Fisheries Management & Legislative Report

by Tom Fote
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association April 2018 Newsletter)

Contents:

NOAA Recreational Summit & ASA Government Affairs

I will miss another JCAA General Meeting since I will be in Arlington, Virginia attending the NOAA Recreational Summit and the ASA Government Affairs Meeting from March 25th-29th. It will be interesting to meet with the new head of NMFS and the new head of the Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office. At the ASA meeting one of the hot topics will be the Modern Fish Act. The press release included gives you a sense of the current thinking. JCAA would like to thank Senators Menendez and Booker and their staffs for this hard work on this issue. We will continue to work with them and our Congressmen to assure passage. At the NOAA Summit there will be many interesting discussions. In attendance will be 100 recreational anglers from all parts of the United States and the NOAA administrators. It is a good opportunity for us to find the issues on which we have common ground in the recreational community and work to address them. We need to find a better method to deal with recreational statistics and the lack of NMFS data on the economics of recreational fishing. I am looking forward to sharing what I learn in the next newspaper.

Black Sea Bass

I could not attend the ASMFC meeting in February since I was on vacation with a 5-hour time difference. But I did listen to the discussion on black sea bass. It was interesting to hear the northern states complain about how they were picked on. I could not sit and listen without thinking that it was refreshing that New Jersey was not the center of discussion. Instead there was a needless battle between north and south. The reason I say needless is we are dealing with an absurd quota that could easily be doubled. I have covered this point numerous times in JCAA newspapers. Just go to the webpage and read the articles from the last 5 years. I do not have all the newspapers from 1995 in the archives but those articles would not be much different. It is the lack of good scientific data on the stocks of black sea bass which create this problem. We keep trying to tweak different models to get estimates but any decision is only as good as the data used. Much of the data when it comes to the recreational community has the same confidence level of a coin flip. Most of the stock assessment work is just as bad because we still have not spent the money necessary to get data that is reliable.

The other problem is that the Commission is not as collegial as it used to be. Many of the Commissioners do not know the history or understand how states cooperated or were penalized by varied decisions. When we first began to put in commercial quotas on black sea bass, Bruce Freeman, then head of the Bureau of Marine Fisheries, gave away 20% of our black sea bass quota to the northern states so everyone would agree to the plan. In this climate, this would never happen. Part of the reason is the needless decrease in quota but in addition Commissioners have become very parochial about their states. That is their right but decision making becomes more of a competition and less collaborative. Years ago, we thought that when we had rebuilt the black sea bass stocks, there would be enough for everyone. Even though the stocks are 230% of the target, we are fishing at smaller quotas than when the stocks were collapsed. It makes no biological sense but it keeps NMFS from dealing with lawsuits from the environmental groups. That seems to be their main objective. We need to start working together to refuse to use the outlandish quotas that are imposed by NMFS and the MidAtlantic Council. If the ASMFC was the sole manager of black sea bass, we would not have these absurd quotas. So, Commissioners, lets work together to solve these problems, not fight among ourselves.

Clean Water Action 32nd Summit - April 28th

As some of you know, I am a member of the Board of Clean Water Action. Lynda and I have been sponsors of this Summit for many years. It is a great opportunity to learn about different topics. I have listed the topics for the workshop below. You notice I am moderating one about contaminants in water. As you can see from the three articles in this newspaper, this continues to be a focus of my attention. I was lucky enough to convince Dr. Joanna Burger and Dr. Mike Gochfeld to participate. I met Mike when he and I served on Christine Todd Whitman’s Mercury Task Force. Mike is a world renowned expert on the impact of mercury contaminants. Joanna has been doing research on the impact of contaminants in birds for many years. JCAA helped fund some of her research on looking at contaminants in recreationally caught fish. This was one of the first studies that used fish collected from recreational anglers rather than simply netting. You will also get a chance to meet many of our elected officials and the keynote speaker will be Governor Murphy. I hope some of you will get involved with Clean Water Action. I have a couple of extra tickets if you want to go. Call me if you have any questions. I hope to see some of my friends there.

