Chemicals R not us
Tom Watson on
Jul. 27, 2012
It may seem like there are fewer toxic chemicals in most homes these days, and maybe that's even actually true. But chemicals still rule in America.
Go to any big home improvement store like Lowe's or Home Depot and look at all the toxic chemcials still on the shelves, to kill bugs and weeds, stain wood, clean stuff, "freshen" the air, and on and on. People are still buying those products.
We need to reduce the amount of toxic chemicals we use, in our homes and everywhere else. That's all there is to it. The proliferation of those chemicals endangers everyone, especially kids, and creates various forms of pollution. There are only a handful of good reasons to use the most toxic chemicals (the ones that say "Danger" or "Poison" on the label).
I do think we're making progress. Many local governments have excellent programs to help educate people and businesses about the proper use and disposal of hazardous products. I'm continually impressed by our combined government effort here, the Local Hazardous Waste Management Program in King County (LHWMP). And I know, from all the comments and questions I get, that many individuals and organizations are really trying to reduce their use of toxic chemicals, and that they appreciate getting info about how to do that.
As an example of this encouraging "chemicals R not really us" trend, one of the many cool projects from the LHWMP folks (just pronounce it "el-whump") is Pesticide-Free Places. This project catalogs and maps the many parks and other public spaces in King County that don't use pesticides, or that use them only for very limited applications. That website also includes some great info about why this is important, and other steps you can take to keep your kids and pets safe from exposure to toxic chemicals.
These local education efforts are crucial, but national efforts to involve the chemical industry are also vital. As this Chicago Tribune story this week describes, Congress is considering the first major revisions in U.S. chemical law since 1976. Under the proposed changes, "Chemical companies would have to provide more health and safety information about their products. and regulators would have more authority to force harmful substances off the market."
Sounds promising, but personally I'd be amazed if Congress takes any action on this issue this year, or even in the next few years. Here's why, again quoting that article: "The American Chemistry Council, the industry's leading trade group, issued a statement calling the bill 'fundamentally flawed in many critical areas'... The trade group boosted its lobbying expenditures last year to $10.3 million, up from $8.3 million the year before."
Clearly the chemical industry is engaged on this issue. How important is chemical safety to you?