This study published by Santé publique France sounded like a warning. French people in general and children in particular have their bodies impregnated with pollutants. Parabens, phthalates, bisphenols, perfluorinated compounds... not to mention all sorts of nanoparticles, have intruded into our daily lives and contaminate us dangerously. What are the risks? Should we ban these substances used extensively by industry to manufacture our most common products?
Public Health France a published on September 3 the results of its extensive biomonitoring survey. Between 2014 and 2016 seventy substances were tracked on a sample of the French population (1,104 children and 2,503 adults). The participants in this survey accepted urine, serum and hair samples and answered a vast questionnaire on their lifestyle and consumption habits. The aim of this detailed survey was to identify the extent to which and how the members of this panel were exposed to these pollutants.
The results are particularly worrying because bisphenols, phthalates, parabens, glycol ethers, brominated flame retardants, perfluorinated compounds, not to mention all the nanoparticles or nanoadditives are so many substances that are omnipresent in the objects of our daily life. They are often endocrine disrupters or suspected or, for the most part, proven carcinogens. These components " are present in the organism of all French people... "coldly concludes the investigation. We are all carriers of these substances capable of interfering with the hormonal system and are involved in a wide range of disorders and pathologies ranging from obesity to low IQ and reproductive cancers. Aggravating factors include the fact that they are found at even higher levels in children. They are said to have more skin contact with everyday products (toys, paints, varnishes, etc.) that they put in their mouths or that they absorb through contact.
Because food is not the only source of exposure to these substances. Cosmetics, cleaning, care and hygiene products increase the levels of impregnation, as does house dust, which children, often crawling on the floor, soak up in abundantly, despite all the attention of their parents.
Multiple sources of contamination
These substances are used in the manufacture of some popular plastics. They can be found in food packaging (inside cans, stretch film, etc.), paints or electrical equipment (kettles, etc.), but also in medical tubing or resins used for dental care. « Bisphenols A, S and F were detected in almost all samples. ", says Santé publique France, with for example an average of 2.69 micrograms per gram of creatinine among the 900 adults tested. Concentrations are higher among people who eat pre-packaged food or air their homes less regularly, the public body notes.
Bisphenol A (BPA) is defined as an endocrine disruptor by the World Health Organization (WHO) and classified as a "substance of very high concern" by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) because of its "suspected reproductive toxicity". It is also suspected of being associated with other diseases (diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, etc.) Bisphenols S and F are used as alternatives to bisphenol A since the ban on the latter in baby bottles in 2011 and then in all food packaging in France in 2015. However, "some studies show that they play a role of endocrine disruptor similar to BPA", stresses Public Health France.
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These substances are also present in food packaging, but also in toys, vinyl floors, cosmetics and household products, etc. Out of nine molecules belonging to this family, residues of six of them were found in 50% to 99% of the samples, which shows that they "continue to be ubiquitous" in our environment despite the "restrictions of use" of some of them.
" Phthalates are considered to be endocrine disruptors. ", stresses Public Health France, with suspected effects on the male reproductive system and on thyroid function, as well as a risk of impaired development in the event of prenatal exposure. « Diet would contribute 90% of the total exposure "says the study.
These products are used as preservatives in cosmetics (make-up, creams, hair products...), wipes, and, for some, in medicines and food additives (confectionery, processed meats, sweeteners...). Within this family of products, the "longer" the molecule, the higher its antibacterial properties, but the more harmful it is.
Methyl-paraben was detected "in more than 90% of adults and children", ahead of propyl-paraben and etyhl-paraben, found in half of the samples. The other molecules of this family were rarely present. The observed impregnation " increased with age, frequency of use of creams or body care and with the use of cosmetics or nail polish ".
The concentration of parabens authorised in cosmetics is limited by European regulations, but "... the European Commission has set a limit on the use of parabens in cosmetics. the health effects of exposures to low levels of parabens are not known; and ", emphasizes Santé publique France.
- Glycol ethers
These solvents are used in the composition of paints, varnishes, glues, household products, cosmetics and phytosanitary products. They are suspected of having toxic effects on reproduction and development (reduced male fertility, increased risk of spontaneous abortion, foetal malformations) and of being toxic to the blood.
" The entire population (adults and children) was exposed to "to at least one of the eight desired residues, with a level of impregnation associated with the use of cosmetics and household products.
- Brominated Flame Retardants (BFRs)
These products, which are very persistent in the environment, are incorporated, in a regulated way, to slow down the ignition of combustible materials in many consumer goods: electronic devices (televisions, computers), textiles (clothing, curtains), cars (seats, plastics), furniture (foams, upholstery), construction materials (resins, cables), etc. Only certain forms have been found by Public Health France, with the factors associated with high concentration being time spent in the car and ventilation of dwellings.
" Few studies can estimate the health impact of exposure to BFRs. "Some of the studies have shown risks to the nervous system, reproduction and thyroid function in particular.
- Perfluorinated compounds
This family of products has many applications: anti-stain and waterproofing treatments, fat-resistant coatings (food packaging), non-stick coatings, cosmetics, phytosanitary products (pesticides and insecticides) ... Out of 17 compounds searched for, seven were found in more than 40% of adults (and six in more than 40% of children). Two of these substances, PFOA and PFOS, were present in 100% of the participants. Consumption of seafood, vegetables, and manual and DIY work promote high levels of impregnation.
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" Their persistence in the environment" and their suspected toxicity (carcinogenicity, endocrine disruptor, immuno-toxicity, lipid or thyroid metabolism, etc.) make them substances to be monitored. "says the biomonitoring agency.
A national plan on endocrine disrupters
These results are the first part of a major biomonitoring study conducted by Public Health France, which will be followed by two other parts on metals and pesticides. « The interest is that it is the first photograph of the level of concentration of these pollutants in the French population. "said on franceinfo Sébastien Denis, Health-Environment-Labour Director at Santé publique France.
This publication comes on the occasion of the presentation by the Minister of Ecology Elisabeth Borne and the Minister of Health Agnès Buzyn of the new "national strategy on endocrine disruptors" (SNPE). It aims to strengthen public information and protection, as well as scientific knowledge on these products. It is in this spirit that the site was put online on 3 September. Acting for baby which is dedicated to providing very practical advice to young parents on how to limit exposure to chemicals during pregnancy and after birth.
In particular, the Health Security Agency (Anses) will have to draw up a list of endocrine disruptors, with at least six substances to be assessed in 2020, then nine per year from 2021 onwards. Information on the presence of disruptors in everyday consumer products will be available to the general public on a chemicals website, to be launched before the end of the year.
This list should make it possible to inform not only the public but also industrialists, so that they can anticipate the substitutions that will prove necessary. The list will, however, be far from exhaustive. « It's out of reach to analyze all substances Matthieu Schuler, director of risk assessment at ANSES, told AFP that "the scientific complexity and uncertainty associated with endocrine disruptors is very high.
The government wishes to bring the revision of the regulations before the European Commission, with priority being given to the regulations on cosmetics and toys. The aim is to " rapidly and consistently define endocrine disrupters in all relevant European legislation to ensure an appropriate level of protection for all modes and routes of exposure "says the action plan.
Measures deemed insufficient in view of the public health risk posed by the release of these toxic substances. The NGO Future Generations is therefore calling for an "emergency plan" and the implementation of measures to " the rapid disappearance of the substances identified by Santé publique France from our environment ». According to the organization, this is a " overriding public health priority ".