The Wardlaw-Hartridge School 1295 Inman Avenue Edison, NJ 08820 (near NJ Transit Metropark Station) Electrify New Jersey Learn what Jersey City is doing to bring Electric Vehicles (EV) to cities and how New Jersey can best create the infrastructure needed for EV’s future success. Moderator: Wyatt Earp, International Representative / Green Jobs Liaison, IBEW Presenters:
  • Pam Frank, VP, Gabel Associates and CEO of ChargEVC
  • Katherine Lawrence, Director, Office of Sustainability, Jersey City
Keep Water & Health in Our Infrastructure Plan Learn how to improve New Jersey’s infrastructure despite Washington’s attempts to destroy hard won water and environmental safeguards. Find out how to make New Jersey’s water and sewer systems more climate-resilient. Moderator: Michele Donato, Esq., Land Use Attorney Board Member, Clean Water Action Presenters:
  • Joseph Maraziti, Esq., Land Use & Redevelopment Attorney, Maraziti, Falcon & Healey
  • Aaron Kleinbaum, Esq., Environmental Attorney Executive Director, Eastern Environmental Law Center
Keeping the Poisons Away What you don’t know about household and personal care products can actually hurt you. Hear from experts about options for cleaner, safer and healthier living that protect the environment too. Moderator: Maria Ackerman, Donor & Events Associate, Clean Water Action Presenters:
  • Dr. Gail Zimmerman, Internist and Natural Doctor, Bay Head, NJ
  • Willie deCamp, Chairman and Past Director, Save Barnegat Bay
  • Janet Tauro, NJ Board Chair, Clean Water Action, GRAMMES (Grandmothers, Mothers & More for Energy Safety)
Rethink Disposable: Less Waste to Trash Learn how to stop managing waste (recycling, burning and landfilling) and start producing less. Find out how food service businesses are embracing our Rethink Disposable program to reduce single-use products and save money too. Moderator/Speaker: Maura Toomey, ReThink Disposable Coord., Clean Water Action Presenters:
  • Ana Baptista, Assistant Professor in the Environmental Policy and Sustainability Management Program and Associate Director for the Tishman Environment and Design Center (TEDC), The New School
  • Nataki Williams, Business Owner & Finance Controller, Vital Dining
Pump up the Volume: Media Training Course Learn the latest tools to help you be successful in today’s media . . . how to write newsworthy content, reach your targeted audiences, and amplify your message and campaigns on social media; including live-streaming video, live tweeting, and developing materials for allies and partners. Moderator: Jenny Vickers Chyb, NJ Communications Mgr., Clean Water Action Presenters:
  • Randy Bergmann, Editorial Page Editor, Asbury Park Press
  • Neil Bhaerman, Nat’l. Communications Manager, Clean Water Action
Climate & Energy: How to Move Forward, not Backwards Learn how Clean Water Action and its partners are taking it upon themselves to do the work the Trump Administration won’t when it comes to fighting for 100% renewable energy by 2050 and green jobs. Moderator: Alyssa Bradley, Energy Organizer, Clean Water Action Presenters:
  • Tracy Carluccio, Deputy Director, Delaware RiverKeeper Network
  • Jeff Tittel, Director, Sierra Club, NJ Chapter
  • Dr. Nicky Sheats, Director, Center for the Urban Environment
  • John S. Watson Inst. of Public Policy, Thomas Edison State University, Member, New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance
Environmental Justice in Action Engaging communities and leaders in making a difference locally and statewide where pollution and its adverse impacts are disproportionately greater. Moderator/Speaker: Jeanette Mitchell, Climate Organizer, Clean Water Action Presenters:
  • Wynnie-Fred Victor Hinds, Board Member, Clean Water Action Vice Chair, Newark Environmental Commission Executive Director, Stepping Stones Resources
  • Nicole Miller, Mbr., Newark Environmental Commission, GI Reformer
Safe Drinking Water Disruptors Learn about growing concerns regarding unregulated contaminants, endocrine disruptors, and lead in our drinking water, as well as policy options at the local, state and national levels. Moderator: Tom Fote, Board Member, Clean Water Action, Legislative Director, Jersey Coast Anglers Association Presenters:
  • Lynn Thorp, National Campaigns Director, Clean Water Action
  • Michael Gochfeld, MD, Occupational Medicine, Piscataway, NJ
  • Dr. Joanna Burger, Distinguished Professor, Biology, Rutgers University
Registration Form Online: cleanwateraction.org/conference2018 By phone: 732-963-9714 x-252 By mail: Return this form with check to: Clean Water Action, 198 Brighton Ave. Long Branch, NJ 07740 For more information, contact: Jenny Vickers Chyb, Communications Manager 732-963-9714 x-252 or njcwa@cleanwater.org www.cleanwateraction.org/conference2018
Good News: Some Contaminants in Fish are Dropping

