Toxic Chemicals: The Unwanted Gifts That Keep on Giving

This is a guest post from Rachel Shaffer, research assistant at Environmental Defense Fund.

There’s a lot to think about in preparation for the wonderful family gatherings, delicious food, gift-giving and festivities that come with the holiday season. For the holiday meal, I need to consider all of the different dietary restrictions so I don’t leave out my vegetarian and gluten-free relatives. But I need to shop even more carefully to try to avoid the dizzying number of preservatives, chemicals and pesticides in food products that may be dangerous to my health.

And picking out that perfect present can also be stressful; I need to make sure that the new toy that I bought for my baby cousin doesn’t contain unwanted, harmful chemicals.

Even if I try as hard as I can to provide my family with food and gifts that are free of hazardous chemicals, what about the other
sources of chemical exposures in my house
? When we enjoy appetizers and open presents on my sofa, will we also be exposed to some of the dangerous flame retardants in the cushions? Though we’ve tried to air out the dining room, that “new paint” smell still lingers from the recent renovation; so along with the aromas of my home-cooked meal, what else will we be inhaling?

Taking personal steps to reduce or eliminate harmful chemicals from my life sometimes seems a losing battle. I feel like I’m playing whack-a-mole: even if I am successful in avoiding chemicals from certain products, there are countless others in my home or at my office that may be dangerous as well.

Despite the self-reliant attitude of many Americans, this is not a problem we can solve on our own. Each of us cannot individually bear the burden of trying to find safer products for our homes on store shelves. In most cases, chemical ingredients aren’t even identified in specific products. When they are, it can take a lot of investigation, and maybe even a PhD, to decipher
information on the potential hazards of a given chemical. And even if I use one of the growing number of “safe purchasing guides,” all of this effort is a huge amount of extra work.

We need a different system, a different paradigm for ensuring chemical safety in the United States — one that doesn’t put the onus
on each of us individually. We need a national policy that ensures chemicals on the market are safe, instead of the current system that allows dangerous or untested chemicals to stay on the shelves and makes it our individual responsibilities to try to ferret them out.

We have that chance right now, with a bipartisan proposal to reform the outdated and ineffective Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) for the first time since the law passed in 1976. The new proposal still needs a lot of work to ensure it delivers real health protections, but legislators are working hard to make the needed improvements. We need to make loud and clear our demand
for reform and our support for their work.

Because, really, who needs the added stress of scrutinizing ingredient labels during the holiday season? I think we would all appreciate the peace of mind that comes from knowing our homes are truly the safe and inviting spaces that we want them to be.

This article originally appeared on the EDF Voices blog and is reprinted with permission.


Jim Ven
Jim Ven1 years ago

thanks for the article.

Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Stardust Noel
Stardust Noel4 years ago

Interesting, signed & passed.

Barbara J.
Barbara J4 years ago

Absolutely, it needs to be stopped at the federal level; but as long as politicians keep getting the big donations from big corporations, sadly, I don't think it will happen. Fight to stop those donations and then they might listen.

Fi T.
Past Member 4 years ago

Something beneficial should be given as gifts instead

Bella M.
Bella M4 years ago

Signed! Thank you !

Truth S.
Spread Harmony4 years ago

Our ordinary everyday lives are steeped in chemical products. Invisible, they are encrusted in plastic, in detergents and toasters, concealed in our food, in toys, in shampoo. They have invaded everything, including our bodies.

Thanks to the consumer society, petrochemicals, with their magicical powers and unfamiliar barbaric names are happily strolling around our little insides. These phthalates, brominated flame retardants, parabens, bisphenol-a, all have the regrettable habit of invading our hormonal intimacy. They are endocrine disruptors. The pioneer scientists taking part in this documentary say that from breast cancer to obesity, this chemical invasion is closely tied up with the diseases of modern society.

Jim N.
James N4 years ago

Signed and sent.

Fat lot of good it will do, given that I'm in Texas and my senators are Cruz and Cornyn. But signed and sent anyway.

Jim N.
James N4 years ago

"Legistlators are working hard to make improvements." - Funniest thing I've read all day. Thanks for the giggle.

David W.
David W4 years ago