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Toxic Chemicals Out, Safer Alternatives In

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There are more toxins and pollutants in foods, products, air, and water than ever before.

Environmentalists, holistic healthcare practitioners, wellness therapists, and organic farmers have discussed and written extensively about the necessity of eliminating toxic chemicals from the foods we eat and products we put on our bodies, as well as reducing our exposure to pollutants in the water we drink and the air we breathe. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has been on the forefront of educating the public about how eliminating and/reducing exposure to these toxins is not just better for the planet, but also for the health and wellbeing of its inhabitants. More and more studies are revealing that “these chemicals are suspected carcinogens or hormone system disruptors.”

The EWG has been referred to as “tree-huggers” and “conspiracy theorists” by people and organizations who claim that there is no way government agencies such as the FDA and EPA would allow American people to ingest or be exposed to these toxins. However, as more people get sick and are not getting cured by allopathic medicine (traditional “Western” medicine), they are starting to wonder if this is really the case. Many of these individuals have done their own research, and have found relief of symptoms by making dietary and lifestyle changes in an effort to eliminate toxins and reduce exposure; and many of them have started their own organizations and/or blogs to spread the word.

So why aren’t more people making changes?

The biggest problem is that people want to be able to trust their doctors, pharmacists, and especially their government to keep them safe. Another problem is that many Americans are creatures of habit, and in order to eliminate toxins and reduce exposure, changes in purchasing habits, meals, and lifestyle are necessary. Many people resist change, and would rather live their lives the same way they always have thinking “that won’t happen to me”, or “these people are fanatics”.

Another very legitimate reason people resist changing their habits is that unfortunately, buying all natural and organic foods and safe personal care and household cleaning products costs more than buying conventional chemical-ridden products. Many people were hit hard by the economy, and are still experiencing hardships. To them, the idea of buying organic meat for a few dollars more than the conventional meat just isn’t a possibility, regardless of what antibiotics, steroids, hormones, growth factors, pesticides, and other toxins may be present.

All of this needs to change.

The reason prices are so high for these products is basic Economy 101: supply and demand. The more people demand these products, the more companies will start producing them. The more competition there is, the more farmers, manufacturers, and stores will be forced to lower their prices. The only way for the demand to increase is through education.

Change is starting to happen.

Even Allopathic (“Western”) doctors, who typically focus on treating symptoms and illnesses rather than addressing the causes are starting to shift gears. According to David Christiani, M.D., M.P.H., “in developed countries like the United States, as much as 85 to 95 percent of many cancers would be prevented by eliminating environmental factors.” Christiani, along with other medical doctors, believes that “stronger environmental laws and regulations to require pre-marketing safety testing, reduce industry influence on regulation, and control the importation of toxic chemicals and products” are imperative.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) has recently proposed the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011, as a much needed update of the largely ineffective Toxic Substances Control Act that was passed in 1976. According to the EWG, the new law “would require chemicals to be tested against a standard that protects the most vulnerable among us, including children. It proposes the same safety standard that has already proved effective and feasible when determining the safety of pesticides.” The current and outdated law has only restricted or banned five toxic substances over the last 35 years, and has ignored some of the most proven carcinogenic and other disease-causing substances, such as asbestos.

In the cosmetics industry, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has gained quite a bit of momentum, and has done a great job educating people both online and offline. Even the mainstream publication Glamour magazine has published a risky article exposing the risks of toxic chemicals such as parabens, phthalates, and sulfates in cosmetic products.

Join in and do the wave…

I feel the proverbial ice has been broken…and the sooner more people become aware of the need for updated legislation on the regulation of chemicals, the more will get involved and spread the word. Like an audience doing “the wave” at a stadium, this paradigm shift was started by a handful of brave “tree huggers”…but it is quickly catching on…and soon enough everyone’s hands will be in the air.

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About Rachael Pontillo

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    “Many people resist change, and would rather live their lives the same way they always have thinking “that won’t happen to me”, or “these people are fanatics”.”

    Or that the regulations for “organic” foods aren’t strict and those companies who produce organic goods want to charge me 3 bucks for a cucumber even though that cucumber might not be 100% pesticide free.
    In fact, a lot of those “organic” foods are produced by the same companies who make non-organic foods.

    Yes, ultimately, the resistance to change comes from the wallet not the mind…

  • http://elephantseyegarden.blogspot.com/ Elephant’s Eye

    Supply and demand? Not only. The US and the EU have huge subsidies for agriculture, making the products appear cheaper to the consumer. Who forgets he is also the taxpayer supplying the subsidy to the farmers.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/rachael-pontillo/ Rachael Pontillo

    To my knowledge, the USDA’s National Organic Program’s regulations for foods and products labeled as 100% organic are pretty strict. There are several criteria that farmers and manufacturers must meet to be able to apply for certification by one of their approved certification agencies, and once they have been certified they have to pass an inspection every year to keep the certification. The approved certifying agencies have their own strict policies as well. Of course the USDA is a government agency, so it will have its issues with regulation just like any other government agency will, but I know of several companies who are choosing to label their foods and products a “pesticide-free” or “all natural”, rather than going through the difficult process and high cost of getting certified as organic.

    I completely understand that “the resistance to change comes from the wallet not the mind” and I did address that in the article. Times are hard, and all these costs add up. That doesn’t change the fact that these chemicals are dangerous, and costs and prices won’t go down until demand goes up. And while these products are more expensive in the short term, to me, you can’t put a price on good health in the long term.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    For the most part, I agree with you,BUT…
    The USDA’s National Organic Program’s regulations are based on the “Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) of 1990″ which allows for “Botanical” pesticides. Considering this set of regulations was set in 1990, what kind of plant-made pesticides (if still available) are these “organic” companies using that would be any less harmful then the up-to-date, regulated & man-made pesticides that the non-organic companies use? What’s even more worry-some is that these standards haven’t been updated in 20 years?!

    Do you think that because people easily buy into the safety that organic foods supposedly offer that the USDA isn’t as strict because the spotlight is still on the non-organic companies’ actions??

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/rachael-pontillo/ Rachael Pontillo

    I have to say I think all the government agencies need to be stricter with their regulations of chemicals and toxins, as well as pharmaceuticals; and I agree with you that the standards should be updated MUCH more frequently. Even though the system is far from perfect, I still think organic is a better option than conventional. But for sure, 20 year old regulations are ridiculous…I hope the new toxic chemical law passes and that others are put forth soon so that all manufacturers are forced to only use safe ingredients and practices. But I don’t think they will unless and until the people demand it. I feel like these government agencies have been operating under “what they don’t know won’t hurt them”, which couldn’t be further from the truth.