Below is a press release on the relaxing of some fish advisories in New Jersey. This has only been accomplished by the hard work of EPA, NJDEP, environmental groups and the fishing organizations working together to clean up the waterways. That means taking on the polluters and making them pay for remediation. This is the scary part of what is going on with EPA in Washington. We need to contact our elected officials and make sure that we don’t allow EPA to curtail the oversight of polluters. Instead of reducing the authority of the EPA, it should be increased. This is the only way we will ever meet the goal of having no fish advisories for any fish in our lakes, streams, rivers or the ocean. In addition, please write the President and demand that EPA maintain the high level of oversight on the nation’s waters.

NJ and Delaware Ease Consumption Advisories for Certain Fish Caught in Lower Delaware River and Delaware Bay
NJ DEP Press Release, 2/20/2018

TRENTON – The Department of Environmental Protection has eased consumption advisories on certain fish species caught in the lower Delaware River and Delaware Bay, an indication of improving ecological conditions as levels of contaminants decline, Acting Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe announced today.

Among the key changes include removing all advisories for weakfish for both the general population and those considered to be at higher risk. The DEP also increased the acceptable consumption limit for all finfish caught in the Delaware River south of the Delaware-Pennsylvania border to the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal to three meals per year compared with the previous limit of one fish meal per year. High-risk individuals, which include women of child-bearing age and children, continue to be advised to eat no fish from this area.

“These changes reflect an ongoing trend in which contaminants from past pollution such as PCBs and pesticides continue to decline,” Acting Commissioner McCabe said. “We encourage all anglers to take a few minutes to review fish advisories issued by the DEP and the New Jersey Department of Health so they can make sound decisions on safe consumption of fish.”

In addition, the DEP has revised its recommendations for consumption of bluefish caught in Delaware Bay from one meal per year for fish that are less than six pounds or smaller than 24 inches to a new recommendation of one meal per month for any fish less than 20 inches long for all groups.

The DEP has also revised its general population recommendations in Delaware Bay for consumption of bluefish larger than 20 inches from “do not eat” to three meals per year.

“New Jersey residents should be aware that environmental contaminants can create health risks for people eating fish caught recreationally in the state,” said New Jersey Department of Health Acting Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal. “However, by following the guidelines in our advisories the public can safely include fish and other seafood they’ve caught as a part of their healthy diet.”

The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control is taking identical actions to revise its consumption advisories. Both states continue to coordinate and maintain consistent advisories in these shared waters.

While water quality in New Jersey continues to improve, past pollution can persist for many years in sediments and continue to accumulate in fish at or near the top of the aquatic food chain. As a result, some recreationally caught fish can contain mercury, PCBs and pesticides that may be unhealthy for children or women of child-bearing age.

All states have fish consumption advisories. Many of the fish on New Jersey's advisory lists are typically caught and released without being consumed, but some people rely heavily on some of the species on the advisory lists as a food source.

These advisories allow members of the public to make informed choices about the fish they catch and eat. The DEP updates fish consumption advisories regularly. The fish consumption advisories include statewide, regional and waterbody-specific advice, and a general advisory for freshwater fish.

For a full listing of revisions to advisories in the lower Delaware River and Delaware Bay, as well as a statewide list of advisories, click on the logo above or visit this website. For much of the population, most advisories can range from no restrictions to a recommendation to limit consumption to one meal per week. For the high-risk population – which includes pregnant women, women planning to become pregnant, nursing mothers, infants and children – advisories can range from no more than one meal per week to do not eat.

