The dark side of chemicals

The dark side of chemicals – 1
While the widespread use of harmful man-made chemicals is well documented, few people are aware that they are added as additives to everyday household items. Chemical additives from carpets to curtains, from toys to televisions, from computers to printers, from cosmetics to perfumes are the hidden realities of modern life. They are rarely mentioned in the content, they are not visible at all, but they are almost always there. Of course there’s always a reason why they’re there. Like softening plastics, ensuring they don’t break, lasting perfumes, reducing their flammability, eliminating mites or molds… But even if they don’t!
Global production of man-made chemicals increased from 1 million tons in 1930 to 400 million tons in 2000. Synthetic chemicals are commonly detected in air, soil and water sediments. More than 100,000 types of chemicals are marketed in Europe. There is a serious gap regarding the monitoring and information of these chemicals. Regulations regarding their production and use are weak and ineffective. There is very little data on the vast majority of chemicals used in industry. For all these reasons, we do not know exactly the possible effects of chemicals on the environment and human health. However, even low-dose exposure to chemicals can cause serious and irreversible harm, especially in sensitive groups such as pregnant women and children.
Most pollutants do not come from exhausts, industrial chimneys or pesticides. They sneak into our homes, our daily lives, as invisible, unspecified chemical additives, with daily consumption products. Manufacturers think that these molecules are attached to the products and will not be released. Interestingly, these chemicals have been detected in household dust. Since we will not have the opportunity to do controlled studies in humans, we cannot talk about the harmful effects of chemicals for certain. Countries say “we don’t know” because controlled studies can’t be done, “we should be careful because we don’t know”. However, serious regulations should be brought about the production and use of chemicals, safe alternatives should be preferred until their effects are sure, and if there is no reliable alternative and its use is socially obligatory, its use should be limited until the preferred one is found. If these three steps can be implemented, it will be a great way to be protected from chemicals. In this way, we will be able to get away from the genetic damage, cancer and other negative effects of chemicals. Considering that even a living thing that has not yet been born can be affected by chemicals, we see that no one has the right to expose them to chemicals, and that governments must take active action to protect citizens’ right to a healthy life. However, this is never done.
While the widespread use of harmful man-made chemicals has been well documented, few people are aware that they are added to the household items they use every day. Chemical additives from carpets to curtains, from toys to televisions, from computers to printers, from cosmetics to perfumes are the hidden realities of modern life. They are rarely mentioned in the content, they are not visible at all, but they are almost always there. Of course there’s always a reason why they’re there. Like softening plastics, ensuring they don’t break, lasting perfumes, reducing their flammability, eliminating mites or molds… But even if they don’t! Interestingly, despite the widespread use of chemicals in our homes, research on them is extremely scarce.
Alkyl phenols that cause hormonal disorders are used in cosmetics and other personal care products. Reproductive phthalate esters are used to soften PVC. Immunotoxic organotins are used to fix PVC or kill mites in dust. Brominated chemicals that mimic thyroid hormone are used as flame retardants in furniture or electronics. And chlorinated paraffins, which are carcinogenic, are used in plastic, paint and rubber.
May cause DNA damage and feminization: Alkyl phenols and their derivatives
Alkyl phenol and its derivatives are nonionic surfactants. It is chronic, accumulative and toxic to aquatic life when released into the environment.
Nonylphenolethoxylates are used in industrial and consumer applications as surfactants, emulsifiers, spreaders and wetting agents. In Western Europe, 77 thousand tons were used in 1997. As 30 percent industrial and institutional cleaning product (detergent), 11 percent emulsifier, 10 percent in textiles, 7 percent in leather, 6 percent in pesticides and architectural products, 5 percent in water-based paints, 16 percent (112 thousand tons) in cosmetics, shampoos, other It is used in personal care products, glue, marine products (information is extremely limited). It has been reported that some of its derivatives are also used as antioxidants in some plastics.
Alkyl phenol and its derivatives are widely accumulated as persistent compounds in fresh and marine waters. It is particularly evident in sewage water and sediments since it is introduced into wastewater. It reaches the remote corners of wildlife with its deep currents, and accumulates in fish and other creatures. In this way, it joins the food chain. It is harmful to aquatic organisms due to their accumulation in the food chain, soil and higher organisms with secondary poisoning.
Various studies have shown that nonylphenols are commonly found in various foods in Germany. Their most well-defined effects are undoubtedly their activity, which mimics the natural hormone estrogen. It has been shown to cause delayed sexual development and feminization in fish. It has been revealed that nonylphenols cause direct DNA damage and hormone disruption in the whole organism in wild goose larvae. Although recent studies of its adverse effects on mammalian sperm function and DNA damage in human lymphocytes have increased our knowledge, the harms to human health are not clear.
