Chemicals, Kids and what we as parents butt-up against as we try to raise healthy children in a toxic world.
Look at any parenting site dedicated to openly discussing vaccination and the dialogues are brutal. It’s apparent that the predatory instinct of the Wolf that lurks behind any good mother emerges when defending and protecting her cub. And like a wolf, we hunt in packs (gathering evidence and like-minded parents and practitioners to defend our decisions) and strike for juggler when we are cornered or feel threatened. Make no mistake, I too, can be one of those wolves I admit. Put oxybenzone on my child’s skin, an ingredient commonly found in conventional sunscreen and a known endocrine (hormone)-disrupting chemical, and I am known to hunt you down and attack without prejudice. It’s not personal – it’s primal, and I will defend my pack.
And it seems debate around vaccination has become even more divided these days as the Federal government moves to wed the vaccination schedule with the family tax benefit. If you are a ‘conscious objector’ to vaccinations you may not be affected –you just have to put in the form. But if you have missed or delayed your child’s vaccinations, or just don’t want some of the vaccinations, the government will doc you almost $2100 per child.
It’s been these latest government moves that have got me thinking more about the future of vaccinations, about control, the role of the State, and about the information (and science) we accept or reject about vaccination based on our values, faith, risk perceptions, intuition, and ideals that reinforce our opinions or identity as part of a social group.
Where paths diverge…
So what does the science say about vaccinations?
In short, that any risks associated with vaccinations are outweighed by the numerous benefits. Or in scientific terms – the correlation between vaccinated children and certain diseases does not equal causation.
Policy makers and practitioners then interpret this science and implement it via the National Vaccination Schedule. This schedule is carried it out in two ways: on an individual basis to protect specific persons at risk; and on a population basis, to provide ‘herd immunity’ to protect individuals who have not been vaccinated. The argument is that the higher the immunisation rate in any population, the less likely that a pathogen will penetrate the group and find a susceptible person inside. As immunization rates drop, that protection grows thinner.
So why then do many parents disagree – sharply and persistently – about the facts on which scientists largely agree, and the government implements the schedule? Why is it that many parents choose not to vaccinate, or partially vaccinate their children given the evidence?
The thing about science is that whilst it seems all but omnipotent, given many of the impressive advances we have witnessed over the generations (and some advances that prove our other advances were not so successful) it never proves anything in an absolute sense. Nor is everything scientifically tested, including many vaccinations, and when some testing has been done, it hasn’t been done long term, nor has it been done in conjunction with other vaccines.
The area of chemicals is analogous to vaccines in many ways. 75% of everyday chemicals used in consumer chemicals have never been tested for their toxicity of the human body (or the environment), the long term effects are unknown, and testing of multiple variations to chemical exposure is rarely (if ever) carried out.
Also consider that some things may never be measurable. I was recently doing some research about the onset of labour and scientific uncertainty dominates this area. No one knows exactly what sets in motion the onset of labour – uterine contractions. Sure scientific papers focus on the intrinsic factors such as the cascade of biochemical changes that soften the cervix of the uterus and coax its muscles into a synchronized action. But the ultimate source of them remains unelucidated. When does a baby in utero tell the body when (s)he is ready to start her journey into this world? We don’t exactly know. And may never know. It’s what makes the journey of growing babies so celestial.
So vaccinations, like many topics, including climate change, global warming, chemical pollution, evolution, even the onset of labour remain contested. And perhaps always will be. Scientific uncertainty is a fact!
‘But what about the terrible life-threatening diseases of polio and measles,’ I hear you say. Indeed, while young parents today did not grow up with the debilitating and often fatal diseases such as polio and measles, parents across the globe continue to speak out about the severe regression and disabilities of their children following vaccine exposure, despite the scientific evidence. Asthma, cancer, autism, allergies, autoimmune diseases and neurological disorders are all on the rise, and most people experience these ‘disorders’ and diseases in our everyday lives. As parents of today, we are certainly not immune to the health challenges of our times.
Some say that science will eventually provide a way out of these diseases and diverging vaccinations debates – but as great as science is (and I’m part of this area myself)—it is not without limitations (or hindsight). There are some big questions, many ethical, that arise for me both as a researcher and a mother that frame the vaccination debate and yet are rarely discussed. Given that today’s children under five receive 13 injections and numerous oral vaccine courses, making up a total of 45 vaccine doses throughout childhood, I wonder if our children’s children continue to be vaccinated and in even more quantities than today’s children (as has been the case for the previous generations)? And what about their children’s children? How much is enough. How many vaccinations do we have to produce before we say enough is enough. When we reach one hundred? Or two hundred? Are we a culture that just continues to produce vaccines in response to disease? Is this really a way to live? I often wonder what kind of a path we are setting up for future generations by not asking these today.
Or is there another path? Surely with all of our knowledge and resources we are capable of developing a world where prevention is the cure. If we can put a man on the moon, surely we can create a clean sustainable environment that is harmony with the natural movements of the earth and seasons and where our children don’t have to be jabbed with concoctions and chemicals? I’d like to start talking about a path that is based on prevention not reaction. That seems so worthy of attention.
The company released a statement stating they are no longer introducing new products with formaldehyde-releasing preservatives and they have reduced their use of the chemical by 60% in the US market and 33% globally over the past few years.
The Johnson and Johnson statement said: ‘We know that some consumers are concerned about formaldehyde, which is why we offer many products without formaldehyde releasing preservatives, and are phasing out these types of preservatives in our baby products worldwide’.
And whilst this is undoubtably a step in the right direction, I still find it remarkable that a company like Johnson and Johnson, a household name, can be putting in carcinogenic ingrediants into their products for generations, and will not be called to account for this by any regulatory or government bodies. It raises profound intergenerational ethical issues.
If you want to avoid formaldehyde-releasing ingredients and 1,4-dioxane, you need to know what to look for as they’re NOT listed on the label; at least not in those words.