If you choose to eat those species under advisories, there are steps you can take to reduce your exposure. Contaminants tend to concentrate in the fatty tissue of the fish. Proper cleaning and cooking techniques, which remove some of the fat from the fish, can significantly reduce levels of PCBs, dioxins and other organic chemicals. However, these techniques will not reduce or remove unsafe levels of mercury from fish.

On all freshwater fish and waters not covered by consumption advisories, consumers should follow the DEP’s general freshwater advisories, which recommend eating no more than one meal per week for the general population and no more than one meal a month for high-risk individuals.

Fisheries: Senate Panel Advances Bill to Aid Sports Anglers
by Rob Hotakainen, E&E News, 2/28/2018

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee today approved a key bill that would give sport anglers more access to federal waters.

A Senate panel today approved a key fisheries bill that would give sports anglers more access to federally controlled waters while making it easier for regulators to extend rebuilding schedules for threatened fish stocks.

On a voice vote, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee advanced a bill commonly known as the "Modern Fish Act," sponsored by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).

While many environmental groups fear that the bill would weaken federal protections and lead to overfishing, backers of the legislation said they want to bring more flexibility, updated science and better data collection to fisheries management.

"This is the Commerce Committee at its best," said Wicker, noting that his bill had drawn broad bipartisan support and that recreational fishing supports millions of jobs for Americans. "Saltwater anglers are conservationists, and this bill will help provide for healthier marine fisheries," Wicker told his colleagues.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), the committee's ranking member and a co-sponsor of the bill, said the legislation would make "targeted changes" to the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976 that would help improve the management of recreational fisheries in federal waters. "Recreational fishermen in Florida have an annual economic impact of around $8 billion and supply over 100,000 jobs," Nelson said. "This bill will directly benefit these fishermen and support this important industry."

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the committee's chairman, said recreational fishing is important, even in his home state. "Recreational fishing is enjoyed by Americans everywhere, even in South Dakota, and plays an important part in America's economy and cultural heritage," Thune said.

While the measure passed on a voice vote, five of the committee's 13 Democratic members asked to be recorded as "no" votes: Sens. Maria Cantwell of Washington, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Tom Udall of New Mexico and Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada. None of the senators offered an explanation for their votes, but in his remarks, Nelson pledged to work with those who had concerns as the bill advances.

The bill, S.1520, formally known as the "Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act," now heads to the full Senate. A similar version passed the House in December.

The vote marked another win for recreational fishermen, who have long complained that federal fisheries management has become too bureaucratic, relying too much on hard quotas and catch limits, and often resulting in too-short seasons. The issue prompted a furor in 2017, when NOAA Fisheries first set a three-day federal season for the Gulf of Mexico red snapper. After sport anglers expressed outrage, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross interceded, lengthening the federal season by 39 days. Many recreational anglers called Ross' move a temporary fix and promoted the "Modern Fish Act" as a permanent solution.

Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Sportfishing Policy, said the vote showed that senators recognized "the need for serious reforms to the broken federal fisheries management system." "The bipartisan leadership on display today in the Senate Commerce Committee will not soon be forgotten by America's 11 million saltwater recreational anglers," he said.

And Thom Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association, said he's eager to see the bill get signed into law by President Trump. "For too long, the federal fisheries management system has limited access for America's recreational anglers and boaters due to faulty data and misguided regulations, which in turn has jeopardized the economic vitality of the recreational boating industry," he said.

The bill drew opposition from many environmental and conservation groups, including Earthjustice, the Environmental Defense Fund, the League of Conservation Voters, the National Audubon Society, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Ocean Conservancy and Oceana.

In a letter to Thune and Nelson yesterday, the seven groups said the Magnuson-Stevens Act is "working as intended" and has led to a decline in overfishing, adding that the "Modern Fish Act" could "jeopardize the health and sustainability of our oceans and the coastal economies that depend on them."

Most Sunscreens Can Harm Coral Reefs. What Should Travelers Do?
by Elaine Glusac, NY Times, 2/19/2018

The coral reefs around the Turks & Caicos Islands are a major tourist attraction, and Mark Parrish is trying to make sure the visitors he takes there don’t kill them with cosmetics.

