We are all lab rats in one giant, toxic, and deadly experiment. The Environmental Defense Fund has released a new report, titled Toxics Across America, which looks at the billions of pounds of toxic and potentially deadly chemicals that are currently in the American marketplace. The report looks at 120 chemicals that have been identified by state, federal and international officials as hazardous to our health.
It also looks at which of those chemicals are currently distributed in the U.S, what amounts they are being produced in, where they are being manufactured, and which companies are responsible for them. The report’s key findings include that at least 81 of the chemicals studied are produced in or imported to the U.S. each year in amounts of 1 million pounds or more. Also, 14 of the chemicals studied come in at quantities of 1 billion pounds or more per year, including known carcinogens, or cancer-causing chemicals, like formaldehyde and benzene. And, at least 90 of the chemicals that the EDF studied are commonly found in consumer and commercial products, including 8 used in children’s products.
With billions of pounds of toxic chemicals being produced and used in the United States each year, you'd think that our government would have strict regulations in place to monitor those chemicals, and to keep Americans safe from them. You would be wrong.
Thanks to billions of dollars from Big Chem and relentless lobbying efforts, regulations on deadly chemical production and use in America are virtually non-existent. So, where are these unregulated, toxic, and potentially deadly chemicals being used? All around us, making us all lab rats for Big Chem.
Four million households in America still have dangerous levels of lead, despite lead being banned in paints back in 1978. As result, the CDC estimates that more than 500,000 children in the U.S. have “elevated” levels of lead in their blood. Even small amounts of lead in children have been linked to crime, behavioral problems, dyslexia, decreased IQ, and a variety of other health problems.
Meanwhile, the carcinogen Formaldehyde, used by funeral homes to embalm bodies, is a common chemical found in plywood, hardwood paneling, and even furniture. As Formaldehyde ages, it evaporates and turns into a vapor, which we breathe in, and which accumulates in our bodies, increasing our risks of developing cancer. We're literally being embalmed by our houses and offices!
Another category of popular chemicals used in household furniture is flame retardants. While they sounded like a great idea back in the 1970’s when they were first introduced to the market, we now know that flame retardant chemicals can cause a variety of health problems, including early-onset puberty, diminished IQ, and thyroid problems. And according to the CDC, flame retardant chemicals are now found in the bodies of “nearly all” Americans.
Then there’s Teflon, the chemical used to treat the pots and pans that we use for cooking, so that they’re non-sticking. According to the Science Advisory Board of the EPA, Teflon is in all of us, and it’s most likely a carcinogen.
These are just a few of the thousands of potentially deadly chemicals that surround us every day, and that are building up in our bodies. Back in 2001, as part of a story on chemicals in the environment, Bill Moyers had his blood tested for industrial chemicals that had built up in his body. The results showed that he had 84 industrial chemicals present in his blood that were not supposed to be there. That was 10 years ago. Imagine how many more chemicals are in Bill’s blood, and in the blood of you and me, today.
And, while we're seeing explosions in obesity, cancer, and autism - just to name a few - all around us, it'll be years to decades before we know which of these chemicals are causing what problems. Thanks to weak regulations and safety standards, Big Chem has turned America into one giant science experiment, and we are all the lab rats, forced without our consent or knowledge to deal with the side effects.
Fortunately, there’s a way to stop all of this madness, and to prevent America from becoming an even bigger toxic waste dump. It’s called the Precautionary Principle. Basically, it means that if something could potentially be harmful or deadly, then it has to be proven safe BEFORE millions of people can be exposed to it.
Countries all over the world follow the precautionary principle, to ensure that their citizens are safe and that dangerous products don’t make it to market. In fact, the precautionary principle is so important in the European Union that it’s been made a law, and even has its own website. But here in America, when giant corporations hear “precautionary principle,” they think about money, and the millions of dollars they would have to “waste” on testing products before throwing them into our food, putting them into our homes, or pouring them over our bodies. And, since corporations are running things these days in Washington thanks to the Roberts Supreme Court, our lawmakers are afraid of the precautionary principle too.
There are, however, some communities in America who are waking up. Back in 2005, the City of San Francisco passed a “precautionary principle purchasing” ordinance, which requires that city to look at the environmental and health costs of every purchase it makes, from office paper to keyboard cleaners. It’s time for the rest of the nation to follow suit, and for Washington to put the lives of Americans ahead of the interests of Big Chem and corporate America. Call your members of Congress, and tell them it’s time for the Precautionary Principle in America!