If You Love This Planet, Dr. Helen Caldicott

Dr. Maricel Maffini on how ubiquitous hormone-mimicking chemicals are creating a public health emergency


The components in some plastic water bottles are now strongly linked to<br />
breast cancer

The components in some plastic water bottles are now strongly linked to breast cancer

Dr. Maricel Maffini is a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Anatomy and Cellular Biology at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston. Her research interests are in the field of carcinogenesis and developmental biology, and she has made a number of important observations in the field of breast cancer.

In this interview with
Dr. Caldicott, biologist Maffini explains the association between exposures to environmental estrogen-mimics during fetal life like bisphenol-A (BPA), a component in plastic, and breast cancer risk in adulthood. Dr. Caldicott asks Dr. Maffini about the the tremendous increase in breast cancer rates. According to the Breast Cancer Fund, which published the report State of the Evidence 2008:
The Connection Between Breast Cancer and the Environment
, “breast cancer incidence rates in the United States increased by more than 40 percent between 1973 and 1998.” In discussing BPAs and their relationship to cancer, Dr. Maffini explains the toxic nature of products containing BPAs: water bottles, canned food containers, Coca-Cola bottles, DVDs, eyeglasses, protective dental substances, and the plastic pipes that transport tap water. She says that all plastics, even those without BPA, release some estrogenic compounds. Read the May 22 news article Drinking from Plastic Bottles ‘Increases Exposure to Gender-Bending Chemical’ and read the new study Use of Polycarbonate Bottles and Urinary Bisphenol A Concentrations.

The program explores bisphenol-A in great depth. Dr. Maffini points to two studies published in 2008 in the Journal of the American Medical Association linking BPA to heart disease and diabetes, plus high concentrations of certain liver enzymes, Bisphenol A and Risk of Metabolic Disorders and Association of Urinary Bisphenol-A Concentration With Medical Disorders and Laboratory Abnormalities in Adults. Dr. Maffini’s lab has also found a strong correlation between BPA and autism, hyperactivity and even obesity, and she describes in detail what happened in test situations.

The discoveries Dr. Maffini and her colleagues have made started with finding that the plastic tubing used in laboratories made breast cancer cells in controlled experiments “proliferate like mad.” Dr. Maffini refers to the 2004 Centers for Disease Control study showing BPA contamination in 93% of the population. She explains how children and women are particularly infiltrated with BPA. Read High BPA levels found in hospitalized, premature infants. And see the six-page brochure Hormone Disruptors and Women’s Health: Reasons for Concern.

Dr. Maricel Maffini

Dr. Maricel Maffini

Dr. Caldicott asks Dr. Maffini to comment on how girls are reaching puberty at a much earlier age now, with chemicals a suspected cause. The Breast Cancer Fund commissioned a study,
The Falling Age of Puberty in U.S. Girls:
What We Know, What We Need to Know
, overseen by biologist and cancer survivor Sandra Steingraber, author of Living Downstream.

Two of the most important points on today’s program are that even minute amounts of many hormone mimickers cause damage, and that the synergistic effect of chemicals in combination is often much stronger than one chemical alone. The Environmental Protection Agency, Dr. Maffini says, does not correctly test chemicals in the amounts that would do the most damage, and does not study how chemicals become exponentially more harmful when blended together. And the Food and Drug Administration does not consider BPA harmful, but their findings may be compromised. Read To ban or not to ban: Bisphenol-A in food is OK with FDA but not with some scientists. Also see Growing controversy swirls around research article key to FDA’s decision on bisphenol A safety and Plastics industry behind FDA research on bisphenol A, study finds.

The air we breathe may also include BPAs. Be sure to examine Clearing the Air – Hidden Hazards of Air Fresheners, the Natural Resources Defense Council’s report about how air fresheners are laced with hormone-mimicking chemicals. For more on BPA, be sure to read Chemical Fallout, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Scripps Howard Award-winning series on bisphenol-A, which includes the articles BPA leaches from “microwave safe” products and Few companies seeking substitutes to
bisphenol A, study finds

Dr. Maffini and Dr. Caldicott explore the hormonal effects of other plastic components, including phthlates (which are also hormone disruptors), as well as chemicals like DDT, still used on produce imported to the U.S.; plus Teflon, Styrofoam, parabens (in nearly all sunscreens, skin lotions and shampoos) and pesticides. See the report Concentrations of Parabens in Human Breast Tumors. Dr. Caldicott declares that “we live in a cocktail of estrogen mimickers.”

The bisphenol-A lining in canned food containers is even more likely to migrate when exposed to acidic foods like tomatoes

The bisphenol-A lining in canned food containers is even more likely to migrate when exposed to acidic foods like tomatoes

Today’s show also touches on polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) used in flame retar-dants, which have been found in people and animals all over the world. Read an abstract of the study, Brominated flame retar-dants in polar bears. Read about the study released last month on the prevalence of flame retardants in all U.S. coastal waters and the Great Lakes and read the full report here.

Plastics in many forms are causing havoc around the world, and do not biodegrade. Read Where Plastics Goes to Kill. In past interviews,
Dr. Maffini has recommended not microwaving food in plastic containers. Microwave ovens themselves have been found to damage the colloidal structure of food and water, which in turn weakens the human body, according to some studies.

Babies, young children, and pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to hormone-mimicking chemicals, and Dr. Maffini says that pregnant mothers should be warned to avoid all the sources of exposure she mentions on the program, just as they are told to not smoke or drink while pregnant. She points to success stories in the fight against hormone-mimicking chemicals like how Suffolk County on Long Island recently banned BPAs, and how removing the toxic lining in canned food in Japan caused a big drop in blood levels of BPA among college students in studies conducted over seven years. New development: read the May 14 article Chicago Bans Sale of Baby Bottles, Sippy Cups With BPA.

Dr. Caldicott concludes near the end of the program that the volume of chemicals linked to chronic diseases has produced a major public health emergency. Of the 80,000 chemicals in use today, only a fraction have been tested for carcinogenicity and other toxicity. Listen to find out much more about how “we have saturated our environment with untested toxins,” as
Dr. Caldicott says, and what you can do to protect yourself and your community from these unnecessary chemicals.

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