He co-owns Big Blue Unlimited, a tour operation that guides snorkeling, kayaking and other adventurous excursions around the islands. The company’s website states that, “Big Blue will ONLY ALLOW the use of 100 percent biodegradable sunscreen on all of our trips. Non-biodegradable sunscreen IS NOT TO BE USED on Big Blue trips.”

“We make it mandatory, which is easier said than done,” said Mr. Parrish. “The key is telling people well in advance, putting it on the website and saying this is our policy and giving them a chance to shop at home.”

After decades of learning that sunblock is vital to a healthy beach vacation, consumers may wonder what’s wrong with their Coppertone. But recent studies that link the active ingredients in protecting skin from damaging ultraviolet rays to coral bleaching has led to a global push for more reef-safe sunscreens.

Chemicals in sunscreen that come off while swimming or travel through sewage systems when washed off in the shower are “bigger than climate change,” in causing coral reef damage, according to Craig Downs, the executive director of the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory based in Clifford, Va., which has studied the effects of sunscreen on coral reefs.

In 2015, Mr. Downs led a team that reported that oxybenzone, a common chemical found in sunscreens, is toxic to the symbiotic algae that live within corals, which provides their color and performs other vital duties, and also stunts the growth of corals. A 2008 European study published by Environmental Health Perspectives concluded that sunscreen promotes viral infection in corals that can lead to bleaching. They estimated that up to 14,000 tons of sunscreen is deposited in the world’s oceans each year.

Last year, lawmakers at the state and county levels in Hawaii unsuccessfully proposed legislation to ban sunscreens containing oxybenzone. The Consumer Healthcare Products Association, a trade association representing makers of over-the-counter medicine, and the Personal Care Products Council, representing the cosmetics and personal care industries, oppose the ban, arguing that sunscreen saves lives by preventing cancer.

“The proposed sunscreen bans in Hawaii avoid the real causes of coral decline according to scientists from around the world: global warming, agricultural runoff, sewage and overfishing,” the groups noted in a joint statement.

While environmental advocates continue to push for legislation, the travel industry, both in Hawaii and beyond, has responded with grass-roots campaigns designed to educate travelers on how to protect themselves from sunburn without contributing chemicals to the reefs.

Aqua-Aston Hospitality, which manages over 40 resorts in the Hawaiian Islands, distributes information on oxybenzone and its role in coral bleaching as guests check in along with a sample of chemical-free sunscreen from Raw Elements considered “reef-safe.” It also stocks free sunscreen dispensers with the biodegradable lotion.

The campaign began last April at 16 island locations and is being expanded to all of the company’s resorts, including those in Florida, Lake Tahoe and Costa Rica this year. In March, the company will begin distributing complimentary kits including a bottle of the sunscreen to guests who book using the promo code ALIST.

“Everybody wants to do the right thing, they’re just not aware they might be contributing to coral bleaching,” said Theresa van Greunen, Aqua-Aston’s spokeswoman who oversees corporate social responsibility.

Outrigger Resorts in Hawaii also provides free samples of reef-safe sunscreen to guests. It has used All Good products, which rely on the mineral-based sunblock zinc oxide, in the past and plans to debut its own Ozone line of environmentally friendly sunscreen this year.

In Mexico, areas popular with snorkelers such as Xel-Há on the Rivera Maya and Chankanaab Beach Adventure Park in Cozumel ban the use of non-biodegradable sunscreen. At Xel-Há, visitors with unapproved sunscreen can swap their brands for samples of safe products and get their own back when they exit the park.

Resorts are helping spread the word. At the seven Solmar Hotels & Resorts in Los Cabos, guests may purchase biodegradable sunblock on-site and are advised in advance that it is the only kind permitted in area preserves such as Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park.

Screening sunscreen for environmental friendliness requires getting familiar with chemicals including oxybenzone, octinoxate and methyl paraben. Haereticus Environmental Lab publishes a list of chemicals to avoid. Mineral sunblocks including zinc oxide and titanium dioxide that are “non-nano” in size are considered safe. Formulations below 100 nanometers are considered nano and can be ingested by corals.

