitchen implements. Yes, we found in a small study higher levels of these pathogens. But these would be destroyed if properly cooked to 165 degrees.”


Fight or flight: The body’s stress response part 1

MTSG_H8From our friends at Mind the Science Gap:

Like any system, it’s important to first understand how it was meant to function before really appreciating how it breaks down. The stress-response is a perfect example of a system that was originally intended for short-term emergencies, but has now morphed into a system that constantly bears the burdens of our daily hassles.

Let’s run through a scenario, similar to last week when you were going out for a morning run. I use exercise examples to illustrate the response to a physical stress—which as you’ll see later on, looks very similar to a psychological stress (like working on a deadline, or giving a presentation to a room full of people).

Your body cares about one thing on your morning run: to provide you with sufficient fuel for the event.  Your leg muscles are especially in demand for oxygenated blood, so your heart needs to pump faster and harder to accommodate. Thanks to a certain branch of the nervous system (known as the autonomic branch), your body can respond within a matter of seconds. Like its name describes, this response happens automatically.

Read the complete post here.