Why are we being exposed to chemicals that are banned in Europe and Canada? Find out what's hurting you, and what you can do to help yourself!
Recently, at the OMG! Summit, we took part in a few impressive panel discussions, including one called Earth 2.0 and the Environment
, a great dialogue about environmental links to cancer, why it's hard to control what we're being exposed to, and how we can help minimize our exposure to these harmful chemicals. With speakers Lindsay Dahl (Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families), Connie Engel (Campaign for Safe Cosmetics), and Ana Mascarenas (Physicians for Social Responsibility) there was a lively conversation and lots of great information. Here's what we learned:
1,100 chemicals illegal in the EU. All but 11 unregulated in the US.
In the 25 countries of the European Union, 1,100 chemicals were banned from use in personal care products. How many has the US FDA banned or restricted? Only 11. What about food? While the EU has banned genetically modified foods and 22 pesticides, we're still buying foods that we don't know are safe. From food to household products and everything in between, we are being exposed to chemicals every day -- including those that are illegal in other countries for being known or suspected to cause cancer, genetic mutation, reproductive harm or birth defects.
Shouldn't the government protect us?
Regulating bodies set the safety standards for chemicals used in consumer products, but different products fall under separate federal agencies, making regulation fragmented. Here's who covers what when it comes to federal laws about chemical safety:
- FDA (Food and Drug Administration): Cosmetics, Food
- EPA (US Environmental Protection Agency): Chemicals, Pesticides
- CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission): Consumer Products
You may have heard the recent outrage over carcinogenic chemicals in products such as Coca-Cola or Johnson & Johnson's baby shampoo. How could this happen? The speakers at the OMG! Summit explained that it was not only fragmented regulation, but also insufficient research and information on the government's side as well that contributes to the problem. If the safety standards that are being set by federal law aren't strict enough, how do we take action to keep ourselves safe from further cancer risk?
"You shouldn't have to be a chemist to go to the grocery store..."
...but you can take matters into your own hands. Remember, think about minimizing, not eliminating. There are too many environmental risk factors that we can't control, but we can do our best to minimize our exposure. There's a lot out there on how we can do so, but here are some great tips to get you started.
- Avoid fragrance in all products (cosmetics, household cleaners).
- Take your shoes off when you get home--you track in a lot of chemicals when you wear your shoes in the house.
- Vacuum and clean! A lot of chemicals leech out of products and pile up in your everyday, household dust. Make sure to keep your home a dust-free and hazard-free!
- Check out The Clean Fifteen and The Dirty Dozen lists to know which produce is relatively pesticide-free, and which are "dirty".