Researchers agree that sunscreen isn’t the only culprit in coral bleaching, pointing to rising sea temperatures caused by global warming among other threats. But it may be the one travelers have the most immediate and direct influence over.

“This is one impact that we can control,” said R. Scott Winters, the chief executive officer of the Coral Restoration Foundation, a nonprofit conservation organization based in Tavernier, Fla. “If we are to be successful in bringing coral reefs back to a healthy state, it is incredibly important that people visiting them choose sunscreens that do not contain oxybenzone. More important, choosing to cover up with UV protective clothing, rash guards, and hats can also reduce the amount of sunscreen needed.”

Sun protection clothing from lines including Patagonia, Coolibar and REI are rated with UPF, or Ultraviolet Protection Factor, figures in the same way that sunscreens use SPF, Sun Protection Factor, numbers.

Clothing is considered as effective as sunscreen, said Dr. Henry W. Lim, the president of the American Academy of Dermatology. “The challenge is it doesn’t cover 100 percent of the body’s surface,” he said.

For reef specialists like Mr. Downs, less is more. “For a woman in a bikini,” he said, “85 percent of her body will be covered in sunscreen. She can reduce that by 50 percent just by wearing sun shirt. That’s progress.

What Poisons are in Your Body?
by Nicholas Kristof, NY Times, 2/23/2018

Our bodies are full of poisons from products we use every day. I know – I’ve had my urine tested for them. But before I get into all that, let’s do a quick check for poisons that might be in your body.

Choose all the products you have been exposed to in the past month:

ChemicalDetailsFound in products like
AntimicrobialsCan interfere with thyroid and other hormonesColgate Total toothpaste, soap, deodorant
BenzophenonesCan mimic natural hormones like estrogenSunscreen, lotions, lip balm
BisphenolsCan mimic natural hormones like estrogenProtective lining for canned goods, hard plastic water bottles, thermal paper register receipts
1,4-dichlorobenzeneCan affect thyroid hormones and may increase risk of cancerMothballs, toilet deodorizers
ParabensCan mimic natural hormones like estrogenCosmetics, personal care products like shampoos, hair gels, lotions
PhthalatesCan disrupt male reproductive development and fertilityVinyl shower curtains, fast food, nail polish, perfume/cologne
Fragrance chemicalsCan exacerbate asthma symptoms and disrupt natural hormonesPerfume/cologne, cleaning products, dryer sheets, air fresheners
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)Can affect hormones, immune response in children, and may increase risk of cancerScotchgard and other stain-resistant treatments, fast-food wrappers
Flame retardantsCan affect neurodevelopment and hormone levels, and may increase risk of cancerNail polish, foam cushioning in furniture, rigid foam insulation

Surprised? So was I when I had my urine tested for these chemicals. (A urine or blood test is needed to confirm whether you have been exposed.)

Let me stress that mine should have been clean. Almost a decade ago, I was shaken by my reporting on a class of toxic chemicals called endocrine disruptors. They are linked to cancer and obesity and also seemed to feminize males, so that male alligators developed stunted genitalia and male smallmouth bass produced eggs.

In humans, endocrine disruptors were linked to two-headed sperm and declining sperm counts. They also were blamed for an increase in undescended testicles and in a birth defect called hypospadias, in which the urethra exits the side or base of the penis rather than the t

Believe me, the scariest horror stories are found in urology journals. If you’re a man, you don’t wring your hands as you read; you clutch your crotch.

So I’ve tried for years now to limit my exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Following the advice of the President’s Cancer Panel, I eat organic to reduce exposure to endocrine disruptors in pesticides. I try to store leftover meals in glass containers, not plastic. I avoid handling A.T.M. and gas station receipts. I try to avoid flame-retardant furniture.

Those are all common sources of toxic endocrine disruptors, so I figured that my urine would test pristine. Pure as a mountain creek.

Silent Spring Institute near Boston, which studies chemical safety, offers a “Detox Me Action Kit” to help consumers determine what harmful substances are in their bodies. Following instructions, I froze two urine samples (warning my wife and kids that day to be careful what food they grabbed from the freezer) and Fed-Exed them off for analysis.

