Chemical Industry to Parents: Avoid Lead, Tail Pipes and Choking
This is a guest post from Alex Formuzis and Sonya Lunder, MPH of the Environmental Working Group, the nation’s leading environmental health research and advocacy organization.
This is rich. The chemical industry has produced a new “health information” website titled Kids + Chemical Safety that mentions hardly any chemicals or any of the voluminous body of peer-reviewed research from around the globe that documents the serious health risks that many toxic substances can pose to kids.
Richard Denison of Environmental Defense Fund was the first to call attention to the site, whose mission statement says:
Our kids are surrounded by chemicals every day. As a parent, there are plenty of things to worry about. How do you know what is safe and what’s not? We are here to help.
Kids + Chemicals is your best source of balanced, scientifically accurate chemical health information. We will alert you to the latest chemical-related health concerns, but also let you know when you can relax.
Apparently, the American Chemistry Council, which helped underwrite the new site, would have you believe that the only “chemical-related health concerns” are exposure to lead, carbon monoxide, choking and drinking too much di-hydrogen (H2) mono-oxide (O), or water.
Parents who look on this website for advice about toxic chemicals widely used in toys, personal care products, cleaning supplies, food and other household items will find that they’ve come to the wrong place.
Answers to questions about known and probable carcinogens, neurotoxins or endocrine disruptors? Nope.
Looking for information about specific chemicals and pesticides such as bisphenol-A, arsenic, atrazine, the flame retardants known as PBDEs, triclosan, asbestos, mercury, perchlorate, phthalates, PCBs or non-stick chemicals? Nada. Nothing. Zilch.
Even worse, the Kids + Chemicals site offers misleading information about the few chemical hazards it does address. For example, a parent scanning the website’s asthma page to see if cleaning products can trigger attacks is told, “although we can rely on animal research to get this kind of information, animals are frequently exposed to extremely high concentrations, which do not represent our everyday exposures.” The Chemistry Council site then links to the website of the Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics as an authoritative source. So it’s curious that Kids + Chemicals doesn’t acknowledge that the Association lists bleach and quaternary ammonium compounds, both common in cleaning products, as substances that can cause asthma. In addition, well-conducted human studies and reviews have shown that a variety of other cleaning product ingredients can worsen asthma symptoms. EWG’s review of the research has pointed to spray cleaners, bleach, pine and citrus-based ingredients and quaternary ammonium chemicals used as disinfectants and fabric softeners as posing the greatest asthma risk.
On its fluoride page, meanwhile, the Kids + Chemicals website says that children drinking water with 0.7 to 1.2 parts per million of fluoride are “highly unlikely” to be overexposed to it. That doesn’t square with the view of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which in January 2010 dropped its recommended maximum for fluoride in water to 0.7 ppm, precisely to prevent overexposure. Government calculations suggest that even at that level, about 10 percent of young kids will get too much fluoride.
In our assessment, the Kids + Chemicals site doesn’t provide the kind of “balanced, scientifically accurate chemical health information” it claims to give and that parents really need.
Fortunately, Environmental Working Group has your back. EWG’s scientists have spent the better part of two decades conducting research and assembling helpful guides for concerned parents who want to reduce their kids’ exposure to a myriad of toxic chemicals. While we work to change chemical safety laws and improve products, we pass along plain-language information about how to avoid known hazards in everyday products. Until and unless the government strengthens the laws and rules governing chemicals so that they have to be proven safe before they go on the market, consumers have no choice but to be vigilant – and EWG is here to help.
For starters, EWG just launched a Guide to Healthy Cleaning. And then there’s EWG’s Skin Deep guide to more than 70,000 personal care products. Looking to avoid foods with the most pesticide residues? Check out EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. Going to play in the sun? Find out from EWG which sunscreens are safest and most effective. These and many other useful guides and tip sheets for minimizing your and your family’s contact with hazardous chemicals are all found here.