Toxics in Our Lives

Toxics in our livesCancer, learning disabilities, and reproductive problems are on the rise, taking a toll on the health of many American families. Yet, chemicals known to cause each of these problems are widely used in products each of us use everyday.

Studies have found that each one of us now has several hundred toxic chemicals in his or her body. We are exposed to chemicals on a daily basis through the air we breathe outside and inside our homes, the food we eat, the water we drink, and what we absorb through our skin. Many of the chemicals we are exposed to come from everyday products we use in our home, like toys, skin creams and cosmetics, or at work, like computers and office furniture.

Polls show that voters - especially women – want lead and other chemicals out of children’s toys and other products. Parents are alarmed that even though it’s well-established that lead is harmful to children. They are alarmed by the presence of harmful toxic chemicals in humans. Voters want their communities to be protected from preventable health problems, particularly those that affect children and fetuses, whom are more vulnerable to toxic exposures.

State and federal government action to eliminate “bad actor” chemicals from products while encouraging the use of safer alternative chemicals can help protect our health and the health of our children. Safer alternatives to many toxic chemicals are available right now, and can and should be substituted when found effective and affordable.

Prevention is the best solution. Throughout history, disease prevention strategies such as water disinfection and vaccinations have succeeded in nearly eradicating contagious diseases, like smallpox and polio, which once plagued entire generations.

We know that we can help prevent diseases from asthma to cancer by eliminating the use of the most toxic chemicals. There is no doubt that an effective way to prevent cancer, including breast and other cancers, is to eliminate exposure to cancer-causing substances. Yet, the national system for regulating toxic chemicals is so dysfunctional that highly toxic chemicals are not required to be eliminated from products and production processes.

The U.S. chemical regulatory system is broken and fails to protect people, wildlife and the environment from toxic chemical exposures.

The SaferStates coalitions are not waiting for the national chemical policy reform before enlisting state governments to protect human health and the environment. States are taking leadership by creating public policies to reduce unnecessary, dangerous chemicals in everyday products. New laws and policies replacing toxic chemicals with safer alternatives will make our children, our families and our environment healthier.

Toxic Chemicals & Public Health
Growing scientific evidence demonstrates that some chemicals widely used in consumer products are likely contributing to an epidemic of chronic diseases and disorders. These include childhood and adult thyroid disease, cancers, asthma, learning and developmental disabilities, birth defects, reproductive disorders such as infertility, and neurodegenerative disorders.

  • The New England Journal of Medicine reports that environmental factors – including toxic chemicals – not heredity, play the principal role in causing cancer. Researchers wrote that the “overwhelming contribution to the causation of cancer in the populations we studied was the environment.”
  • As much as 90% of childhood cancer may be explained by environmental exposures. A review of 31 studies of childhood cancer concluded that the use of pesticides in the home during pregnancy and childhood was associated with increased likelihood of brain cancer and leukemia.
  • Male reproductive health has declined since the 1990s, according to a growing number of reports citing evidence of decreased sperm count and quality, birth defects of the genitals, and increasing testicular and prostate cancers. Many scientists believe that this trend is due, at least in part, to exposure to chemicals that mimic hormones during fetal and childhood development.


Originally published by Washington Toxics Coalition.

This post was written by science teacher Garrison Dyer. As a teacher he sees first hand the toll developmental and learning disabilities have on children, families, and the classroom. He also knows some of these disabilities are linked to toxic chemicals and are preventable, which is why he supports getting toxic chemicals out of children's products.

I am not a father, but every day I look after 121 eleven to fourteen year-olds.  As science teacher at Showalter Middle School in Tukwila, WA, I have grown to care about my student’s health, safety, and development immensely.