By the way, the testing is for women, too. Men may wince as they read about miniaturized alligator penises, but endocrine disruptors have also been linked to breast cancer and gynecological cancers. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists warns women that endocrine disruptors can also cause miscarriages, fetal defects and much more.

As I waited for the lab results, I continued to follow the latest research. One researcher sent a bizarre video of a mouse exposed to a common endocrine disruptor doing back flips nonstop, as a kind of nervous tick.

A mouse exposed to a common endocrine disruptor does back flips continuously.

Finally, I heard back from Silent Spring Institute. I figured this was a report card I had aced. I avoid all that harmful stuff. In my columns, I had advised readers how to avoid it.

Sure enough, I had a low level of BPA, best known because plastic bottles now often boast “BPA Free.”

But even a diligent student like me failed the test. Badly. I had high levels of a BPA substitute called BPF. Ruthann Rudel, a toxicologist who is the head of research at Silent Spring, explained that companies were switching to BPF even though it may actually be yet more harmful (it takes longer for the body to break it down). BPF is similar to that substance that made those mice do back flips.

“These types of regrettable substitutions — when companies remove a chemical that has a widely known bad reputation and substitute a little-known bad actor in its place — are all too common,” Rudel told me. “Sometimes we environmental scientists think we are playing a big game of whack-a-mole with the chemical companies.”

Sigh. I thought I was being virtuous by avoiding plastics with BPA, but I may have been causing my body even more damage.

My urine had an average level of an endocrine disruptor called triclosan, possibly from soap or toothpaste. Like most people, I also had chlorinated phenols (perhaps from mothballs in my closet).

I had a high level of a flame retardant called triphenyl phosphate, possibly from a floor finish, which may be “neurotoxic.” Hmm. Whenever you see flaws in my columns, that’s just my neurotoxins at work.

My lab results: high levels of four chemicals were found:

ChemicalDetailsFound in products like
1,4-dichlorobenzeneCan affect thyroid hormones and may increase risk of cancerMothballs, toilet deodorizers
AntimicrobialsCan interfere with thyroid and other hormonesColgate Total toothpaste, soap, deodorant
BisphenolsCan mimic natural hormones like estrogenProtective lining for canned goods, hard plastic water bottles, thermal paper register receipts
Flame retardantsCan affect neurodevelopment and hormone levels, and may increase risk of cancerNail polish, foam cushioning in furniture, rigid foam insulation
BenzophenonesCan mimic natural hormones like estrogenSunscreen, lotions, lip balm
ParabensCan mimic natural hormones like estrogenCosmetics, personal care products like shampoos, hair gels, lotions

Notes: Benzophenones and parabens were also found, but in lower levels than in most Americans. Tests for phthalates and fragrance chemicals were not included.

Will these endocrine disruptors give me cancer? Make me obese? Make my genitals fall off? Nobody really knows. At least I haven’t started doing random back flips yet.

The steps I took did help, and I recommend that others consult consumer guides at ewg.org to reduce their exposures to toxic chemicals. Likewise, if I had downloaded the Detox Me smartphone app, I would have known to get rid of those mothballs, along with air fresheners and scented candles. (Science lesson: A less fragrant house means cleaner pee.)

Yet my takeaway is also that chemical industry lobbyists have rigged the system so that we consumers just can’t protect ourselves adequately.

“You should not have to be a Ph.D. toxicologist to be safe from so many of the chemicals in use,” Dr. Richard Jackson of U.C.L.A. told me. “So much of what we are exposed to is poorly tested and even less regulated.”

The Trump administration has magnified the problem by relaxing regulation of substances like chlorpyrifos, Dow Chemical’s nerve gas pesticide. The swamp has won.

So the saddest lesson is that even if you understand the peril and try to protect yourself and your family — as I strongly suggest you do — your body may still be tainted. The chemical companies spend tens of millions of dollars lobbying and have gotten the lightest regulation that money can buy.

They are running the show, and we consumers are their lab mice.

I invite you to sign up for my free, twice-weekly email newsletter. Please also join me on Facebook and Google+, watch my YouTube videos and follow me on Twitter (@NickKristof).