EPA appoints chem co rep to regulatory position

From the Chicago Tribune

As a lawyer and scientist for one of the world's largest makers of flame retardants, Todd Stedeford vigorously defended chemicals added to scores of household products — often by concluding the substances are far less dangerous than academic and government studies have determined.

Studies, legal newsletters and letters he wrote or co-wrote while at Albemarle Corp. also frequently contradicted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's positions and statements about industrial chemicals.

He argued, for example, that people could be safely exposed to one flame retardant at doses more than 500 times higher than a standard set by the EPA and accused regulators of basing their decisions about toxic chemicals on emotion rather than reason.

Now Stedeford is in charge of an EPA program studying whether dozens of industrial chemicals, including flame retardants, are too dangerous. The risk assessments conducted by his office will determine whether the agency enacts more stringent regulations for certain chemicals, attempts to force some compounds off the market — or chooses to do nothing at all.

Stedeford, who worked as an EPA scientist from 2004 to 2007, rejoined the agency a year ago following a four-year stint at Albermarle, surprising some independent scientists and environmental groups.

"It's hard to imagine going from one job where you are a hired gun to another where you are supposed to be protecting the public," said Julie Herbstman, a Columbia University researcher who led a 2010 study that linked exposure to certain flame retardants with lower IQ scores in children.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has publicly backed an overhaul of the way the EPA screens chemicals and urged Congress to grant the agency authority to require more testing before chemicals are allowed on the market. But the EPA is under intense pressure from the chemical industry and its congressional allies to back off.

The EPA would not make Jackson or Stedeford available for an interview.

Troubling: Especially the strong hint that the EPA may be caving to the chemical companies, and doubly so for the hint that Stedeford supports greatly increasing our exposure to chemical contaminants.

Already flame retardants and water repellant plastics such as PFOA, a toxic substance found in the blood of 98% of Americans, have been shown to have endocrine disrupting and carcinogenic effects in parts per billion concentration. And earlier this year, a huge and definite study of endocrine disruptors from Laura Vandenberg and a dozen other leading researchers, found beyond doubt that endocrine disruptors demand a different method of toxins assessment, because they can be most damaging at low parts-per billion concentrations.  

In Vandenberg's words

My colleagues and I have concluded in a new report that there truly are no safe doses for hormone-altering chemicals. Academic, regulatory and industry scientists must work together to identify and replace such chemicals that are ubiquitous in everyday consumer products.

In other endocrine news, a new study of overweight teen found that beginning about age ten, the overweight actually ate less than their thinner peers. From NPR:

A new study published in Pediatrics finds that overweight teenagers eat fewer calories than their healthy weight peers.

That's right — they eat less.

How much less? The study found that among 12- to 14-year-olds, obese girls consumed 110 fewer calories daily than healthy-weight girls. And overweight boys between the ages of 15 and 17 consumed about 375 fewer calories a day than healthy-weight boys.


"Once you become overweight, there are changes in your body that make you different from someone who's not [overweight]," explains Sophia Yen of Stanford School of Medicine. "You have extra fat cells, and you have different insulin levels," which can make it feel like you're eating less than you are.

"And once these effects have taken place, the fat deposition or the insulin changes in your body, then it's a lot harder to reverse," Yen tells The Salt.

Take fat cells, for instance. Once the body creates a fat cell, it lasts a lifetime.

"You can slim down that fat cell, but that fat cell will always be sitting there, waiting to be larger if you give it extra calories," she says.

As reported here a couple of months ago, leading experts now strongly suspect that endocrine disruptors contribute perhaps substantially to fat cell multiplication and growth in American young people.

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