Common ingredients likely to contaminate products with formaldehyde include:
- DMDM hydantoin
- Imidazolidinyl urea
- Diazolidinyl urea
To avoid 1,4-dioxane, watch out for these ingredients, which create 1,4-dioxane as a byproduct:
- PEG-100 stearate
- Sodium laureth sulfate
- Sodium myreth sulfate
If you want to get even more informed on this topic, CLICK HERE for the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics Report, entitled Babys Tub Is Still Toxic
This is an interview I did with the ABC last week about changes going on the chemical regulations in Australia and generally about chemicals and the human body generally. It’s about 9 minutes long. Have a listen…CLICK HERE
The Public Health Association of Australia notes that:
1. We are living in a time of large scale and high volume industrial and manufactured chemicals. Global chemical production has escalated from around one million tonnes a year in 1930 to some 400 million tonnes being produced annually today.[i] Over 80,000 chemicals are now registered for use in Australia (40,000 industrial chemicals) and accessed via everyday consumer products ranging from foods and food packaging, clothing, building materials, water, cleaning products, personal care products.[ii] Yet 75% of these have never been tested for their toxicity on the human body or the environment.[iii]
2. The backlog of internationally untested chemicals is both an Australian specific and a global issue[iv]
3. People are affected by manufactured chemicals unequally:
4. In utero and childhood exposures to environmental chemicals constitute a source of inequity between generations highlighting the need for significant ethical policy and regulations.[x]
5. Exposure to many chemicals has been linked to a range of diseases and impairments. These include asthma,[xi] [xii][xiii]allergies,[xiv] autoimmune diseases, cancers[xv][xvi]neurological impairment[xvii], birth defects and infertility.[xviii]
6. Many of the diseases caused by manufactured chemicals can successfully be prevented, thus saving lives, enhancing the quality of life, reducing health care and education costs, and increasing national productivity.[xix][xx]
7. Evidence on individual and multiple environmental exposure effects on disease initiation and outcomes, and consequent health system and societal costs are not being adequately integrated into national policy decisions and strategies for disease prevention, health care access, and health system reform.
8. Regulatory agencies in Australia do not have a clear picture of what chemicals Australian’s are exposed to and in what concentrations. This is due to limited research, data collection about chemical exposure and the regulatory framework which is based on a ‘proceed until danger is proven’ approach, rather than a precautionary principle.
9. Australian specific evidence on inutero exposure, level of harm, and increased risk from chemical exposures is insufficient.
10. Governments and regulatory agencies across the globe, including Australia, are faced with the urgent task of prioritizing chemicals for regulation and eradication. This needs to be systematically co-ordinated.
11. Individuals and communities are not being provided all available information about chemical exposures they may experience, the cumulative effects of such exposures, and how to minimize harmful exposures.
The Public Health Association of Australia affirms the following principles:
12. Australia is a signatory to the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development which states;
“In order to protect the environment, the precautionary approach shall be widely applied by States according to their capabilities. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation, a statement known as the Precautionary Principle.”[xxi]
13. Guiding principles for the Australian Charter for Environmental Health include the protection of human health. This is stated as ‘Protect human health by identifying threats posed by environmental hazards as early as possible and by introducing appropriate safeguards. Ideally these should be sustainable and cost-effective’.[xxii]
14. That the health of children and young people is important to future generations and the future of the planet. Societies have a social and ethical responsibility to ensure that children can reach and maintain their full potential and be provided with a safe, clean environment.
15. To protect the Australian population from exposure to chemical exposures, the nation needs a comprehensive, cohesive policy agenda and regulatory framework based on prevention and a precautionary principle.
16. That there are many opportunities for harmful environmental exposures, ample opportunities also exist to intervene in, ameliorate, and prevent environmental health hazards. Governments, industry, the academic and medical communities, and individuals all have untapped power to protect the health of current and future generations of Australians and reduce the national burden of disease.
The Public Health Association of Australia believes that the following steps should be undertaken:
17. A precautionary, prevention-oriented approach should replace current reactionary approaches to environmental contaminants in which human harm must be proven before action is taken to reduce or eliminate exposure. Though not applicable in every instance, this approach should be the cornerstone of prevention strategy that emphasizes primary prevention, redirects accordingly both research and policy agendas, and sets tangible goals for reducing or eliminating toxic environmental exposures.
18. That this precautionary approach be adopted and incorporated at all levels of government as a primary guide to all policy development program implementation and decision-making including health and environmental decision-making.
19. This precautionary approach shifts the burden of proving safety to manufacturers prior to new chemical approval, in mandatory post-market studies for new and existing agents, and in renewal applications for chemical approval.
20. The Australian Government must set a priority process and commence the long overdue assessment of Australia’s existing chemicals. That the detection of a chemical in human umbilical cord blood is the most urgent and hence the most appropriate criteria on which to base regulatory prioritisation of chemical assessments. Chemicals that children are exposed to prenatally and being detected in newborn babies must be fast-tracked for immediate assessment and removal from the market.
21. Reform of reducing chemical exposure will need to encompass these essential changes:
22. Epidemiologic and hazard assessment research must be strengthened in areas in which the evidence in Australia is unclear, especially research on workplace exposures, the impact of in utero and childhood exposures, and exposures that appear to have multigenerational effects.
23. Public health messages must be developed and disseminated to raise awareness of chemical risks and that support people to reduce or eliminate exposures whenever possible.
The Public Health Association of Australia resolves to undertake the following actions:
The Board, Branches and the Environmental Health and Child Health SIGs will:
24. Work in partnership with government and non-government organizations to develop and implement a comprehensive intersectoral national strategy to reduce the impact of chemical exposures on the health of Australians, especially children, the indigenous population, and people of low socioeconomic status.
