InformAction Newsletter
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       Gender benders. Endocrine disruptors. Hormonally active agents. Those are the names for the growing list of chemicals that scientists believe mimic hormones and cause serious health problems, including the feminization of males. (Yes, that makes everyone want to cross their legs.) Top on the list of suspects are Bisphenol A, Phthalates, and PBDEs---which are all so widespread they are virtually unavoidable. Bisphenol A is in some plastic containers, Phthalates are in many cosmetics and air fresheners, and PBDEs are in the flame retardants that are added to a range of products from electronics to bedding.

       The potential gender bending impact of chemical exposure is scary. Fish and toads which spend their lives “marinading” in polluted water are a chilling example: 40% of “male” Cane Toads in Florida are now hermaphrodites. A recent study shows that human moms with elevated phthalate levels are more likely to have baby boys with genital abnormalities (you don’t want to know the details.) In heavily polluted cities around the globe, the ratio of female to male births is as high as 2:1. Scientists think it is caused by prenatal exposure to gender-influencing chemicals.

       If that weren’t scary enough…in 1996 Congress directed the EPA to start testing individual chemicals and drinking water contaminants to determine if they are endocrine disruptors. Twelve years later, testing has yet to start. Optimists are hopeful it will begin in 2009. (Yes, cross your fingers.)

We should think about...
  • Do our products contain any suspected gender benders? How can we reformulate them?
  • Does our business produce any chemical waste? Have we done everything possible to ensure it is handled correctly?
  • How many products that we use at home contain gender benders?
Sources: EPA 2008; The Independent 2008; TreeHugger 2008; 2008
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