In honor of Earth Day (April 22), lots of folks would like us to think about the common chemicals we're exposed to daily that we may not realize could affect our health.
For example, have you checked the ingredients on that antibacterial soap in your shower? Or wondered about the safety of Fifi's flea collar?
The environmentalists at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) have, and they've issued a report called " The Five Stupidest Chemicals That Shouldn't Be in Your House." It includes some practical tips for reducing exposure to chemicals that could harm you, your pets and your grandkids.
Or how about this eye-opener: Did you know that of the 85,000 chemicals available to be used in everyday products, the government has tested just a tiny percentage for safety? That's from a recent New York Times story headlined "Think Those Chemicals Have Been Tested?"
As investigative reporter Ian Urbina writes:
Many Americans assume that the chemicals in their shampoos, detergents and other consumer products have been thoroughly tested and proved to be safe. This assumption is wrong.
Here's the Catch-22 situation: Companies aren't required to provide safety data on chemicals in their products to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the EPA can only require testing if they think a risk is likely -- which they wouldn't know without safety data.
We have so many chemicals in our environment that scientists now talk about babies being born "pre-polluted," with synthetic chemicals already in their bloodstream, the Times reported.
Meanwhile, a Washington Post story details recent studies showing that chemicals added to consumer products to meet federal and state flammability standards are showing up in waterways, wildlife and even human breast milk. These chemicals have been linked to thyroid disruption, memory and learning problems and cancer. What's worse, the Post reports, recent studies suggest the flame retardants don't really protect against fire.
What can you do? Here are the chemicals on the NRDC's list and what you can do to avoid, or at least lessen, their impact:
- Ditch antibacterial liquid soaps and body wash that contain triclosan; the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says it provides no extra health benefits, and studies have linked it to allergies and disruptive hormonal effects. (Instead: Use plain soap and water.)
- Vacuum, dust and damp mop often to reduce dust from carcinogenic (and ineffective) flame retardant on the foam inside furniture, including the couch.
- Stop using pet flea collars that contain hazardous pesticides. (Instead: Check GreenPaws.org's guide, which ranks more than 125 flea and tick products.)
- Avoid toxic "weed and feed" lawn products, which typically contain the herbicide 2,4-D. (Instead: Pull weeds by hand, or try spot application of herbicide in troublesome areas.)
- Check to make sure children's lice shampoos don't contain lindane, an EPA-banned pesticide that the FDA also warns about. (Instead: Request a safer nonchemical alternative.)
Also of Interest
- To Kill Ticks: Dry Clothes, Then Wash Them
- Spring Cleaning, Cheapskate Style
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