Our children inherit the toxic burden of our planet.
Analysis of maternal and umbilical cord blood provided by
volunteers in the Netherlands, published in a study entitled A Present
for Life,reveals that known or suspected hazardous substances,
present ineveryday household products, are entering babies' bodies
through theumbilical cord. The chemicals include some which are
known to affectphysical and mental development in animals.
"Our children are being exposed to
pollutingchemicals, though we have hardly any information on the
--Pieter Sauer, Professor of Pediatrics, UniversityHospital
Thisreport, commissioned jointly by Greenpeace Netherlands and
WWF-UK,investigated the presence of hazardous chemicals in maternal
and cordblood samples. 42 maternal blood serum and 27 cord
bloodserum samples were taken at the University Hospital
Groningen.Independent laboratory TNO-MEP analysed the samples for
the followingchemicals: brominated flame retardant TBBP-A,
phthalates, artificialmusks, bisphenol-A, alkylphenols,
organochlorine pesticides (DDT), triclosan and perfluorinated
Thechemicals in question are contained in countless items ranging
fromfood tins and electrical goods to pesticides, deodorants
andtoothpastes. They include artificial musks, used to add scent
toperfumes and perfumed products, and perfluorinated compounds,
used inwater-repellent coatings and to prepare non-stick surfaces
such asteflon. Also found were flame-retardants suspected of
causing learningand behavioural problems in animals, and the
antibacterial agenttriclosan, used in antibacterial soap.
The results clearly show the presence of these chemicals in the
blood serum samples from both mother and child.
Particularlyworrying are the hormone-disrupting chemicals, which
may cause mostdamage during the vulnerable stages of development,
that is duringperiods of rapid cell division, such as in early life
and particularlywhen inthe womb. A small disturbance in early
development can have seriousconsequences in later life. PCBs and
dioxins have already illustratedthe potential for long-term,
irreversible consequences of exposure tohazardous chemicals.
Chemicals in our world, chemicals in
The chemical industry has undergone spectacular growth in the
Thereare now more than 100,000 different chemicals available on
the market.Chemicals are incorporated into countless consumer
products, some ofwhich undoubtedly benefit our standard of living.
But they also providea source of daily exposure to a cocktail of
hazardous chemicals.Hazardous chemicals can be found everywhere.
They are released into theenvironment at several points in their
life cycle and travel in the airand in water to even remote areas
like the Alps and the Arctic.
Someof the most hazardous chemicals do not break down easily and
canaccumulate throughout the food chain. Food has long been thought
to bethe primary route of exposure for most persistent and
recent years greater attention has beengiven to the potential
exposure directly through the use of productscontaining hazardous
ingredients and indirectly through theircontamination of the indoor
environment. Greenpeace has analysed a range of everyday consumer productsfor the
presence of a number of (potentially) hazardous chemicals andlooked
for these same chemicals in house dust and rainwater.
Food is not the only path to
Theresults add weight to the suspicion that these chemicals can
'leak'from products. Follow-up investigations by Greenpeace
Netherlands and others havesought to research the extent to which
these chemicals actually end upin our bodies, by collecting and
analysing blood samples from humanvolunteers.
The results of recent blood research projects byGreenpeace and
WWF confirm that we all have hazardous chemicals in ourblood,
including chemicals that are contained in normal consumerproducts.
Of particular concern is the impact of exposure to thesesubstances
on (unborn) children. The unprotected foetus is extremelyvulnerable
to hazardous chemicals. Mothers can unwittingly pass onthese
substances to their child during pregnancy and through
breastfeeding (which should not deter mothers from breast feeding,
as thebenefits of breast feeding are still widely
Phthalates,one of the most omnipresent groups of chemicals and
used mainly assofteners in Polyvinyl chloride (PVC), as well asin
cosmetics and perfumes, were found in many of thematernal and cord
blood samples. DEHP, the most commonly usedplasticizer, was
detected in 29 maternal and 24 cord blood samples.Some phthalates
can be particularly damaging to the male reproductivetract, and are
toxic to reproduction.
Manycompanies have take action unilaterally against toxics in
theirproducts, demonstrating that the substitution of hazardous
chemicals ispossible. Sony and Sony Ericsson, for example, are
phasing out brominated flame retardants. Clothing companies
H&M and Marks and Spencer have substitutionpolicies and ask
their suppliers to use alternatives to a range ofchemicals that can
build up and persist in our bodies. (Have a look atour report, Substituting with Style, for more information
about companies that are helping create a toxic-free future.)
Somecompanies such as the cleaning products manufacturer,
Ecover, avoidpersistent and bioaccumulative chemicals as part of
their corebusiness. Unfortunately not all companies want to shut
the dooron substances that can contaminate our bodies.
Greenpeacetesting, for example, found that some Disney children's pyjamas carried toxic-laden PVC
prints, and the company has not stopped. That's why we need
laws -- voluntary compliance simply isn't good enough.
We can stop this
Howthen can we better protect our children from exposure to
suchpotentially harmful chemicals? The only answer is for
governments toput in place mechanisms that will drive industry to
replace thesechemicals with safer alternatives.
Proposed new EU legislation on chemicals, 'REACH' (Registration,
Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals),gives Europe a
crucial opportunity to take the necessary action toprotect humans
and the environment from the effects of harmfulchemicals and to
make producers responsible for the impacts of their
REACH is intended to protect people and environment. Buta
powerful industry lobby threatens to weaken this legislation.
Greenpeace and WWF are calling on legislators to put
theinterests of public health and the environment first, by
ensuring thatthe worst chemicals are identified and phased out, and
by making itobligatory to substitute toxic chemicals with safer
What we want:
- Anobligation to phase out the production and use of chemicals
thataccumulate in wildlife, humans or the environment, and those
- An obligation to substitute hazardous chemicals with safer
- Completedisclosure of substances used in manufacturing
processes and thecomposition of products, including the effects and
- Make industry accountable for the impacts of their
- Make importers meet the same standards as manufacturers in the
In the next fewmonths European politicians will decide whether
or not to protect the peopleand environment or to allow industry to
continue contaminating our bodies. Help us close the door on
Demand strengthened EU regulation of chemicals
Do you live in Europe?
Help pressure the European Parliament to adopt strong legislation to phase out toxic chemicals.
Don't live in Europe?
Tell Disney to remove toxic chemicals from its product line.
Become a Greenpeace supporter
Help us carry on the work of exposing dangerous chemicals and challenging the industries that don't want them regulated.