Synthetic chemicals 'cause cancer and birth defects'

Feb 20, 2013

Landmark study says compounds found in every home pose 'global threat' to health

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MAN-MADE CHEMICALS found in homes across the world could be causing cancers, birth defects, diabetes, asthma and infertility, according to a landmark study.

A joint report from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) concludes that common synthetic chemicals in everyday household items represent a "global threat" to human health. Some might even have to be banned to protect children, it says.

The study, The State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs), was compiled over a two-year period and is the most comprehensive of its kind. It found that compounds present in objects such as children's dummies, toys, perfumes, deodorants and even PVC flooring were linked to diseases such as breast and prostate cancer and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

The Daily Telegraph notes the report links phthalates, found in plastics, to childhood leukemia, breast cancer, asthma, infertility and infant deformities. Scientists also raised concerns over bisphenol A, a plastic compound found in tin cans and sunglasses, that was banned from use in baby bottles by the EU in 2010. There was also "significant evidence" linking prostate cancer to unspecified agricultural pesticides.

While the study points to the ban on lead as an "important example" of what can be done, it adds: "The scientific data were present many years before the policies were changed and the chemical was banned. During that time, children's health continued to be harmed." It says the dangers identified are only "the tip of the iceberg" as many manufacturers do not identify chemicals in consumer products, with humans and animals being exposed to little-understood substances. Dr Maria Neira, WHO's Director for Public Health and Environment, said there was an "urgent need" for more research. "We all have a responsibility to protect future generations," she said.

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