25. Write to the National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC) enHealth, the Commonwealth and State/Territory ministries of health and the environment seeking support for substantial funding for research programs aimed at:
26. Advocate for the protection of children and other vulnerable groups from environmental health hazards and the inclusion of the welfare of these groups in health impact assessments and policy development on an on-going basis.
[i] Nguyen An Luong, (1997) Chemical Safety – Our Great Concern, Asian-Pacific Regional Network on Occupational Safety and Health Information (ASIA-OSH), Chemical Safety, 4 (1):3.
[ii] Landrigan, P & L Goldman (2011) Children’s Vulnerability To Toxic Chemicals: A Challenge And Opportunity To Strengthen Health And Environmental Policy, Health Affairs, 30, (5): 842 -850
[iii] Sly, P. Hanna, E. Giles-Corti, B. Immig, J & McMichael, T (2008) Environmental Threats to the Health of Children in Australia: The Need for a National Research Agenda, ARACY ARC/NHMRC Research Network.
[iv] ibid, Sly et al, 2008:18.
[v] Suzanne H. Reuben for The President’s Cancer Panel, Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now, 2008–2009 Annual Report, 2010, U.S. Department of Health and Human Servivces, National Institutes of Health National Cancer Institute, Washington DC.
[vi] Landrigan, P & L Goldman (2011) Children’s Vulnerability to Toxic Chemicals: A Challenge And Opportunity To Strengthen Health And Environmental Policy, Health Affairs, 30 (5): 842 -850
[vii] Nassar. N, Abeywardana. P, Barker. A, & Bower. C (2009) Parental occupational exposure to potential endocrine disrupting chemicals and risk of hypospadias in infants, Occup Environ Med, 67:585-589
[ix] Woodruff. TJ, Zota. AR, Schwartz. JM (2011) Environmental Chemicals in Pregnant Women in the US: NHANES 2003-2004, Environ Health Perspective, doi:10.1289/ehp.1002727. Epub 2011 Jan 14.
[x] Gilbert, S.G (2005) Ethical, Legal, and Social Issues: Our Children’s Stolen Futures, Neurotoxicology, 26: 521-530.
[xi] Al-Yaman, F. Bryant, M. & Sargeant, H. (2002) Australia’s Children: Their Health and Wellbeing, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), Canberra.
[xii] Woolcock, A. Bastiampillai, S. Marks, G. & Keena, V. (2001) The burden of asthma in Australia, Medical Journal of Australia, 175 (3):141-5.
[xiii] Mendell, M. J (2006) Indoor Residential Chemical Exposures as Risk Factors for Asthma and Allergy in Infants and Children: a Review, Environmental Energy Technologies Division Indoor Environment Department Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory See http://eetd.lbl.gov/ie/pdf/LBNL-59781.pdf (Accessed May 23, 2011)
[xiv] Kwak. E, Just. A, Whyatt. R, & Miller, R (2009) Phthalates, Pesticides, and Bisphenol-A Exposure and the Development of Nonoccupational Asthma and Allergies: How Valid Are the Links? Open Allergy J., Vol 2: 45–50.
[xv] Freedman, D. Stewart, P. Ruth, A. Kleinerman, M. Wacholder, S. Hatch, E. Tarone. R. Robison, L. & Linet, M. (2001 ) Household Solvent Exposures and Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, American Journal of Public Health, 91(4):564-567.
[xvi] Labreche F, Goldberg, M. Marie-France Valois & Louise Nadon (2010) Postmenopausal breast cancer and occupational exposures, Occup Environ Med, 67: 263-69.
[xvii] Grandjean , P. & Landrigan, P (2006) Developmental neurotoxicity of industrial chemicals, The Lancet, 368 (9553): 2167 – 2178
[xviii] Janssen, S. Solomon, G. & Schettler, T. Chemical Contaminants and Human Disease:
A Summary of Evidence See www.protectingourhealth.org/corethemes/links/2004-0203spreadsheet.htm (Accessed May 23, 2011)
[xix] op cit. Landrigan & Goldman, 2011.
[xx] Trasande. L, & Yinghua. L (2011) Reducing the Staggering Costs of Envronmental Diseaese in Children, Estimated at $76.6 billion in 2008, Health Affairs, 30, 5, 1-8.
[xxi] American Public Health Association (2001) The Precautionary Principle and Children’s Health, American Journal of Public Health, 91(3): 495-496.
[xxii] Enhealth, National Environmental Health Strategy Implementation Plan, Environmental Health Section, Department of Health and Aged Care, Canberra, 2000.
The rationale: we are birthing a generation of pre-polluted children. It’s that simple. Environmental toxicants such as methylmercury, brominated flame-retardants, dioxin, organophosphate pesticides, parabens, and other toxic pollutants are regularly detected in the blood and tissue of newborn babies, young children and women of reproductive age. While the long-term health effects of these toxicants are yet to be fully realized, what we do know, is that exposures to these toxicants have been linked with a range of ‘new childhood morbidities’ including intellectual impairments, allergenicity, neurological and behavioral disorders, cancers, congenital malformations, asthma, and preterm birth. Their presence therefore raises profound intergenerational ethical issues, not to mention cross-sectoral policy implications.
And while Australia has ratified a number of international agreements pertaining to chemicals and their regulation, such that we have some universally recognized concern for the future, it currently does not convert that concern into a recognizable moral imperative to legislate nor create a comprehensive framework for protecting children from toxic exposures. There is currently no specific legislation to protect children from environmental hazards, nor is there any national program, policy, agenda or organisation that specifically addresses children’s environmental health in Australia.
The question then is does how the public health establishment addresses these formidable challenges? Or anyone for that matter? Parents, grandparents, teachers, child care workers, psychologists, health practicioners, scientists…etc.
So I’m posting these draft policies so that you may utilise the content or references for your own use…to advance this cause…either personally or in your own organisation. Just make sure you reference them correctly.
