(NaturalNews) Many people who eat organic food and use natural products are trying to avoid pesticides that are linked to cancer and other diseases. Now Japanese researchers say there is another advantage to "going green" and avoiding toxins and chemical additives in the environment. A common pollutant has been found to have a potent effect on gene activity and could be contributing to the obesity epidemic.
According to an article published in the December issue of the journal Bioscience, the chemical tributyltin affects sensitive receptors in the cells of a host of animals, ranging from water fleas to people. What's more, tributyltin has an impact at extremely low levels — a thousand times lower than pollutants that are known to interfere with the sexual development of wildlife species, for example. The chemical is known to be damaging to the liver as well as the nervous and immune systems in mammals . But what has just been recognized is that tributyltin also has powerful effects on the cellular components known as retinoid X receptors (RXRs) in a range of species. That's important because RXRs can move into the nuclei of cells and turn on genes that cause the growth of fat storage cells and regulate whole body metabolism. This raises a disturbing possibility: The pollutant could be harming humans by causing slowed metabolism and weight gain.
Scientists Taisen Iguchi and Yoshinao Katsu of the Graduate University for Advanced Studies in Japan, who wrote the BioScience article, point out that effects of tributyltin on RXR-like nuclear receptors could be widespread throughout the animal kingdom, including the human species. And they note that the enormous rise in obesity over the past four decades coincides with the increased use of industrial chemicals over the same period.
Several other ubiquitous pollutants with strong biological effects, including environmental estrogens such as bisphenol A and nonylphenol, also have been found to stimulate the growth of fat storage cells in mice. In a statement to the mediam Iguchi and Katsu said it is "plausible and provocative" to associate the obesity epidemic to chemical triggers found in our modern, polluted environment.
Unfortunately, it isn't easy to avoid tributyltin -- it is frequently used as a preservative in paints for boats, wood and textiles and it is also used as a pesticide on high-value food crops. And if you are expecting the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to make sure you are protected from this potentially dangerous chemical , think again.
A new report just released by the National Research Council warns the EPA's process of generating risk assessments of the adverse effects posed by harmful chemicals found in the environment is bogged down. The EPA is rarely able to connect available scientific data with the information officials need for an accurate risk assessment. The reports states the EPA is struggling to keep up with demands for hazard and dose-response information and doesn't have enough resources to adequately cope.
The risk assessment for trichloroethylene is an example cited by the report. A chemical used to remove grease from metal parts and an ingredient in adhesives, paint removers, typewriter correction fluids, and spot removers, trichloroethylene has been associated with cancer, heart problems and liver and lung damage for decades. However, although a risk assessment for trichloroethylene has been under development since the 1980s, official EPA risk management decisions about the chemical is not expected until 2010.
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