The New York Times article by Nicholas Kristof on 30 November, coinciding with Paris climate conference creates more awareness of the dangers of domestic pollution.
Citing independent warnings of two major medical organizations it deals with dangers of toxic chemicals in products surrounding us. Unregulated substances, they say, are sometimes linked to breast and prostate cancer, genital deformities, obesity, diabetes and infertility. “Widespread exposure to toxic environmental chemicals threatens healthy human reproduction,” the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (IFGO) warned last month.
The IFGO’s focus is on endocrine disrupters, chemicals that imitate sex hormones and often confuse the body. These are found in pesticides, plastics, shampoos and cosmetics, cash register receipts, food can linings, flame retardants and countless other products.
“Emerging evidence ties endocrine-disrupting chemical exposure to two of the biggest public health threats — diabetes and obesity,” the Endocrine Society said in a 150-page “scientific statement.” It added that “mounting evidence” also ties endocrine disrupters to infertility, prostate cancer, undescended testicles, testicular cancer, breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer and neurological issues. Among adults these problems are apparently due to exposures decades earlier in fetal stages.
Tracey J. Woodruff of the University of California, San Francisco notes, “One myth about chemicals is that the U.S. government makes sure they’re safe before they go on the marketplace.” In fact, most are assumed to be safe unless proved otherwise.
Of the 80,000 or more chemicals in global commerce today, only a tiny share have been rigorously screened for safety. Even when a substance is retired because of health concerns, the replacement chemical may be just as bad.
Every day our body contaminates itself with breakdown chemicals from its own metabolism. Europe is moving toward testing chemicals before they go on the market, but the United States is a laggard because of the power of the chemical lobby.
For now, experts say the best approach is for people to try to protect themselves. Especially for women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, and for young children, try to eat organic, reduce the use of plastics, touch cash register receipts as little as possible, try to avoid flame-retardant couches and consult the consumer guides at ewg.org.
Among customers at Herbally Radiant, the harmful effects of chemical ingredients in skin care products used by them are increasingly evident; at times their skin allergies are directly attributable to exposure to harsh chemicals in their cosmetics. Even the so-called vitamins claimed to be in the beauty products are synthetic and may not support the claims of the companies. The ‘wonderful’ formulations touted by major manufacturers have more to do with their marketing strategy. Customers need to read the labels and satisfy themselves with the ingredients for taking care of their body or facial skin.