The Public Health Association of Australia notes that:
1. Children today live in an environment that is vastly different from that of a generation ago. Technological advances, new industrial processes, increased mobility, intensified urbanism, and changes in food processing, have radically increased the manufactured chemicals (contamination produced by human activity) to which children are routinely exposed. Over 80,000 chemicals are now registered for use in Australia (40,000 industrial chemicals) and accessed via everyday consumer products ranging from foods and food packaging, clothing, building materials, cleaning products, cosmetics, toys and baby bottles.[i] Yet 75% of these have never been tested for their toxicity on the human body or the environment.[ii]
2. That children are uniquely susceptible and vulnerable to environmental hazards compared to adults is well documented.[iii][iv][v][vi][vii] Prenatal, newborn babies, and children are particularly vulnerable to chemicals due to their lower body weight, lower metabolic rates and fewer detoxifying enzymes that do not process or excrete toxins the way adults’ bodies do.[viii][ix] They digest more food[x][xi] and water,[xii] and breathe more than adults per kilo of body weight.[xiii] They have a higher skin surface area to body weight ration than adults, and their skin of children is more permeable resulting in enhanced absorption of chemicals.[xiv] Physiologically, children dwell closer to the ground exposing them to residues from gardens, car exhausts, flooring and carpets, and can experience sustained exposure due to their restricted mobility.[xv]
3. Exposures to environmental chemicals play a significant role in developmental and environmental illnesses that our children are now experiencing today including cancers, diabetes, asthma, generalised immune disorders, obesity, autism, asthma, and neurological and behavioural conditions.[xvi][xvii][xviii][xix][xx][xxi] Many of these diseases triggered by toxic chemicals are now understood to evolve through multistage, multiyear processes that may be initiated by exposures in infancy.[xxii]
4. Babies are being born pre-polluted with a range of manufactured chemicals. Prenatal (inutero) exposure and the associated links to disease is widely documented.[xxiii]
5. It is recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU), Canada, the USA and many other countries that environmental hazards to children are a significant global health problem. The WHO recommended more than a decade ago that when health risks from chemicals are evaluated, the special characteristics of infants and children must be recognized.[xxiv][xxv] The EU, Canada and the US are taking critical actions to address children’s chemical exposure.
6. Despite children’s extensive exposures and heightened vulnerability to environmental toxins, there is currently no coherent research or policy agenda in Australia which protects children from chemical hazards and ensures that Australian children will grow up in a safe, healthy, clean environment. There is also no national program or organisation that specifically addresses children’s environmental health in Australia. This leaves a gap which heightens the vulnerability of Australian populations, and children in particular, to chemical exposure.[xxvi]
7. Diseases caused by manufactured chemicals can successfully be prevented. This would save lives, enhance quality of life, reduce health care and education costs, and increase national productivity.[xxvii]
8. The current paradigm for risk assessment and risk management of chemicals in Australia places the chemical toxicant at the centre of the discussion (data about health effects, routes of exposure, mechanisms of action, permissible exposure level) rather than the child.
9. There is a compelling case for reviewing our approach to child environmental health in Australia, as reflected in governmental, professional and community-based policies and practices.
The Public Health Association of Australia affirms the following principles:
10. That every child has a right to an environment which is clean and safe.
11. That the health of children and young people is important to the health of future generations. Societies have a social and ethical responsibility to ensure that children are provided with opportunities that optimise their health and wellbeing.
12. That children must have protective and preventative policies and regulations in order to significantly reduce exposure and the burden of disease in Australia.
13. That children, not the chemical toxicant, must be at the centre of any risk assessment and risk management processes and policy development in Australia.
14. That Federal, State, Local government, private sector and industry need to work together to ensure that resources are made available, and used effectively, to address children’s environmental health.
The Public Health Association of Australia believes that the following steps should be undertaken:
15. That a thorough assessment of existing Australian policies take place, and take sufficient account of the many different types and levels of environmental risks to children, how these impinge differentially within the Australian child population (as a function of geography, socioeconomic position, ethnicity and other social-demographic indices) and whether such policies are being effectively implemented.
16. That a new paradigm for developing environmental health policy centered on the needs and exposures of children be established.
17. That this new child-centered paradigm in environmental health include the following:
That these starting points be accomplished through a variety of means including changes in legislation, regulation, and agency appropriations.
The Public Health Association of Australia resolves to undertake the following actions:
18. Meet with the National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC), enHealth, the Commonwealth and State/Territory ministries of health and the environment and ARACY, in securing support for substantial funding for a Children’s Environmental Health Research Centre and Network for Children’s Environmental Health.
19. To work towards establishing a Research Centre specifically focused on children’s environmental health. That this Research Centre focus on:
20. To work towards establishing a Network for Children’s Environmental Health consisting of researchers, clinicians, government and NGOs and consumers.
21. Work in partnership with government and non-government organizations to develop and implement a comprehensive intersectoral national strategy to reduce the impact of environmental hazards on the health of Australian children.
[i] Landrigan, P & L Goldman (2011) Children’s Vulnerability To Toxic Chemicals: A Challenge And Opportunity To Strengthen Health And Environmental Policy, Health Affairs, 30, no.5: 842 -850
[ii] Sly, P. Hanna, E. Giles-Corti, B. Immig, J & McMichael, T (2008) Environmental Threats to the Health of Children in Australia: The Need for a National Research Agenda, ARACY ARC/NHMRC Research Network
[iii] Faustman EM, Silbernagel SM, Fenske RA, et al. (2000) Mechanisms underlying children’s susceptibility to environmental toxicants, Environ Health Perspect, 108(1):13-21
[iv] Dourson, M. Charnley, G. Scheuplein, R. & Barkhurst, M. (2004) Chemicals & Drugs Risk Assessment: Differential Sensitivity of Children and Adults to Chemical Toxicity, Human and Ecological Risk Assessment, 10 (1): 21-27.
