Have you ever wondered why we have a higher incidence of cancer, MS, mental health issues like depression or ADHD lately?
As society marches well into 21st century shouldn’t we care about how we live and work impact our children’s world? You may be wondering about where I am heading with this….
In medicine the first motto is “First, do no harm”. In Business, the motto however seems to be “First, do no loss”. The two don’t play well together always. In a recent investigative report in the NY Times, Ian Urbina shines spotlight on a hidden assumption that we live with. We assume that the chemicals that we use in daily life (like shampoos, detergents and other consumer products) have been thoroughly tested and proved to be safe. That, they cause no harm to our kid’s life/health.
This assumption is wrong.
Unlike pharmaceuticals or pesticides, industrial chemicals do not have to be tested before they are put on the market. Regulators, doctors, environmentalists and the chemical industry agree that the country’s main chemical safety law, the Toxic Substances Control Act, needs fixing. They do not agree, however, on who should have to prove that a chemical is safe. Companies have to alert the Environmental Protection Agency before manufacturing or importing new chemicals. If the E.P.A. does not take steps to block the new chemical within 90 days or suspend review until a company provides any requested data, the chemical is by default given a green light. The overwhelming majority of chemicals in use today have never been independently tested for safety. Of the 85000 industrial chemicals in use today the EPA has banned only five substances, and that too only in specific applications: polychlorinated biphenyls, dioxin, hexavalent chromium, asbestos and chlorofluorocarbons.
Part of the growing pressure to update federal rules on chemical safety comes from advances in the science of biomonitoring, which tells us more about the chemicals to which we are exposed daily, like the bisphenol A (BPA) in can linings and hard plastics, the flame retardants in couches, the stain-resistant coatings on textiles and the nonylphenols in detergents, shampoos and paints. Hazardous chemicals have become so ubiquitous that scientists now talk about babies being born pre-polluted, sometimes with hundreds of synthetic chemicals showing up in their blood.
So what can we do?
For now, consumers and companies looking for safer products are largely on their own.
1) We owe to ourselves and our kids to leave a world that is better than the one that we inherited. So, take action. Write to your senator if you are concerned about the lax regulations on chemicals.
2) While step 1 may take time before it pays, in the short term, make your dollars speak loudly
a. Buy only products that are made of only organic compounds. (We for example buy our organic shampoo from Sprouts in the Plano.)
b. If you want to buy a commercial product, buy European consumer products. Europe has a much stricter laws on chemical use. They seem to follow the common sense logic “first prove that the chemical is safe, before you expose them to public”
c. Check out natural alternatives – products from the orient (like shikakai are nearly as effective as shampoo)
In general, boycott products with long list of unknown chemicals. In some sense, since skin absorbs chemicals, think of it as “putting these chemicals in your mouth”.
Then perhaps we have a legitimate chance of beating depression and cancer.