I think one thing we can agree on is that good health is precious and we need to do everything we can to protect it. Many parents and health professionals are worried about the rise in certain types of cancer, learning disabilities, early puberty, and more. The good news is we know we can prevent some of these cases by addressing unregulated toxic chemicals in our homes, products, and environment.

Science over the last few decades shows that some chronic diseases have links to toxic chemicals and leading scientists and physicians have flagged this as a big opportunity for prevention.

Chemicals and Our Health

So what adverse health trends are we talking about? (For more information, you can read our full report on chemicals and our health.)

  • Leukemia, brain cancer, and other childhood cancers, which have increased by more than 20% since 1975.
  • Breast cancer, the incidence of which went up by 40% between 1973 and 1998. A woman’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is now one in eight, up from one in ten in 1973.
  • Asthma, which approximately doubled in prevalence between 1980 and 1995 and has continued to rise. In 2009, nearly 1 in 12 Americans had asthma.
  • Difficulty in conceiving and maintaining a pregnancy affected 40% more women in 2002 than in 1982. From 1982 to 1995, the incidence of reported difficulty almost doubled in younger women, ages 18–25.
  • The birth defect resulting in undescended testicles (cryptorchidism) increased sharply between 1970 and 1993, with uncertain trends since then.
  • Learning and developmental disabilities, including autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, affect nearly one in six U.S. children, as of 2008. Between 1997 and 2008, the prevalence of autism increased nearly 300% nationally.

So what’s the good news amidst all of these sobering facts? We know we can prevent some of these adverse health problems by regulating toxic chemicals that are creeping into our homes and environment. We also know we can drastically reduce the levels of some of these chemicals in our bodies by reducing exposure. Take for example the study that shows how American families reduced their BPA exposure by 60% in three days.

Another example about the opportunity to reduce exposure to harmful chemicals comes from regulating lead in gasoline, which drastically reduced the blood lead levels in Americans.

After Congress passed laws requiring the removal of lead from gasoline, paint, food containers, children’s toys, and municipal drinking water systems, there was an 80% decline from the 1970s to the 1990s in human exposure to the heavy metal.

In addition, the improvement in cognitive ability associated with decreased lead exposure is predicted to result in increased worker productivity, with an estimated economic benefit to the U.S. of between $110 and $319 billion dollars each year.

Removing lead from gasoline, paint, and other sources continues to be one of the most successful efforts to prevent disease and disability in the U.S.

Last week I tackled the question, why are there toxic chemicals in our consumer products in the first place? We learned that due to lax federal laws, many toxic chemicals are ending up in our homes through household cleaners, building materials, and personal care products.

So what happens when our laws do very little to protect our health from toxics? We work together to make sure our federal laws on toxic chemicals work for us!

At Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families we are proud to have the Honest Company as one of our coalition members. Together, with your help, we can show Congress that there is moral urgency to addressing toxic chemicals. Will you join us in our quest to protect the health of our loved ones?

Please join Jessica Alba, The Honest Company, and our coalition in asking Congress to get tough on toxic chemicals. Take action today and ask your friends and family to do the same!

Follow Safer Chemicals on Twitter: @SaferChemicals.

~ Lindsay Dahl, Deputy Director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families

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15 thoughts on “Chemicals and Our Health: A Call to Action

  1. Great post. Love seeing this kind of discussion — where science, policy and business intersect. These health trends are alarming, and we as Americans need to do something about this before more of those we love get cancer. It’s clear that regulating harmful and toxic chemicals is part of the solution. And that should spur innovation in new green chemistry, product design and biomimicry-based solutions.

      1. Thanks Gabriel and Honest! At Safer Chemicals we agree about more businesses doing the right thing, and are proud to have the Honest Co. in our coalition!

  2. This is great – as someone who had a breast cancer scare at 26, I’m so happy to see orgs like Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families not only raising awareness about links btwn toxic chemicals and pollution to breast cancer, asthma and infertility, but also taking up real reform in Congress. It makes my heart sing that activists like Jessica Alba would use her platform as a celebrity to get behind such important issues and even create a business that proactively tackles the problem head on!

    1. Heidi, thanks so much for sharing your personal story and speaking out about the importance of tackling the problem of toxic chemicals. We agree that SCHF is a great organization — and hope you’ll join them in encouraging reform. And thanks too for supporting the Honest mission. We appreciate it!

      1. Thanks for the comment Heidi. I’m glad your scare, was just a scare at 26. The health problems we discuss are very real for most Americans. Between good laws and progressive businesses, we’ll be on our way to a less toxic future!

  3. This is a great post! Thank you so much for sharing this important information! I am shocked to hear these facts and cannot believe the gov’t doesn’t do more to protect us!

    1. Thanks for reading, Megan. We’re glad to have you join us in discussion and in taking action against the lax regulations that allow so many untested chemicals in many household products. We really appreciate your support!

  4. what sickens me the most is some global companies have two versions of their products! In markets that have more stringent regulations, better products are sold while here in America we still get the same old toxic cocktail.

    1. Amanda, we completely agree that businesses need to put customers health and safety above profits. It’s really upsetting to know that many brands have the same item for sale in Europe, but it’s made with natural ingredients. Hopefully working together we can change this!

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