[v] Barr, D.B., Wang, R.Y., & Needham, L.L. (2005) Biologic Monitoring of Exposure to Environmental Chemicals throughout the Life Stages: Requirements and Issues for Consideration for the National Children’s Study, Environ Health Perspect, 113(8):1083-91.
[vi]Needham, LL. Özkaynak, H. Whyatt, RM. Barr, DB. Wang, RY. Naeher, L. et al. (2005) Exposure assessment in the National Children’s Study: Introduction, Environ Health Perspect, 113(8):1076–1082
[vii] Grandjean, P & Landrigan, P. (2006) Developmental neurotoxicity of industrial chemicals, The Lancet, 368 (9553) 2167 – 2178
[viii] Dourson, M. Charnley, G. Scheuplein, R. & Barkhurst, M. (2004) Chemicals & Drugs Risk Assessment: Differential Sensitivity of Children and Adults to Chemical Toxicity, Human and Ecological Risk Assessment, 10 (1): 21-27
[ix] Vorhees, C. & Bellinger, D. (2005) Protecting Children from Environmental Toxins, PLoS Medicine, 2 (3)203–208.
[x] Karr, CJ. & Solomon, GM. (2007) Health Effects of Common Home, Lawn, and Garden Pesticides, Pediatr Clin North America, 2007;54(1):63-80
[xi] Penel, N. & Vansteene, D (2007) Cancers and pesticides, Bull Cancer, 94(1):15-22
[xii] Goldman, L. (1995) Environmental Risks Facing Children and Recommendations for Response, Environ Health Perspect, 103, (S6):16
[xiii] Op cit Dourson, Charnley, et al. 2004.
[xiv] Eichenfield, S. & Hardaway, C. (1999) Neonatal dermatology, Current Opinion in Pediatrics, 11: 471-4.
[xv] Fenske. R, Black. K, Elkner. K, Lee. C, Methner. M, & Soto. R. (1984) Potential exposure and health risks of infants following indoor residential pesticide applications, American Journal of Public Health, 80: 689-693.
[xvi] Weiss, B. (2000) Vulnerability of children and the developing brain to neurotoxic hazards, Environmental Health Perspectives, 108 (Suppl 3):375-81.
[xvii] Giles-Corti B, Macintyre S, Clarkson JP, Pikora T, Donovan RJ. Environmental and lifestyle factors associated with overweight and obesity in Perth, Australia. American Journal of Health Promotion. 2003;18(1):93-102.
[xviii] Choi, SM. Yoo, SD. & Lee, BM. (2004) Toxicological characteristics of endocrine-disrupting chemicals: developmental toxicity, carcinogenicity, and mutagenicity, J Toxicol Environ Health B Crit Rev, 7(1):1-24.
[xix] Weselak, M. Arbuckle, TE. & Wigle, DT. (2006) In utero pesticide exposure and childhood morbidity, Environ Res. 103(1): 79-86.
[xx] Landrigan, PJ. & Garg, A. (2004) ‘Children are not little adults’, in de Garbino, JP (ed), Children’s health and the environment: A global perspective, A Resource Manual For The Health Sector, Geneva: WHO; Chap 2:3-16.
[xxi] Heindel, J J. (2007) Role of exposure to environmental chemicals in the developmental basis of disease and dysfunction, Reproductive Toxicology, April-May, 23(3):257-9.
[xxii] Landrigan PJ, Sonawane B, Butler RN, Trasande L, Callan R, Droller D. Early environmental origins of neurodegenerative disease in later life. Environ Health Perspect. 2005; 113:1230–3.
[xxiii] Op cit Landrigan, & Goldman, 2011: 845
[xxiv] WHO International Programme on Chemical Safety, Principles for Evaluating Health Risks From Chemicals During Infancy and Early Childhood: The Need for a Special Approach, Environmental Health Criteria 59, World Health Organization, 1986: 24
[xxv] WHO, Global Plan of Action for Children’s Health and the Environment (2010 – 2015) Discussion Paper, 2009. See http://www.who.int/ceh/en/
This is some excerpts of an interview with Stacy Malkin, author of the award winning publication Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry and one of the organizers of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. She is one of the leading experts on toxic chemicals in beauty products and chemical regulatory policies, and is frequently interviewed by major media outlets including the New York Times, USA Today and Washington Post. We met in Berkeley, San Francisco a few weeks ago.
Sarah: How did you get into the field of cosmetics and chemicals?
Stacy: I was a reporter for many years and I got into this area of chemical impacts via pesticides actually. I lived in Colorado – beautiful scenic mountain views and forests; and our local community officials were planning to spray pesticides onto our parklands and public spaces to control the weeds. So the community came together around this issue at a community meeting. Nearly 200 people turned up which for a small mountainous community was huge. The meeting started and these very earnest city workers started the meeting off with a film. It was a slick presentation about how the weeds would destroy the natural ecosystem as we knew if we didn’t do something. And they believed the safe, happy solution was to spray chemicals to control the weeds. Then the credits of the film came on and it highlighted that the film was made by Dow Chemicals and Dupont. These companies had a major strategy of going after County’s in Colorado with these anti-weed programs, and they in fact also had it put into the State law that they had to control weeds. The whole thing was insidious. So at that point, the meeting erupted, people freaked out and they were yelling at the workers. It was really dramatic. The city workers were obviously very confused but as a reporter I was thrilled because I was looking for a good story. I had a little time, so I further investigated the issue, and went out with these weed guys. It became clear that they knew everything about weeds, but they knew absolutely nothing – zero – about the chemicals they were spraying.
Then I started asking about what they currently use around the parks and golf courses and they told me – Roundup. They said “It must be safe, you can get it in Walmark”. They just had no idea.
So I essentially play the role of storyteller. I work with academics and scientists and try and work out ways to tell this incredible story – and make it sellable and accessible.
