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A Toxics-Free Future

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Highlights Front Roll

IPEN POs Work to End the Use of Lead in Paint
New Report on the Hazards of Plastic Waste Management
New Report on Aquatic Pollutants in Oceans and Fisheries
New Report on Women, Chemicals and the Sustainable Development Goals
Plastics, EDCs & Health Report Links Chemical Additives and Health Effects
Understanding the Connection between COVID-19 and Chemicals
Hair samples in four Latin American countries show high mercury from food chain poisoned by gold-mining

Press Release
Attn: Environment, Health, and News Editors
Contacts:
Björn Beeler, IPEN, Bjornbeeler@ipen.org
Lee Bell, IPEN leebell@ipen.org, +61 417196604
David Evers, Biodiversity Research Institute david.evers@briloon.org
Tim Tear, Biodiversity Research Institute, tim.tear@briloon.org

New study finds indigenous Bolivian women have extremely high mercury levels in their bodies and also reveals high mercury levels among women in Latin American gold mining countries.

(Report and Press Release (English, Spanish, Portuguese))

Cover of Mercury exposure of women in Four Latin American gold mining countries

Gothenburg, Sweden Women in three Latin American countries who rely on fish for protein and live in proximity to gold mining activity have been found to have elevated mercury levels in their bodies, according to a new study, Mercury Exposure of Women in Four Latin American Gold Mining Countries. The study was conducted by the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN) together with the Biodiversity Research Institute (BRI) and analyzed mercury levels in women of child-bearing age who are most sensitive to the toxic effects of mercury. Women in gold mining regions in Venezuela, Bolivia, Brazil, and Colombia volunteered to be assessed for the study. A cohort of Colombian women in a region that has switched from mercury-based gold extraction to non-mercury methods were included as a control group for comparison and were shown to have low levels of mercury in their bodies.

Hair samples were taken from women of child-bearing age in small-scale gold mining regions and analyzed for total mercury content, indicating their body burden of the highly toxic metal. Mercury is used by small-scale miners to extract gold particles from low-grade ore, and most of the mercury is lost to the environment where it contaminates fish in the local rivers.

In recent years in Brazil, different economic sectors have been acting to modify Brazilian pesticides legislation, which would have serious impacts on human health and the environment. The COVID-19 pandemic slowed down legislative discussions; however, several sub-legal changes published by regulatory agencies have been put into practice. As a result, pesticide products that had already had their ban announced in Brazil, such as the herbicide paraquat, now do not have a definitive decision for use. Additionally, new pesticide products have been commercially released without proper and thorough information on the safety of chronic exposure; in particular, on the toxicological interactions of the mixture of active principles present in the formulated products.

The ABRASCO (Associação Brasileira de Saùde Coletiva) NGO in Brazil has undertaken a study examining the damages to health and the environment that may result from this deregulation scenario, focusing on the most vulnerable groups in both rural and urban use of agrochemicals. The findings are presented via an overview of these breakdowns during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Study in Europe Find "Forever Chemicals" Are Widespread in Disposable Packaging

Prague/Brussels/London A recent study by Arnika found PFAS in a huge percentage of food packaging materials and tableware in popular fast-food chains across Europe. In cooperation with six other NGOs including IPEN, the study found that 76% of the samples tested were intentionally treated with PFAS, which is a class of chemicals frequently used for their oil- and grease-repellent properties. Additionally, traces of PFAS were detected in all samples, which should not be surprising given how they do not break down easily and migrate into water and the enviroment, earning them their "forever chemicals" moniker. All of the materials tested were items intended for a single use, including items for which sustainable alternatives exist.

“It is high time for the European Union to act and immediately and permanently ban the entire class of PFAS in food packaging, to protect the consumers in the first place. It is clearly not essential to use highly toxic and persistent chemicals, posing such a serious health and environmental risk, in throw-away food packaging, especially when there are safer alternatives,” says Jitka Strakova, the main author of the study and Arnika/International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN) science advisor.

Read the press release

Press Release

Quezon City, Philippines A non-profit environmental health watchdog group monitoring compliance to the country’s ban on lead paint today revealed its discovery of six more spray paints with excessive levels of lead, bringing the number of violative aerosol paint products it had found to 56.

According to the latest ALERTOXIC issued by the EcoWaste Coalition, lead content analysis performed by a private laboratory detected lead up to a whopping 99,900 parts per million (ppm) on six bright color Tacoma Spray Paints, which the group purchased last April 14 from a hardware store chain.

Escalating Chemical Production Threatens Aquatic Food Chain

Press Release
Attn: Health, News, and Environment Editors
Contacts:
Björn Beeler, IPEN, Bjornbeeler@ipen.org
Jo Immig, NTN, evolve@joimmig.com

Chemical Pollution Causes Fish Declines

(Report)

Cover of Aquatic Pollutants in Oceans and Fisheries

Gothenburg, Sweden - Increasing levels of chemical and plastic pollution are major contributors to declines in the world’s fish populations and other aquatic organisms, according to a new report released today. The report is the first to bring together in one place the latest scientific research demonstrating how chemical pollution is adversely impacting the aquatic food chain that supports all life on earth.

“Many people think fish declines are just the result of overfishing. In fact, the entire aquatic food web has been seriously compromised, with fewer and fewer fish at the top, losses of invertebrates in the sediments and water column, less healthy marine algae, coral, and other habitats, as well as a proliferation of bacteria and toxic algal blooms. Chemical pollution, along with climate change, itself a pollution consequence, are the chief reasons for these losses,” said Dr. Matt Landos, report author and Director of Future Fisheries Veterinary Services.

Spotlight on IPEN Co-Chair Tadesse Amera

For its March 2021 newsletter, the International Environmental Communication Association (IECA) interviewed IPEN Co-Chair Tadesse Amera about his role as an environmental communicator, why he wanted to do this work, and the challenges he has faced. In addition to his role with IPEN, Dr. Amera is a co-founder and current executive director of PAN Ethiopia, which works to advance principles of safety and sustainability in agriculture. The IECA newsletter was edited by Shirley Ho and Hanna Morris and is presented here in its entirety.

IECA: Was there a significant life experience that helped shape your attitude toward the environment? If so, what was it?

Amera: In a small town at the northwestern part of Ethiopia, I followed what my friends used to do routinely. Studying inside a small forest at the periphery of the town together with closest friends, swimming in a small river and drinking water from a natural spring that flows all year round remains at the top of my childhood memory.

Just a few of the many products that may contain PFAS or related chemicals.

Quezon City, Philippines - An online gathering of over 100 people held in observance of the World Health Day today highlighted the dangers posed by a family of highly persistent chemicals dubbed as “forever chemicals” and the urgent need to protect the people and the environment from these synthetic substances.

Organized by the EcoWaste Coalition and the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN), the “D-Tox Webinar on Forever Chemicals” turned the spotlight on the hazards of PFAS (the acronym for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), a group of over 5,000 chemicals that has earned the moniker “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down easily and can stay in the environment indefinitely, build up in human bodies over time and bring about adverse health outcomes.

Resource persons Pamela Miller (Co-Chair of IPEN and Executive Director of the Alaska Community Action on Toxics) and Jeff Gearhart (Research Director of Healthy Stuff Lab and Ecology Center) led the discussion on PFAS and recommended actions to control and prevent exposure to these persistent chemicals.

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