Why are we still exposed to so many toxic chemicals?
We know they threaten our health and wreck the environment. Fifty years ago, in her revolutionary book Silent Spring, scientist Rachel Carson drew a bright red line between the use of pesticides like DDT and threats to our environment. As Leigh at Green4U writes, "She was the canary in the coal mine…" who sounded the alarm about chemicals in our environment and, sadly, died before DDT, the chemical she most studied, could be banned.
The Environmental Protection Agency was founded a few years later, in part to protect people and the planet from dangerous chemicals like those Rachel Carson identified. Since then, dozens, if not hundreds of non-profit organizations and scientific institutes have documented the impact chemicals have on our ability to reproduce, bear healthy babies, raise thriving children, and live healthy lives. And yet, we're still exposed to dangerous chemicals that wreak havoc on our hormones, our brains, and our bodies.
In honor of Silent Spring, in observance of today's Blog Action Day, and to recognize Breast Cancer Awareness Month, many concerned women have weighed in, expressing their ongoing belief that we must be protected from exposure to toxic chemicals at all costs. Shane at Environmental Booty captured the hopeful sentiment we all share when she wrote, "There is no other choice than to stand in spirit with Rachel Carson to create a sustainable future. We must work together to create a future full of the most uproarious Springs. Springs filled with the beautiful sounds of children playing, birds singing and mothers and fathers breathing huge sighs of relief because they fought for our future that will be healthy and sustainable for our planet as well as their families."
Why Are We Still Threatened?
Lindsay of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families attributes our ongoing chemical exposures to the excessive influence the chemicals industry has on public policies that should have protected us by now. "The chemical industry continues to spend millions of dollars on lobbying efforts designed to block reform in Congress. They fight toxic chemical regulation in state legislatures across the country, distort science, understate the health effects of toxic chemicals and create front groups." Lindsay's group, Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, is part of the coalition fighting to pass the Safe Chemicals Act; you can sign their petition here.
Stephanie at Good Girl Gone Green notes another way industry perpetuates our exposure to toxic chemicals: by "pinkwashing" products that still contain harmful ingredients. "I most definitely do not have a problem with corporations supporting breast cancer research," she avers. "What I can’t seem to wrap my head around is that these companies are promoting their products with the pink ribbon while some of their ingredients are linked to cancer. If these companies really wanted to make a difference for women’s health and be heros, shouldn’t they start by eliminating the cancer causing chemicals from their products?"
Lisa at Retro Housewife Goes Green, concurs. "I personally feel cures for cancer are great, one of my best friends is battling thyroid cancer right now and I’d love for her to have a cure, but even better would be preventing cancer," she declares. "If we prevented cancer … my good friend would still have her thyroid. If you ask me it’s unethical to put breast cancer ribbons on products that may cause cancer. Why would we want to encourage people to consume possible carcinogens to donate a few cents to breast cancer research?"
Rachel at Mommy Greenest objects to the insidious way chemicals seep into our lives. For example, how many times have you opened a magazine and been assaulted by a page reeking of perfume? "Many of these perfumes contain toxic chemicals like diethyl phthalate, which has been linked to developmental, reproductive, endocrine and immune system problems, as well as allergies and hormone disruption. Typically, perfumes also include paraben preservatives, which have been linked to early onset of puberty in girls." Support Rachel's petition drive to get companies to stop including perfume inserts in their pages.
Paige at Spit That Out The Book, says, "We know prevention works. When we removed lead from gasoline, the levels of lead in the American public plummeted. So while there are many reasons one develops cancer, or other chronic disease, removing toxic chemicals is one contributor we can do something about. And we must." Paige, who is working with Rachel on the perfume petition drive, also adds her voice to the chorus of parents, doctors, and other concerned citizens calling for immediate passage of the Safe Chemicals Act.
How is This Personal?
Janice of Momma Words, says "I’ve been fighting to get truly healthy for years. I take one step forward to find that 3 other things I’m doing may be effecting not only my health but the genetics I have passed onto my kids. I find it offensive that so many agencies created “to protect us” aren’t doing their job."
Laura at Laura's Rules visited the Rachel Carson Conservation Park in Silver Spring, MD with her young daughter in tow. She couldn't help but think, "We’ve had 50 years of “malarky” on chemicals, really. Fifty years of obfuscation, delay, and ineffectual state and federal efforts to balance the benefits of certain chemicals with the threat to public health that some of them pose. Fifty years of “buyer beware” policies that expose people to chemicals first — sometimes in massive doses, such as in factories — and ask questions about their impact on our health later" Laura's hope is that, 50 years from now, our exposure to toxic chemicals will be a vestige of the past, not a threat we continue to live with day to day.
At Big Green Purse, I raise questions about the impact toxic chemicals may have on my daughter, on all our daughters. As a result of exposure to dangerous chemicals, some girls are wearing bras when they should still be playing with toys. Why is such chemical exposure still tolerated?
Getting us back to Rachel Carson, Margie at Healthy Child, Healthy World shares this Carson quote from a 1964 CBS documentary. "Man's attitude toward nature is today critically important simply because we have now acquired a fateful power to alter and destroy nature. But man is a part of nature, and his war against nature is inevitably a war against himself." Sobering words which are, like the woman who spoke them, all too true.
How Can Your Protect Yourself?
Anne at Flour Sack Mama gardens organically. "Our family has no regrets about using organic and sustainable growing methods this year with our open pollinated, heirloom seeds. We've still had an abundant crop, with enough to share with neighbors and friends. We enjoy the peace of mind mind that we did not use toxic pesticides or even synthetic fertilizers on the plants that would produce our food."
Lori at Groovy Green Livin' documents the rise in cancer rates that have motivated her to take simple steps to protect her family. "Around 41 percent of Americans will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives. About 12,060 children in the United States under the age of 15 will be diagnosed with cancer in 2012. Since 1975 cancer in American children has increased, especially childhood leukemia and brain cancer." Her post offers practical and affordable ways to reduce your exposure to chemicals linked to cancer.
Back at Big Green Purse, I advocate shifting your spending to the cleanest, safest products available. Don't think your money matters? Here's a recent account of how our consumer clout motivated J&J to get toxic ingredients out of its baby products.
Beth at My Plastic Free Life suggests you either sign a petition, or start one of your own. We've already recommended signing the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families petition to pass the Safe Chemicals Act. Beth reports on several other petition drives currently underway, such as one started by Lori at Groovy Green Livin' to pressure Disney to get phthalates out of kids' lunch boxes. Beth's blog offers links to several important petition drives currently underway.
Pretty much every blogger listed here offers more reasonable and concrete actions to reduce or eliminate your toxic expsosure.
TAKE ACTION IN WASHINGTON, DC
In addition to protecting yourself at home, it's important to work for policy changes, too.
Micaela at Mindul Momma was energized when she participated in the stroller brigade organized by Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families earlier this year. It was a thrilling way to "bring national attention and support to the important cause of updating our sorely outdated Federal chemical laws with the Safe Chemicals Act bill introduced by Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey," she writes. "Needless to say, I was thrilled to be part of the event and to get a tiny taste of what it's like to be a lobbyist!
Lindsay at Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families is encouraged by what's happening in Congress.
"We have seen major progress in the last year," she says, "primarily due to a grassroots movement of moms, cancer survivors, teachers and health professionals asking Congress to take action on toxic chemicals. For the first time in 36 years Congress voted to update our laws on toxic chemicals. Despite industry opposition, the bill passed the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, in large part due to your calls and letters to your Senators.
The Safe Chemicals Act will need to be re-introduced in the next Congress, and the road ahead is long."