Campaign for Safe Cosmetics – Bipartisan Support
Sarah: The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and Coalition has had a lot of success since its inception in 2004 and has been taken up a broad spectrum of people spanning a range of differing political ideologies.
Stacy: The Campaign crosses all political parties. If people are interested in their health, or those of their family, then it’s an issue for them! The problem we experience is most people think that the chemical industry here in the US is regulated. That shocks everybody when they find out that its not remotely regulated. I don’t know why, but people have this built in expectation that the government it protecting us. Even those people who are critical of the government still think that they are protecting us in this area. People don’t put a lot of thought into this obviously.
Sarah: Where do you think these beliefs and expectations come from?
Stacy: I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this. I think there is such an intense training from such an early age. I call it ‘corporate consumer training’ – through the education system, the media, employment and training. It’s beaten into us on a subconscious level via. People have such a blind faith in the market. I think the toxic story, the pollution in blood cord and newborn babies that is showing up, is a wake-up call for many people. It’s the alarm bell that shifts people out of that story that we can just trust these companies and trust that we are being protected.
Sarah: Tell me about the demographics of people involved in the campaign here in the US.
Stacy: It’s primarily being driven by lot of parents, and moms in particular. There are so many children growing up with severe allergies and the doctor’s just can’t help them. In fact no one is able to help them. So they have to figure out a way to help themselves. I fell like there is a bit of an awakening that is happening – but its still under the radar.
Environmental Health Policy
Sarah: Recently the US Congress has had some hearings on the issue of chemicals and children. Many experts in the field have provided their stories, and the research is conclusive – chemicals can severely impact the body. What do you think will translate in this area in in terms of policy?
Stacy: So there’s the bill that Senator Frank Lautenberg introduced this week – ‘The Safe Chemicals Act’ which will reform the current Toxic Chemicals Act which is the main law which governs industrial chemicals in the US. There’s a separate law that deals with pesticides, which is slightly better, but still obviously failing to protect public health. Right now there are a lot of organizations working together to reforming the toxic chemicals law that was passed in the 1970’s and completely outdated. This deals with the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). The law as it currently stands is largely a front for the chemical industry to do whatever they feel like doing. They get to put the chemicals into the environment and into consumer products without any accountability; without any concern for health or environmental impacts. Health problems are inevitably starting to crop up and then its left up to consumers and governments,to prove without a shadow of a doubt that it is indeed the chemicals that are doing the harm. Which is ridiculous when there is no requirements for industry to study the impacts. In this system, ignorance is rewarded and allowed to continue.
Sarah: So there is obviously a lot of talk at the moment, do you think that will translate into actual concrete changes?
Stacy: If the Democrats were smart they would take up this issue. It’s a winnable issue. It could be THE issue that they could win on. It’s a non-partisan issue and there is a lot of support on chemical reform. And there will be reforms of some kind because the chemical industry is also pushing for reform. They recognize they are losing the public vote on this. They also recognize that the laws are outdated. So change will happen. What it comes down to then is how progressive the laws will actually be.
Women and consumer groups in the USA
Sarah: Tell me about your consumer groups and organisations here. They are certainly bigger than in Australia and NZ and seem to have a lot more power in making change in this area.
Stacy: Yes, I think consumer change is critical and then the laws follow. That is why consumers and the market shift can be so powerful. I think in this the toxics debate, the power lies primarily (but not solely) with women. And that is my focus because I think women have the most power on this issue. Women buy most of the consumer products. About 85% of consumer decisions in the home are made by woman. We’re also 54% of the vote; and 60% of college graduate in the United States. So I think there is the power of women that can be tapped into and environmental health is certainly a significant issue that can generate action.
Sarah: In Australia we don’t often talk about environmental health in this way, as a women’s, or a feminist issue, for that matter.
Stacy: You don’t hear about it here either actually because of the backlash against the women’s movement. And the word ‘feminism’ is still not cool. ‘We have already won’, they say. And yet this is clearly an issue that we have not won. In fact it’s getting worse. We have polluted women (and men, but differently so); polluted pregnant women; and polluted babies. It is a feminist issue. How can it not be.
Sarah: That’s a great chapter in a book!
Stacy on the health care system
Sarah: Tell me about your health care system here. How are health professionals in the US responding to environmental health and the pollution within?
Stacy: People put so much faith in doctors. And yet still don’t train in this area, and so have very limited knowledge in this area. We find nurses much better in terms of wanting to do ‘prevention’.
Sarah: What are the big health issues you are witnessing here in the US in relation to environmental contamination?
Stacy: Allergies are huge. Allergies of all kind. And growing.
Sarah: Eczema is certainly an issue that I get asked about.
Stacy: I’ve spoken to a lot of dermatologists who have done a lot of studies on eczema and they argue there is not such thing as eczema. It’s an allergy. The body is having an allergic reaction in most cases. People are exposing themselves to something they are allergic to and if you remove the source of the allergen, then it gives the body time to heal. Never mind steroid creams.
I was doing an interview with a paediatrician in Alaska recently and this issue came up. Formaldehyde came up as a substance directly related to eczema. And formaldehyde is in everything. And if you have an acute exposure you become sensitive to so many things and you develop severe chemical sensitivity. And most people don’t know about this. They have never thought about eczema as an allergic reaction.
About the Precautionary Principle
Sarah: What are your views on the Precautionary Principle?
Stacy: It’s essentially means getting more chemicals tested before they are introduced. And that can only be a good thing. In the EU where it being introduced, chemicals that are liberally applied here in our personal care products and everyday goods are being banned there. Most recently it’s been dibutal phthalates*, but not in all uses. So what they are doing in the EU will be really usefully for us here in the US. We can make better decisions this way and with the most recent information we have. One thing that did concern me though is that when the EU REACH legislation came in, the NGO Toxics Programs simply disappeared. It was like ‘we’ve won this one as much as we can, so lets move on’. But we still have so far to go on this issue.