The Northeast Atlantic Environmental Protection Council (OSPAR) also included alkylphenols on its priority list in its 1998 declaration aiming to completely prevent the introduction of all harmful chemicals into waters by 2020. A similar decision was taken in Europe: the Paris Commission accepted that it should be removed from household cleaning products in 1995 and from industrial cleaning products in 2000. .
May retard growth and development: Brominated flame inhibitors
They are organic brominated compounds used to prevent flame flashing in plastics, textiles and other materials. They get into petroleum polymers and turn oxygen into non-flammable gas. They are used in electrical and electronic vehicles, carriers, lighting and wires, textiles including carpets and furniture, packaging and insulation materials (especially polystyrene). In Europe alone, 9,200 tons of hexabromocyclodecane were used in polystyrene panels in 1999. Polybrominated biphenyls are no longer manufactured in the UK. However, those who are thrown into the garbage and enter the country with imports (import) are in significant quantities.
They are permanent chemicals. Their bioavailability is so high that they are found at measurable levels in wildlife and human tissues. In the wild, they were first spotted in 1980. In 1999, it was understood that they had spread to all continents of the world, up to the Arctic. A 2002 study found that their concentrations in human milk and blood have tended to increase over the past 20 years. It is surprising that brominated diphenyl ethers have high bioavailability despite their large molecules. Where and how does it enter the tissues? The main way of entry to humans is food. In addition, it is also possible to purchase directly by touching the products. It has been detected at significant levels in the air at home, in house dust, in the blood of those working with computers in the office.
Although it has been clarified how sudden poisoning occurs, long-term low-dose poisoning (toxicity) is poorly defined. Although the sudden poisoning is mild, it regresses the skeletal and brain development in the womb of mice with continuous exposure and leaves permanent neurological effects. It has been shown that it binds to thyroid hormones, retards growth and development, and acts genotoxicly on mammalian cells. In 1998, OSPAR placed brominated flame inhibitors on its list of pests whose use will be zero within 20 years. In 2003 it was decided that the two components of bromines should be banned completely in Europe.
Even if the decision not to put these chemicals in electrical appliances is currently implemented, the fact that the existing products will be thrown into nature as garbage will continue the problem for many years. Although first Sweden and then Norway have taken a decision on a full ban since 1999, keeping it local makes it difficult to achieve liberation.
May impair the immune system: Organotin compounds
Organitone compounds are organic compounds formed by at least one bond between carbon and tin. The best known is tributyltin, used in non-swelling paints for ships and boats. It is generally used for heat insulation in pipes, panels, wall coverings, furniture and flooring, toys, PVC products, glass coverings.
It has been used in ship paints for many years. For more than 10 years, its use in ships smaller than 25 m has been banned in many countries due to its devastating effects on the population of oysters and other mollusks. It is free to use on larger ships, although this is discussed. It is used as an antifungal (against fungus) in carpet, textile and PVC flooring.
PVCs contain 2/3 of the organotins. Some of them are also used in containers that touch food. In 1995, 15 thousand tons of organotin was used in PVC in Europe. Its global use in non-swelling paints has also resulted in global contamination. It has accumulated in many marine inhabitants such as fish, mussels, whales and dolphins due to its interest in biological tissues. It is also quite permanent.
A Japanese study reported accumulation in monkey and human liver due to the use of consumer products, particularly PVCs. One study has shown that butyltin stabilizers can migrate during normal use. It is harmful not only to marine mammals but also to terrestrial mammals and vertebrates. Their damage to the immune systems and enzyme systems of marine inhabitants has been demonstrated. One study found immunotoxic (defensive) and teratogenic (freaking) effects in mammals. In another study, it was revealed that it is neurotoxic to mammalian brain cells and causes developmental disorders in the embryo. Toxic effects on testicular development have been demonstrated in mice.
In addition to seeing the damage from house dusts and organotin compounds in the house, we also get a notable amount of organotin from the consumption of seafood.
France and England were the first to ban non-swelling paints. Then in 1991 it was banned across Europe on ships under 25 m. IMO (International Maritime Organization) has proposed to ban its use on all ships. It is on the first list of OSPAR’s list of toxicants.
