Highlights From the Film The Human Experiment
One evening perusing Netflix, I found the film, The Human Experiment. This film shows viewers how many untested chemicals are in our marketplace, many of which are known toxins. They argue that the rise in chemical usage in homes is potentially to blame for the rise in diseases in the United States. Sean Penn narrates the film and it was directed by Emmy winning journalists Dana Nachman and Don Hardy.
As the title of the film suggests, we are being exposed to certain chemicals in a way that we do not yet fully understand. The implications on our environment and on our health are starting to be uncovered despite pressure from high power lobbyists and industry funded groups. What the film found in their research is that to date, there are over 80 thousand chemicals in the market in the US. Chemical use, in just the last century alone has seen a growth of 2,000%. Each day, we see 42 billion pounds of chemicals enter into commerce. That is equivalent to 623,000 tanker trucks worth… a day!
While there are many chemicals which do not pose harm, many of them do. Harmful chemicals are being put into our cleaners, electronics, building materials, curtains, furniture, body wash, makeup and toys. There have been certain chemicals found in these common items that have been linked to rises in cancer, neurological, endocrine, thyroid and reproductive disorders.
How Can This Be Possible?
Well, most of the chemicals in our market are not tested for safety because the chemical industry does not have to prove it is safe when it goes to market. From the laws point of view, chemicals used in products are all innocent until proven guilty. Fair enough? Well… I don’t know. One thing I do know is that in our culture over the past 50 years we have seen a dramatic increase in the use of dangerous chemicals in our environment thanks to the rise of the chemical revolution.
The Human Experiment uncovered that since the chemical revolution we have seen:
- 73 million american couples have trouble conceiving or carrying to term.
- This is a 49% increase since 1988.
- The biggest increase has been in women under 25 years old.
- Since 1975 breast cancer rates have gone up more than 30% in women.
- In 1999 500 children had autism. Today it is 1 in 88. (I guess one could argue that has to do with awareness of autism and it’s diagnosis.)
- In the past 45 years we have seen the following increased rates:
- Childhood brain cancer 38%
- Asthma 80%
- Leukemia in children 74%
- Early onset puberty 55%
- ADHD 53%
- Genital deformities in baby boys 122%
- Life-threatening birth defects >100%
Yikes!! Well what about the Environmental Protection Agency? Arn’t they doing something about it? Well they are in charge of monitoring chemical agencies but they also have their hands tied due to outdated laws like the Toxic Substance Control Act of 1976. Because of this law, 62,000 chemicals have been grandfathered in to being acceptable to use in products. Now, it seems nearly impossible to get them removed.
The crazy thing is that there are safer alternatives out there for companies to use in place of chemicals which are being linked to health complications. However, product companies are incentivized by chemical companies to use their chemicals. When politicians and people first came together to unite against these chemical companies, the chemical companies responded by forming the American Chemistry Council (ACC) to represent them. The Human Experiment reported that the chemical companies have spent more than $52 million advocating in Washington in 2012 alone. How are the peoples interests supposed to be represented when they are up against such daunting amounts of power and wealth?
Not only is it difficult to make changes in laws, it is difficult to help people see the true harm due to the millions being spent on marketing campaigns. Many of these chemical companies have taken a note right out of the tobacco playbook. Deception and distraction. That’s the name of the game.
The lead paint industry even used the same public relations firm that was used by the tobacco industry. They heard reports that lead was dangerous but through marketing they pulled strings to make the public perception of using lead paint as being positive and safe for children. They even went so far as to directly market to children with their dutch boy paint logo. Now, fortunately we know just how dangerous lead in our paint is and the practice of using lead paint is mostly all gone.
When studies come out that link toxic chemicals being used to issues in human health, the companies say that the information is not true. They even go so far as to come out with their own studies that they say are completely independent studies but, it turns out that they are not. This strategy of deceive and distract has become so prevalent, that it has it’s own term:
The Four Dog Defense
1. My dog does not bite it is not harmful. They discredit the studies that show their chemicals are harmful by calling it junk science.
2. After a second offense the companies says, my dog bites but it did not bite you. Average people are not exposed to the chemicals enough for it to be harmful.
3. After a third offense,they say, my dog bit you but it didn’t hurt you. Okay you are exposed, but not harmed by the chemical.
4. Lastly, my dog bit you and it did hurt you but it wasn’t our fault. It was the individuals choice to use the product and not the industry’s fault for making it available.
We Are Still Being Polluted
Right now we have groups working to help bring about policies to get rid of BPA, also known as bisphenol. This chemical has similar properties to estrogen in our bodies and does not behave like standard toxins. It is commonly used to make clear and shatter proof plastic. The BPA industry is now estimated to be a 6 billion dollar industry. That’s right… BILLION!
BPA is a known endocrine disruptor and can be found in most plastics, fragrances in laundry detergents and…. wait for it…. children’s toys! If BPA get’s into your body, it acts just like estrogen. What has been found is that 93% of Americans have tested positive for BPA in their bloodstream. When Patricia Hunt conducted an experiment on mice and the plastic from their water bottles, what she found is that once the BPA got into the systems of the mice, they started to neglect their offspring.
What I find to be the most frustrating and scary fact that was uncovered in this film is that babies are being born pre-polluted. When scientists tested a baby newly born in Northern California, they found in the umbilical cord, 28 chemicals and they assume there were likely 400 more. Think about it. This baby had not yet eaten any food, drank any water or breathed air, but still these chemicals were pumping through their veins. Our exposure to toxic chemicals can and should be avoidable.
An easy step you can take to protect yourself is to learn about what is in our products and who the companies are that produce them. Unfortunately it can be challenging to really know what is on most of our shelves, as many companies do not list the actual ingredients in their products. Even if they do, we are not all chemist and are not familiar with names of chemicals and what happens when certain chemicals interact with one another.
Ready to make a change? Check out my recommendation for safe home cleaners.