The Case for Concern—What's in that Product?
What is in that product? Is it safe? Can my hair color cause breast cancer? How can I find a conditioner that does not sting my eyes?
How can I tell which bathroom cleaner brand is gentlest and safest? Will the synthetic chemicals, hormones, and pesticides contaminating some foods and beverages give me cancer? Is this apple juice safe for my baby?
What about genetically engineered food? Is it safe? What is genetically engineered food, anyway?
And are organically grown foods truly safer and healthier than those grown with pesticides?
These are some of the questions consumers ask most often when shopping for foods, beverages, cosmetics, personal care products, and household products.
We all use them. We all need them. They include the myriad cleaners, deodorizers, polishers, fabric protectants, glues, paints, pesticides, cosmetics, and personal care products that we use daily.
Yet, shoppers share an escalating concern for making sound shopping decisions that will bring them the safest household products, cosmetics, and foods and beverages.
Of course, we all know about some of the most commonly cited health maladies that have been linked to consumer products, which include:
- Allergic reactions
- Breathing difficulty
- Dizziness, lethargy, confusion
- Dry, roughened hands
- Eye irritation
But in recent years the public is beginning to recognize that foods and beverages, together with other consumer products, contain undisclosed ingredients and contaminants that pose hidden, long-term health hazards.
Risks of twenty different environmental problems were compared for their relative threat to human health in a 1989 Environmental Protection Agency report. Indoor air pollution and pesticide residues on foods posed were identified as two of the greatest health risks. Today, these concerns continue to be important.
A National Academy of Sciences workshop concluded that some 15 percent of the American population suffers from chemical sensitivity. Researchers have traced this increased sensitivity to the proliferation of synthetic chemicals in consumer products and furnishings.
Residues of more than four hundred toxic chemicals—some found in household products and foods—have been identified in human blood and fat tissue. Some of these toxins cause cancer and nervous system damage, as well as disupt the neuroendocrine system. Others cause birth defects and other damaging reproductive effects.
At least some 4 percent of leukemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma cases in the U.S. general population may be associated with exposure to hair color products. Other experts put the proportion of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma cases among women in particular, attributable to their use of hair dyes, at 20 percent.
The risk for leukemia increases by four to seven times for children, ages ten and under, whose parents use home or garden pesticides.
The risk of childhood brain cancer is associated with the use of pesticide “bombs” in the home, pesticides to control termites, flea collars on pets, insecticides in the garden or orchard, and herbicides to control weeds, including exposure to two common pesticides available in garden shops, carbaryl and diazinon.