May cause internal organ damage: Short chain chlorinated paraffins
They are organochlorine chemicals. They are formed by the reaction of paraffins with chlorine gas. It is widely used in metallurgy, industrial cutting oils, flame retardants, rubber, paint, marine products, leather processing, additive in textiles, industry and consumer products. In 1994, 13,200 tons of short chain chlorinated paraffin were used in Europe alone. It was used in 70 percent metal applications, mostly in Germany and England. Usage amount is 726 tons in paint, coating and marine, 638 tons in flame retardant and rubbers; In the remaining applications, it increased from 100 tons to 648 tons from 1994 to 1998. The largest reservoirs are wastewater and there is no clear information about the amounts there. There are new studies on its use in door and window seals in office buildings in Germany. They are persistent, organic pollutants with high accumulation in tissues. Since its structure varies considerably with chlorine ratio and chain length, it is very difficult to detect and work on it. Therefore, data on its distribution and effects are extremely limited. However, it has been found in fresh water (mussels, fish) and seas (fish, whale), rodents (rabbit, mouse), organisms such as ospreys and humans up to the poles. It was detected in the air, albeit in very small amounts, in the UK in a 2000 study. Other than that of the EWG, there are no published and published studies on house dust.
It is extremely harmful to fish and other aquatic creatures. In rats, liver, kidney, and thyroid damage have been demonstrated during prolonged exposure in the laboratory. Information on long-term low-dose effects is insufficient. It is classified as a carcinogen in category 3, with possible harm from its irreversible effects. The main way of survival in humans is with food. However, there are no appropriate studies on exposure by touch, inhalation, household products and household dust.
Regulations for chlorinated paraffins were already in place, as the harms were known. OSPAR (Protecting and Concerving the Northeast Atlantic Commission)in 1998 included chlorinated paraffins on the list of products targeted to be dewatered by 2020. Similar decisions were taken in Europe 2001 and Paris Commission 1995. Unfortunately, current practices are far from the decisions taken and seem to await more conclusive evidence regarding long-term poisoning.
May be toxic to fertility: Phthalates
They are non-halogenated ester derivatives of phthalic acids. It is widely used in industrial and consumer vehicles. It is the most common man-made chemical found all over the world because it is used so much.
It is especially used as an additive to soften flexible plastics such as PVC. 1 million tons are produced annually in Europe for consumption only in the domestic market. 90 percent is used in PVC products such as toys, flooring, building-furniture materials, car interiors, cables and medical instruments. It is used to a lesser extent in ink, glue, paints, marine products and surface dressing. Some of its components are used as solvents and fixatives in perfumes and in the ingredients of other cosmetics. It is found in toys, food wraps, raincoats, shower curtains, vinyl flooring, wall coverings, lubricants, adhesives, detergents, nail polish, hairspray and shampoos, among others. Our partnership is pervasive and enduring. It is more permanent especially in soil and sediments. It has a transferred agglomeration.
A few recent studies have reported the presence of phthalates and its primary metabolites (initial transformation products) in the human body. It has even been detected in indoor air due to its excessive use in building materials and household goods. It is an important part of household dust. According to the European risk measurement centre, it does not pose a significant risk to aquatic or terrestrial organisms. Whereas, according to CSTEE 2001 (Scientific Committee on Toxicity, Ecotoxicity and the Environment), this is not true for land organisms, and moreover, there is evidence of secondary poisoning via the food chain.
It has been shown to have a toxic effect on fertility. It inhibits testicular development in mammals. It is classified as a reproductive toxicant in Europe. It was shown 50 years ago to be toxic to the male reproductive system. The effects of a metabolite formed after ingestion on liver function, hormone metabolism and immune function have been demonstrated. Abnormal sexual development was observed in rats. It has been shown to be weakly estrogenic. It has been observed that phthalates in cosmetics and perfumes have a toxic effect on male sperm. Parallels have been shown between bronchial asthma in children and the use of phthalate materials at home. Dibutyl phthalate was detected in the body of each individual tested for industrial contaminants.
Despite its toxicity, control over the use and marketing of phthalates is extremely low. The most obvious ban is the prohibition in Europe of the use of 6 phthalate derivatives, especially in articles and toys chewed by children. The next expectation is the regulation of prohibitions in medical products, but there is no proposal on this subject yet. It was included in OSPAR’s list of products that need to be completely eliminated in 20 years, and was declared a priority harmful substance. In 2007, the EWG (Environmental Working Group) published the “parent’s shopping guide,” a safety guide that lets you find personal care products that are free of phthalates and other potentially dangerous ingredients.
Possible carcinogen: Dioxins
Dioxins are formed in the paper industry during the chlorine bleaching process. A dioxin was used as a weapon by the United States in the Vietnam War.
Toilet paper, tissue paper, milk or juice cartons, tampons, coffee filters, disposable diapers, napkins, paper plates, etc. that we buy contain low doses of dioxins if they have undergone chlorine bleaching. Dioxins can pass into food and sensitive parts of our body from any of these products. Even the smallest amount of these compounds has been reported to cause cancer in laboratory animals. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies dioxins as “possible human carcinogens.” 42 percent of dioxins enter our body with the milk and dairy products we consume daily.