Here in the US no one like those words ‘precautionary principle’. We talk a lot about ‘exercising free will’ with the ‘free market’, so the precautionary principle language is confronting to people.
And the reality is, we may never be able to prove some of the health problems that are occurring. We may not be ever able to prove cancer – there are so many possibly and multiple causes, and cancer may take 20 years to develop. So wouldn’t it be better to talk about prevention rather than finding that one ‘cancer cause’.
Ethics and environmental health
Sarah: When we see research that shows that newborn babies are being born with a whole range of chemicals inside of the – before they take their first breath in the world – what do you think are our ethical obligations here as a society?
Stacy: Tresspass. It’s blatant trespass. It’s corporations putting their products in my child before they are even born. It’s a shocking issue! It’s an ethical issue! The problem is there is no moral or ethical framework with a corporate free trade system. There is no component for this. Their primary purpose is to make profits, and ethics may or may not come after this. Usually not. And that’s insane. It’s an insane system. And it always comes down to the same argument about why this is happening. It’s legal! It’s in our laws.
So when people ask me ‘what should I buy’ I’m almost past the point of looking at companies. I think the bigger issue is an understanding of companies and who they are and what they are doing. Because the reality is, even if you buy all organic products for your home, your children are still going to be polluted via schools, or parks, or store, or the water supply. They are using atropine in the fields. They are using Teflon in our clothing.
So the question comes down to, how do we change these systems?
And I think it comes down to is how we spend our money and our lives – being a conscious consumer and getting active in our communities. This is where Mom’s are great. And this is where young women can be particularly powerful because they are connected to schools and campus’s. And there is such a hunger for this knowledge. This is where women can have a real impact on their communities.
Future for the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics
Sarah: What plans have you got for the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics?
Stacy: We’re really focused on Federal Policy at the moment. And we will continue to do that. But we also need to work with young women to raise their consciousness on this issue. And we need to work with each other. Lift the veil on this. And with this lifting comes freedom. I’m interested in bringing women to that point. Free from toxic messages and toxic products. And when you start on this process, ie getting away from toxic substances from their lives women start feeling better. Your health improves. There is a huge percentage of people in society who are sensitive to chemicals, around 30%. Giving them this information gives them freedom – gives them relief.
Dibutal phthalates* – Uased in fragrances; plasticizer; solvent. The State of California and other authoritative bodies have classified dibutyl phthalate (DBP) as a reproductive and developmental toxicant, and the European Union banned the use of this ingredient in cosmetics and personal care products. In animal studies, exposure to DBP during gestation causes infertility, cryptorchidism and problems in sperm development, adverse effects similar to human testicular dysgenesis syndrome. Prenatal exposure to DBP has been associated with anatomical changes in the reproductive system development in baby boys. In adult men, DBP has been correlated with changes in serum hormone levels, lower sperm concentration and motility, and decreased fertility.
Thankyou Stacy for this interview!
It’s exciting to be here in the US while there is movement (or at least much discussion) in the policy area of children and chemicals.
Signaling their clear intention to protect families from toxic chemicals linked to serious health problems, Senators Frank Lautenberg, Barbara Boxer, Amy Klobuchar, Charles Schumer and others today introduced the “Safe Chemicals Act” to upgrade America’s outdated system for managing chemical safety. (See above video announcement from Senator Frank Lautenberg)
The Act responds to increasingly forceful warnings from scientific and medical experts – including the President’s Cancer Panel – that current policies have failed to curtail common chemicals linked to diseases such as cancer, learning disabilities, infertility, and more. The Senate’s Safe Chemicals Act builds on momentum from 18 states that have passed laws to address health hazards from chemicals; and numerous corporate policies of major American companies restricting toxic chemicals.
The Safe Chemicals Act would overhaul the 35-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which is widely perceived to have failed to protect public health and the environment. Specifically the Act would:
Passed in 1976, TSCA’s presumption that chemicals should be considered innocent until proven guilty was a sharp departure from the approach taken with pharmaceuticals and pesticides. Since then, an overwhelming body of science has shown that presumption to be unfounded. Published studies in peer-reviewed journals have shown many common chemicals can cause chronic diseases and can be toxic even at low doses.
Once thought to pose little likelihood of exposure, we now know many chemicals migrate from the materials and products in which they’re used – including furniture, plastics and food cans – into our bodies. The federal Centers for Disease Control has found that the blood or tissues of almost every American carry hundreds of these chemicals, some present even before birth. Yet under TSCA, EPA cannot restrict even the most dangerous of these chemicals and lacks the information it needs to evaluate how this complex mixture of chemicals affects our health. EPA has been able to require testing of only a few hundred of the 62,000 chemicals that have been on the market since TSCA was passed 35 years ago, a number that has increased to over 100,000 chemicals today, and in such massive quantities.
Lets see what the US Congress does from here…..
[Information from our friends at Safer Chemicals- Healthy Families]
Our friends at the National Toxics Network (NTN) have just released a briefing paper on the chemicals used in the drilling and extraction of coal seam gas (CSG) in Australia. NTN is calling on state and federal Governments to urgently introduce a moratorium on all drilling and fracking chemicals until they have been independently assessed by the federal regulator. (NB. Frac jobs or frac’ing in the industry, with the spelling ‘fracking‘ being common in media reports, is a process that results in the creation of fractures in rocks).
Fracking chemicals are complex mixtures of chemicals. ‘Despite industry claims that fracking chemicals are ‘only used in small quantities’ and are all ‘food grade chemicals used in household chemicals’, the NTN has discovered that hazardous chemicals such as ethylene glycol, formamide, naphthalene, ethoxylated nonylphenol and sodium persulfate are commonly used in fracking mixtures
Lead author of the report, Dr Mariann Lloyd Smith said, ’Our investigation found that of 23 common fracking chemicals used in Australia, only 2 have ever been assessed by NICNAS, Australia’s industrial chemicals regulator. The two that were assessed, have never been assessed for use as fracking chemicals’.
