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Chemicals making news

Earlier this month, WWF reported the results of a survey (Contaminated: the next generation) showing that children in a sample of seven English families have higher levels of some chemicals, including brominated flame-retardants, in their bodies than their parents or grandparents.

Greenpeace vacuumed 100 houses last year and found many chemicals - phthalates, brominated chemicals from fire-retardants and chlorinated paraffins - suspected carcinogens - that had migrated from household products and appliances.

A Los Angeles Times article on January 13 reported: "Concentrations of chemicals and pesticides in the bodies of Greenland's Inuit are so high that their tissues (internal organs) can be classified as hazardous waste. Their breast milk is contaminated as well, leading to widespread immune-system and neurological problems among their children."

Testicular cancer in the UK has increased by 88 per cent in 26 years.

Endocrine-disrupting chemicals are a suspected cause.

Tributyltin, used as an anti-fouling compound on the bottom of ships, has been described by WWF as "the most toxic substance ever deliberately put into the sea." Before its use was restricted (but not banned) in the 1980s, it wiped out some aquatic species along the south coast of the UK. Toxic substances in the sea return to us in the fish we eat.

Ever burnt a non-stick pan? When it's overheated, the non-stick plastic polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) gives off fumes that can and do fatally damage the lungs of nearby birds. The human version is flu-like "polymer fume fever", which, so far as is known, has occurred only in industry.

Teething troubles: the EU looks set to ban toys containing phthalates over suspicions about their toxicity

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