Researchers mention that dioxins, which lead the list of toxic chemicals, initiate many biochemical reactions by mimicking “natural steroid” hormones such as estrogen. Even the smallest amounts can cause a variety of ailments, from acne and joint pain to insomnia, cancer, birth defects and immune system weakness. Moreover, dioxins and its cousin “furans” tend to accumulate in the fat cells in our body because they are fat soluble. Dioxins are frequently found even in breast milk. Babies can be exposed to 200 times more dioxins than adults. When these products we use are burned in landfills, dioxins reach us by air. As industry pollutes water resources, we are exposed to dioxins through agricultural products and aquaculture irrigated with these water resources.
Dioxin is not the only toxic substance contained in the wastewater of pulp and paper mills. In a study conducted in the Province of Ontario, USA in 1986, 41 substances (benzene, cadmium, lead, mercury, PCBs, tholeene, etc.) to be considered, including aluminum and zinc, were identified.
While we can get rid of dioxins by using unbleached or chlorine-free paper products, they are difficult to find in the market due to low demand. Another solution is to use recycled paper. Recycled papers are bleached less than other products. Working at low temperatures also reduces dioxin formation in recycled paper. In many paper mills in Europe, “oxygen”, “peroxide” and “sodium hydroxide” are used instead of chlorine in bleaching processes. But the cost of technology change keeps the paper industry away from these alternatives.
There is no doubt that the answer to this problem lies in the shopping preferences of environmental consumers and in organized consumer pressure, even not buying products such as paper towels at all. As long as we continue to consume these products, companies will not attempt to replace their economically successful paper production.
A group of chemicals that cause multiple damage: Pesticides
Toxic chemicals that are used to destroy or control the living things that harm foods during their production, storage and consumption are generally called pesticides.
They are divided into groups such as insecticide (against insects), herbicide (against wild plants), rodenticide (against rodents), fungicide (against fungi), molluscide (against slugs) and acaricide (against mites) according to the species in which they are used.
The production and consumption of pesticides is increasing rapidly every year. For example, between 1945 and 1995, pesticide production in the USA increased from 50 thousand tons to 1.5 million tons. The USA uses 35-45 percent of the world’s pesticides. The number of substances used as pesticides is increasing day by day. Today, there are 1200 chemical compounds and 30 thousand different formulas sold as pesticides.
The use of pesticides adversely affects human health by contaminating food, soil and goods. Another important way of impact of toxic agricultural agents on human health is through contamination of drinking water sources and food chain.
Other ways of exposure to pesticides include accidents, suicide, monitoring during pesticide use, and contamination of food, water, and air. They can be ingested by ingestion and inhalation, and sometimes through the skin. As a result of chronic exposure, skin irritation may develop. Cancer formation may occur. It also has teratogenic (foetal developmental abnormality) effects.
According to a new study by the Journal of Environmental Health, many registered pesticides used in Europe cause damage to the human brain and should be hurried to increase restrictions. Young children are particularly at risk as it causes neurodevelopmental toxicity. Organophosphates, carbamates, prethyroids are listed as potential damaging agents.
More than 25 percent of fruits, vegetables and grains have detectable residues of at least two pesticides. 5 percent is covered with dangerous levels of pesticides. In 10%, 4 different pesticide residues were sampled. (26)
In the samples made in the PAN (Pesticide Action Network) Europe study, the rate of pesticide contamination in vegetables, fruits and cereals was determined as 50 percent. The 5 most common pesticides are known as carcinogens, mutagens and hormone disruptors. These rates are at a level to constitute a mass public health problem, even according to Europe’s own risk measurements.
Some of the 354 pesticides detected are maneb, prosimidon, iprodione, carbendazim, deltamethrin, and imidacloprid. Mass mortality was also detected in European bees in the same study. The European Parliament is preparing a new bill to be put to vote, which envisages wide-ranging restrictions on pesticide regulations.
The National Environmental Health Sciences Institute found high levels of suspected hormone-disrupting compounds, including bisphenol A and phthalates, and pesticides with OP in pregnant women and their babies in a study of urine analysis of 100 pregnant women in the Netherlands.
Meanwhile, according to Informa World, a group of Greek researchers, in 167 samples taken from Greek extra virgin olive oils, pesticides with OP were measured at a rate of 30.5 percent. Although dimethoate residues were detected above the maximum residue limit, the same institution stated in the Food Additives and Contaminants Report that there is no acute or chronic situation in olive oils that would endanger the Greek people!
