Testing house dust shows how many toxic chemicals could be lurking in your home.
Chemicals have been developed over the past few decades to
improveeveryday products. They are in toys, floor coverings,
computers, showergels and detergents, textiles and mattresses. We
are lying on, walkingon, touching and wearing chemicals every
What's wrong with that, you might ask, assuming the chemicals
are safe?You'd expect them to have been tested, monitored by
someone from thegovernment and approved for use after knowing that
they pose noproblem. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Hazardous anduntested chemicals are routinely used as additives in
consumer goods.They add certain qualities - flexibility to
plastics, scent to beautyand cleaning products, fire resistance to
soft furnishings. They mayhave been added to stop plastics from
breaking down, or to kill dustmites or mould.
Unfortunately, some of these chemicals are known to be hazardous
- yetthe current regulatory system allows their continued use in
products webring into our homes. The so-called "risk assessments"
try to determine"safe limits" of exposure, but these do not
guarantee protection fromthe harmful effects of chemicals. That's
- One cannot investigate all possible routes ofexposure to a
chemical (e.g. from all types of food products orenvironment) and
have data available for all of them.
- Assessments rarely consider exposure to more thanone chemical
at a time or differences in the vulnerabilities ofdifferent
subgroups within populations (e.g. adults versus children);and
- Assessments start from the premise that some degreeof exposure,
even to the most hazardous chemicals, can be judged"acceptable".
However, for many of the chemicals already known for sometime to
present serious hazards, we just don't know the full andlong-term
effects of these chemicals on our health or on ourenvironment, even
at low doses.
Although we may not be aware of it, this means that
persistent,bioaccumulative, and toxic chemicals - as well as those
which are knownto disrupt or mimic hormones, to be toxic to
reproduction, to harmimmune systems, and some which may be
carcinogenic - are already in ourkitchens, lounges, bedrooms and
bathrooms. They are found in everydayproducts and escape during
normal use and through wear and tear overtime. For example:
- Cosmetics, shampoos and personal care products cancontain
synthetic musks. These substances can accumulate in our bodiesand
could disrupt hormone systems.
- Your computer can contain fire-retardant brominatedchemicals,
which exhibit developmental toxicity and may mimic hormonesproduced
by the thyroid gland.
- PVC products such as flooring can contain organotinchemicals.
They're used to stabilise the plastic but are toxic to theimmune
- Soft PVC, used in many products - such as showercurtains or
soft plastic case for your mobile - contains phthalates,which can
be toxic to reproduction.
- Waterproof jackets and other rain-gear couldcontain
perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), chemicals, which are also usedand
released during the manufacture of non-stick coatings for pans
andother cookware. These are now of increasing concern because of
theirlinks to hormone disruption and promotion of cancer.
With evidence growing that these types of chemicals could be
storing uplong-term problems for human health and the environment,
it makes senseto reduce or, ideally, eliminate our exposure to
them. How can weachieve it? Simple. By substituting hazardous
chemicals wherever thereare available alternatives. Wishful
thinking? Far from it - in mostcases, safer alternatives have
existed on the market for years. What ismissing is the drive from
governments to ensure that all manufacturersswitch to these
alternatives. This so called 'substitution principle'is the main
demand of Greenpeace from REACH - the new Europeanchemicals
Discover which brand named products can contain hazardous
chemicals on our Chemical Home
Before we can substitute the most hazardous chemicals, though,
we needto find out which ones they are. Some, like those listed
above, arewell known. But how many of the other tens of thousands
present similarconcerns? The fact is, no one knows. That's the
other problem rightnow. There exists only very limited safety
information about most ofthe 30,000 chemicals marketed in volumes
over one tonne per year in theEU. This could be compared to selling
pharmaceuticals without havingfirst tested them for safety. No drug
company may do this, yet thechemicals companies have been doing so
for years. In order to beproperly protected from hazardous
chemicals, we need information abouttheir safety.
Help us to
politicians to vote forsafer chemicals