Hidden poisons in your home

Do you want to remain an unwitting chemical consumer?

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Feature story - April 30, 2003
Maybe you live in a nice house, with a sparkling bathroom, comfy carpet, air that smells of alpine meadows and lovely polished surfaces? Well next time you buy polish, shampoo, detergent, toys for your kids or a new television you could also be bringing some nasty chemicals into your home. Do you want to remain an unwitting chemical consumer?

Unborn babies are exposed in the womb to toxic chemicals.

Synthetic chemicals arrived in our lives on a large scale over 50 years ago on a tide of unbridled optimism. However it soon became apparent that some, such as DDT and PCBs had disastrous effects on the environment. Only now are the worst 12 of these chemicals being outlawed worldwide. But what about the thousands of other synthetic chemicals currently used and marketed in Europe alone?

Irreversible Harm?

The worrying reality is that no-one really knows what effects these chemicals have on humans. Governments are permitting their use without adequate information on their effects on health and the environment:

The European Environment Agency noted in 1998, "Manufactured chemicals are widespread in the air, soil, water sediments and biota of Europe's environment following the marketing of up to 100 000 chemicals in the EU, their use and disposal and degradation. There is a serious lack of monitoring and information on these chemicals...widespread exposures to low doses of chemicals may be causing harm, possibly irreversibly, particularly to sensitive groups such as children and pregnant women..."

The European Commission estimates that 30,000 chemicals are currently marketed in Europe in quantities over one tonne. Many of these chemicals have been shown to build up in our bodies and scientists have little knowledge about the possible dangers to our health. We do know that these chemicals can interfere with reproductive and immune systems, imitate hormones and cause cancer in a variety of living organisms.

Consumer Products

New research has shown that our homes are contaminated with many types of hazardous chemicals. Many of these pollutants come not from traffic fumes, industrial chimneys or pesticides. They are brought into our homes as unseen and unlabeled chemical additives in everyday consumer products. Industry downplays the risks of these chemicals and manufacturers claim that the chemicals remained fixed in the products and that consumers are not exposed. But these chemicals were present in the house dust of almost every single house of the 100 we tested in the UK and in homes in France, Spain, Denmark, Sweden and Finland.

Experimental subjects - No thanks!

It is unacceptable for a child to be born already contaminated by industrial pollutants. The chemical industry and product manufactures are subjecting us to involuntary exposure to industrial chemicals, many of which have unknown characteristics. Studies show over a hundred synthetic chemicals have been found to contaminate people's bodies.

Current chemical laws that should protect us from the profit-driven experiments of the chemical industry are weak and ineffectual. The EU is currently drafting new chemicals legislation which could be the first to really protect Europeans from these unseen and unlabeled hazards in the home. You can help by telling the EU you want them to bring these chemicals under control.

The Way Forward

We must take the first steps to end this dangerous experiment. The chemical industry, with support from the US administration, is lobbying hard to protect irresponsible companies rather than our health. New laws must mandate that hazardous chemicals not be approved where safer alternatives exist. This would help ensure that products in our homes do not contain hidden poisons. If the EU acts now and implements strong laws, other areas of the world will follow. If not, a dangerous global experiment on you and me will remain unchecked.

Act:

You can help by telling the EU you want them to bring these chemicals under control.

Send an ecard to your friends.

More:

Download the full report Consuming Chemicals - Hazardous chemicals in house dust as an indicator of chemical exposure in the home. (pdf file 321Kb)

Find out more about these chemicals and attempts to control them.

Take our virtual house tour to find out where toxic chemicals may be lurking in house and in your kitchen and what the alternatives are.

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