Only a fraction of the more than 82,000 synthetic chemicals in commerce today have ever been tested for safety.
Even worse is that we don’t really know how these untested chemicals are impacting our health. Or our children’s developing bodies.
Found in so many of the products that we use every day—at “acceptable levels”—these chemicals often don’t even appear on ingredient lists. These so-called “acceptable levels” don’t factor in the collective impact of the multiple chemicals we encounter daily in everything from furniture, flooring, the mattress you sleep on, your child’s toys, your cookware and cleaning products. What’s the impact of this “chemical cocktail” on our cells?
Here are some unacceptable facts to consider:
No health information is known for 80 percent of the chemicals in commerce.
Cancer is the leading cause of death (after accidents) in children younger than 17 years in the United States.
Autism now affects one in 50 children.
In the last 20 years, there’s been a 300 percent increase in allergies; 300 percent increase in asthma; 400 percent increase in ADHD.
Finding the answers can be overwhelming for many of us, including me. (That’s why I created the documentary, Unacceptable Levels—about the chemicals in our bodies, how they got there and what we can do about it.)
The good news is, each of us can take steps to reduce the amount of chemicals we’re exposed to daily. Here are five tips:
Read food labels. Artificial sweeteners, preservatives, nitrates, artificial colors, MSG… if it’s processed, it is likely to contain one or more of these ingredients. Sodium benzoate and potassium benzoate are preservatives that are sometimes added to sodas to prevent mold growth, but benzene is a known carcinogen. Butylated Hydroxynaisole (BHA) is another preservative that’s potentially cancer-causing. If you can’t pronounce an ingredient, chances are you shouldn’t be eating it.
Purchase organic food whenever possible. Factor in the potential health costs of processed and conventionally grown (read: pesticide rich) foods and organic food doesn’t break the bank. Unfortunately, it’s not always available. The good news: organic food is the fastest growing sector in agriculture. Would we spray a piece of fruit with Raid, then rinse it off and eat it? If we continue to vote with our dollars, organic can become the norm.
- Switch to non-toxic, biodegradable laundry and cleaning products. This is an easy way to create a safer, healthier home environment for you, your family and your pets. There are so many choices out there today.
Transition to non-toxic personal care products. According to the Environmental Working Group, public health allows almost any chemical as an ingredient in personal care products. Misleading and incomplete labeling of ingredients as well as unsubstantiated claims are also allowed. And our skin is the body’s largest organ!
Say no to triclocarban, triclosan, parabens, retinyl palmitate, retinol, PEGS, ceteareths, polyethylene… For a list of ingredients to avoid by product type, click here.
Reuse, reduce, recycle. We’ve all heard this before, but it’s important not just for the earth, but for our health. Our planet is inundated with plastic products and waste, which ends up leaching into our soil and drinking water, and even finds its way into our oceans and lakes. In one way or another, as the top of the food chain, we’re going to end up ingesting it. Look for products with less packaging; think twice about upgrading to a new phone; bring reusable bags to the grocery store. It can be that simple.
We are all in this together. Around the world—in every single culture, every religion, every race, every age, every gender, rich or poor—we’re all being affected by toxic chemicals.
There are many amazing organizations that are working every single day to help us become more informed so that we can make safer, healthier choices. Some of my favorites are:
There are also numerous companies that are already making organic or nontoxic products. By switching to these products—one step at a time—you’re casting a vote for the greater good.
Americans have an amazing track record of facing and overcoming problems. If we educate ourselves and take action, we can make the planet safer for ourselves and our children.