A paper in the September 9 Environmental Health Outlook presents evidence that pesticide applicators develop long-term depression, with both acute high-intensity and cumulative effects.
Between 1993 and 1997, the University of Iowa diagnosed depression in 17,051 pesticide applicators without any obvious complaints, and 534 practitioners at the time of their treatment request. Considering the city, age, education, marriage, doctor visits, alcohol consumption, smoking, and solvent exposure, attention was drawn to the high association of pesticide exposure with depression.
The scary face of chemicals can’t seem to end with writing. In the sections to be published in future issues of this review, we will cover chemical products that have an important place in daily life such as cosmetics, detergents and soaps. For now, the best attitude to take is to be thrifty. So, stay away from synthetic ones until a reliable alternative is found. Many products that are claimed not to be harmful to the environment and human health are put on the market both at home and abroad. Some of them contain remarkable natural ingredients. However, unless there are complaints, it should be noted that not checking whether the contents of the products are as declared reduces their reliability.
1) David Santillo, Iryna Labunska, Helen Davidson, Paul Johnston, Mark Strutt & Oliver Knowles; “Consuming Chemicals – Hazardous chemicals in house dust as an indicator of chemical exposure in the home”, 30.4.2003.
2) Ruud JB Peters, “Hazardous Chemicals in Consumer Products – Test Results”, TNO labs, 19.10.2003.
3) Kevin Brigden, Joe Webster, Iryna Labunska and David Santillo; “Toxic Chemicals in Computers Reloaded”, 23 October 2007.
4) Catherine N. Dorey, PhD, “Chemical Legacy Contamination of the Child”
5) Madeleine Cobbing – Environmental Consultant, “Changing The Market To Supply Toxic-free Products Second Edition: February 2007.”
6) “Man made chemicals in Maternal and Umbilical cord blood”, TNO 08, September 2005
7) Prof. Dr. Veli Deniz, “Hazardous wastes in our house”, Kocaeli University, Department of Chemical Engineering.
8) “Products Targeted to Children Contain Hazardous Chemicals and Ingredients Not Found Safe for Kids”, http:
9) CDC (Centers for Disease Control), 2005. “National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals: Centers for Disease Control”;
10) Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 1982. “Neonatal deaths associated with use of benzyl alcohol”, United States. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 31(22): 290-291.
11) CFR (Code of Federal Regulations), 2006. “Air contaminants”, STANDARDS&p_id=99
12) EWG (Environmental Working Group), HCWH (Health Care without Harm), WVE (Women’s Voices for the Earth), (Houlihan, Brody, Schwan). 2002. “Not Too Pretty: Phthalates, beauty products, and the FDA”, Washington DC, July 10, 2002;
13) EWG (Environmental Working Group), 2005. “Body Burden: the Pollution in Newborns”, Washington DC, July 14, 2005;
14) EWG (Environmental Working Group), 2007, “Scented Secrets: Fragrances hide toxic chemical ingredients”, Washington DC, Feb. 2, 2007;
15) FDA (US Food and Drug Administration), 1995. “Cosmetic ingredients: Understanding the puffery. FDA Consumer”, May 1992, JE Foulke, reprint with revisions;
16) FDA (US Food and Drug Administration), 2000. “Clearing Up Cosmetic Confusion”, FDA Consumer, May – June 1998; Revised May 1998 and August 2000;
17) Hayes P, Martin TP, 1990. “Isopropyl alcohol: Poisons Information Monograph 290”, International Program on Chemical Safety;
18) Ries LAG, Melbert D, Krapcho M, Mariotto A, Miller BA, Feuer EJ, Clegg L, Horner MJ, Howlader N, Eisner MP, Reichman M, Edwards BK (eds); 2007. “SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1975-2004”, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD;, based on November 2006, SEER data submission, posted to the SEER web site, 2007.
19) Steingraber S., 2007. “The Falling Age of Puberty: What we know, what we need to know”, Breast Cancer Fund, August 2007;
20) By Rebecca Sutton, Ph.D., Staff Scientist, September 2008; “Teen Girls’Body Burden of Hormone-Altering Cosmetics Chemicals”, Adolescent exposures to cosmetic chemicals of concerns.
21) Jane Houlihan, Timothy Kropp, Richard Wilis, Sean Oray, Chris Campbell; Environmental Working Group, July 14 2005. “Body Burden/The Pollution in Newborns/ Abenchmark investigation of industrial chemicals, pollutuants, and pesticides in human umblical cord blood/”.
25) Prof. Dr. Recep Akdur, “Toxins in the Workplace”

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