Toxic Chemicals

Consumers are exposed to thousands of untested chemicals.

Look around you right now. How many products are you surrounded by? 10-15? Chances are those products in your home and on your body contain thousands of untested chemicals. The EPA has only tested a couple hundred out of the 80,000 chemicals that are in our products today. Although not all 80,000 are in every product, the chances of the negative effects from exposure should be enough for us to worry. How many products do we purchase and consume? It is most likely that all of us have traces of toxins in our bodies.

Everyone in the committee agreed that regulation of chemicals had to be more strict. Senator Lautenberg has introduced the Kid Safe Chemical Act which would make industries prove that their chemicals are safe before introducing them into the market. It is important to note here that even fetuses are at risk from toxic exposure through the blood of the umbilical cord.

Ken Cook, President of the Environmental Working Group, introduced a test that they conducted. They tested 10 people for 413 toxins and they found 287. And yes, they didn’t test children, they tested blood taken from the umbilical cord. Not surprisingly, they also conduced a test with minorities and found hundreds of more toxins.

The most unsettling point that was made in this hearing was the unknown, the lack of understanding we have of toxic chemicals. We don’t know which chemicals are toxic, we don’t know what effects they’ll have and we don’t know at what level is each chemical ok. The question of quantity of exposure is very critical, but sometimes not spoken as much about. How low of exposure is low enough?

There are a number of steps that the panelists said we have to take. One is to have companies prove their chemicals are safe before they’re introduced; two is to find out what the respective safe levels are for certain chemicals; and three is to figure out all the dynamics of the chemicals (eg how they react with each other). The overtone of the hearing was that we don’t really know anything about which chemicals are in our products and what negative impacts they might have on our bodies.

This is one of the main reasons why I personally believe in the Cradle to Cradle philosophy. One of the core principles of Cradle to Cradle is to replace or phase out toxic chemicals and although Cradle to Cradle certified products aren’t perfect, they’re definitely better than the conventional ones.



1 comment so far

  1. Charli on

    Thanks Jason, for posting this. I think making industrial chemicals safer is something we can all get behind. To ensure that we really fix this problem we must include modern science language, which necessarily utilizes non-animal methods, in this bill; otherwise we’ll have another outdated bill on our hands.

    Currently, many toxicity tests are based on experiments in animals and use methods that were developed as long ago as the 1930’s; they and are slow, inaccurate, open to uncertainty and manipulation, and do not adequately protect human health. These tests take anywhere from months to years, and tens of thousands to millions of dollars to perform. More importantly, the current testing paradigm has a poor record in predicting effects in humans and an even poorer record in leading to actual regulation of dangerous chemicals.

    Alternatives to animal testing exist in a powerful way and many scientists advocate them. Chemical reform should not only modernize policy, but modernize the science that supports that policy. Let’s ensure chemical reform uses all the necessary tools to truly make humans, our environment, and animals safe.

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