Toxic Chemicals and Disease: Are Our Children Canaries in a Coal Mine?

“Canary in a coal mine” is allusion to caged canaries mining workers would carry down into the tunnels with them. If toxic gases such as methane or carbon monoxide were present into the mine-shaft, the gases would kill the canary before affecting the miners. Signs of distress from the bird indicated to the miners that conditions were unsafe.

Hence, the phrase “canary in a coal mine” is frequently used to refer to a person or thing which serves as an early warning of a coming crisis.

Our environment contains a growing list of chemicals, many of which are known causes of human illnesses.

From the water we drink, to the air we breathe, to the food we eat, we are being exposed to hundreds to synthetic chemical compounds that are brand new to our planet that did not even exist 20 years ago.

Are our children like “canaries in a coal mine” in the increasingly toxic world we live in?

One thing that we can all do is to get educated and start taking action. Toxic Substances Control Act
Just like canaries, our children are significantly more vulnerable than adults, as these chemicals affect their developing bodies in more ways that are still difficult to fathom.

So, our children are growing up as a part of a giant experiment with potentially devastating consequences.

How will these chemicals affect their development, their health, their ability to achieve their full potential? Will our children end up paying the price for our negligence for the rest of their lives?

And is there anything that we do about it?

Step 1: Ignorance Is NOT Bliss

Step one is to get educated about the problem.

Ignorance is NOT bliss when it comes to our health. Not knowing about a disturbing issue will NOT cause it to go away!

Did you know that of 60,000+ chemicals that were grandfathered by TSCA law only about 200 were ever tested for safety directly by the EPA? 

The Toxic Substances Control Act (ToSCA) of 1976 mandated the EPA to protect the public from “unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment” by regulating the manufacture and sale of chemicals. One might think that Environmental Protection Agency exists to protect the public from dangerous and potentially carcinogenic substances, but thousands of chemicals were never tested by the EPA because they were not considered an “unreasonable risk.”

So, contrary to what the name implies, TSCA does not separate chemicals into categories of toxic and non-toxic. Rather it prohibits the manufacture or importation of new chemicals that are not on the TSCA 60,000+ Inventory grandfathered when the law was passed!

As a parent I find it deeply disturbing, not to say scary.

[box type=”download”]Listen to the interview with a world-renowned pediatrician and environmental health expert Dr. Leo Trasande, who will explain how chemical exposures put our kids at risk, how much environmentally-mediated illness costs our nation, and what steps we can take to protect our children from harm.

Listen to the Green Street Radio or download the mp3 file here here.[/box]

Of course, there is huge money at stake for the manufacturers. The titans of the cosmetics industry are hard at work fighting common sense laws that would keep toxic chemicals out of everything from bubble bath, mattresses, clothing to lipstick.

But the costs to the society and the environment that we are all paying can no longer be ignored.

Step 2: Start Taking Action

Starting with the smallest action – “voting with your purse” and not buying the products that contain toxic ingredients. Many of the toxic cleaning products can be easily substituted with safer alternatives, for example, baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice are great for household cleaning needs.

But ultimately we can’t shop our way out of this problem.

Help spread the message – tell others about what you learned.

Write to the companies that are using toxic products to let them know your concerns.

Write to your elected officials demanding their support for the bills that promote positive change.

Join or support an organization working to increase public awareness and change the laws.

Our children are completely dependent on us to take action and make the right decisions for them!

More Resources:

Tell Congress to Stop Industry’s Trojan Horse Bill  “The Cosmetic Safety Amendments Act of 2012” was recently introduced by Representative Leonard Lance (R-NJ). According to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics organization “This is a classic Trojan horse – it may sound like a step forward on the surface but the “fine print” inside the bill would allow industry to continue placing profits over public health.  This bill would put into law the current system that allows the industry to “self-regulate” the safety of cosmetics which has resulted in carcinogens in baby shampoo, lead in lipstick, formaldehyde in hair products, hormone disruptors in fragrance and mercury in face creams. It would also handcuff states from taking action to pass locally tailored policies to protect the health of their own state residents. ”

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics – The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is a coalition effort launched in 2004 to protect the health of consumers and workers by securing the corporate, regulatory and legislative reforms necessary to eliminate dangerous chemicals from cosmetics and personal care products.

EWG’s Skin Deep database: EWG’s Skin Deep database gives you practical solutions to protect yourself and your family from everyday exposures to chemicals.

Toxic Chemicals in the Enviroment

Toxic Chemicals in the Enviroment : How do they affect our kids and what can we do about it?

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