Constituents of fracking fluids are often considered ‘trade secrets’ and not revealed to the public.
’Risk assessments for specific CSG projects in Queensland lacked basic information on the chemicals. The ones we were able to identify concerned us because of their significant potential to cause damage to the environment and human health. Some were linked with cancer and birth defects, while others damaged the hormone system of living things and affected aquatic species at very low levels.’
Images: Demonstrations again fracking are going on accross the world. Fraking has been known to contaminate drinking water, food crops and are linked to numerous illnesses.
We ordered a kids meal for Adiva on our flight over to New Zealand for Christmas. We were initially reluctant given the notoriously bad quality of food on planes, and usually opt to bring our own food (or Jase and I often fast for the duration of the trip), but Adiva wanted to order a meal and have the experience of eating a meal on the plane ‘just like everyone else’. So we ordered her a meal.
She found it a very funny meal.
‘Hey, its all kind of the same colour’, she said of first impressions, ‘Kind of grey whitish’.
‘And mum, what is this?’ she said picking up a chicken nugget that was immersed in the mashed potato and cauliflower puree.
She ate the cheese and crackers and the chocolate.
I must admit, I am still confounded by the western model of ‘kids meals’. Not just on airlines, but in restaurants and café’s. Somehow being a kid means that you qualify for more processed, low nutrient, high sugar and fat, less diverse, meals than if you are an adult. Why do we think that children will eat a chicken nugget instead of chicken? Fish-fingers instead of fish? Boxed cereal instead of Bircher muesli? Chips instead of potatoes? Syrupy fruit cups instead of fruit?
Historically, children have usually been the first ones to select from the choicest part of the meal. This practice acknowledged their growing bodies and need for special nutrients. Where did that tradition go? What happened that children now get the least choicest meals?
Sure we may need to cater for palates that are mild, might eat more frequently and with smaller portions, but we surely can do better than this.
‘But I don’t see that it is the restaurants responsibility’ a friend of mine argues. ‘It’s a business after all, and the return has to be worth the time and money invested in offering any product. Typical kids menus have evolved to what they are today as a result of what sells’.
So who’s responsibility is it? And surely there is an ethical issue about food being less about making profits and more about nutrition and growing the next generation of healthy kids?
What are all those chemicals in your shampoo? your lipstick? your aftershave? And what do they have to do with asthma, cancer and learning disabilities? Get to the ugly truth with The Story of Cosmetics, a new short film from the Story of Stuff Project.
The Story of Cosmetics, examines the pervasive use of toxic chemicals in our everyday personal care products, from lipstick to baby shampoo. Produced by Free Range Studios and hosted by Annie Leonard, the 7-minute film reveals the implications for consumer and worker health and the environment, and outlines ways we can move the industry away from hazardous chemicals and towards safer alternatives.
The film was made in close partnership with our friends from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. We will be interviewing these fabulous people next year as part of our research for our new book. Until then, enjoy the film!
In my post-doc, I’m currently examining how Australia, the US, and the European Union regulates everyday chemicals. The EU introduced the REACH (Regulation, Evaluation, Authorisation, and Restriction of Chemical Substances) in 2007. Manufacturers and importers are now required to gather information on the properties of their chemical substances, and to register the information in a central database run by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). The REACH legislators are now evaluating thousands of chemicals for their safety. Many will be removed or phased out from everyday use. This approach is so far removed from where we are here in Australia, with little or no change in the area of chemical legislation on the horizon. CNN reporter Dr. Sanjay Gupta recently did a report on the regulation of chemicals. Here is the report (sorry about the ad prior to the report. It’s in the embed and I couldn’t get rid of it):
I loved this book. It’s not so much that the information is new to me, but that the writing is authentic, genuine, and committed to raising the profile of the everyday noxious chemicals we’re all marinating in. I also related to this book – written from one parent to another. It’s accessible. It’s a story…
The authors, Bruce Lourie, started one of Canada’s largest environmental consultancies, while Rick Smith is the current Executive Director of Canada’s Environmental Defence. In 2008 they shut themselves away and used their bodies as testing laboratories, to see how many toxins were in the every day products we use. Scientific experts helped them test for seven chemicals, to see how levels increased after nearly a week of living with everyday household products – from toothpaste to non-stick frying pans and tuna.
Listen to their interview with ABC ClassicFM. It’s great! And I would recommend the book!
Lots going on at the moment with the US Kids-Safe Chemical Act. Like here in Australia, under the current federal law called the Toxic Substances Control Act, chemicals are allowed on the market with virtually no safety testing and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has almost no powers to protect public health. As a result, babies are born with hundreds of industrial chemicals in their bodies, many of which are suspected of contributing to health problems. The Kid-Safe Chemicals Act aims to change that by requiring that all chemicals be proven safe for children before they can be sold. CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports on the lack of regulation of chemicals used consumer products.
For people in the US, sign the petition to tell congress that you support the Kid Safe Chemical Act. CLICK HERE
Join our elist to receive a FREE BOOK CHAPTER from our best-selling book Chemical Free Kids: Raising Healthy Children in a Toxic World. Additionally you will occassionally receive special offers to assist you to make healthier consumer choices for you, your kids and your family.
My resume looks something like this: mama, university lecturer and researcher [currently at the University of Queensland], nutritionist, writer, author, presenter, health coach, ethical business consultant, and all round chemical conscious parenting nut.
Along with our research grants, our Certified Organic Business allows us to expand Chemical Free Kids, conduct research, and explore conscious parenting, deliberate, non-toxic living. The products are raw, certified organic, potent and made fresh!
For more information, please email us: email@example.com