Remember that products that KILL up to 50% of lab animals can still receive the US regulatory designation "non toxic." Get out a magnifying glass and read the warnings on the labels. Better yet, find a better way.
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Many common household cleaning and home maintenance products contain toxic chemicals, including carcinogens and endocrine-disrupting chemicals. When the same products are used in the workplace, federal legislation requires that the hazardous ingredients be labeled, but there is no such requirement for consumer use.
Some detergents and toilet bowl cleaners, for example, contain ethoxolated nonylphenols, endocrine-disrupting chemicals that can interfere with reproduction in marine and other species. Some laundry detergents contain trisodium nitrilotriacetate, listed by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as a possible human carcinogen. It also impedes the elimination of metals in wastewater and has been banned in some countries because of that.
The 2005 CancerSmart Consumer Guide, published by the Labour Environmental Alliance Society (LEAS) and available for order on the back page, is a useful reference to check out the ingredients in common consumer products and find alternatives. You can also call the 1-800 number listed on many products and request a Material Safety Data Sheet that lists product ingredients.
During the 1600s ruby red cheeks and extremely white skin were considered beauty ideals in the court of Queen Elizabeth I. To achieve this look women liberally applied white face paint made of lead and rouge derived from mercury sulphide — two toxins that slowly poisoned the user.
Today, 400 years later, people use beauty products with much greater confidence. But should they? Soaps, perfumes, nail polish, hair dye, skin lotions, baby shampoo and cosmetics contain a slew of chemicals, including formaldehyde, phenol carbolic acid and toluene, dangerous chemicals, readily absorbed through the skin, that are known carcinogens and mutagens. These chemicals are not only bad for human health but they are also toxic to the environment.
New research has shown that the synthetic polycyclic musks, common chemical compounds used as fragrance in hundreds of personal care and cleaning products are accumulating in the aquatic environment, causing endocrine disruption in frogs. Phthalates, another group of chemical compounds used in nail polishes, fragrances and other products, have also come under scientific scrutiny because many of them are endocrine disruptors and reproductive toxicants.
2,4-D used in many consumer weed killers is one of the contaminants affecting human health and threatening the survival of killer whales. Photo: LEAS files.
IN THE GARDEN
Pesticides (Remember, PESTICIDES don't know when to stop killing)
Tonnes of pesticides that have been used to create green lawns are taking a toll on human health and the environment. Research by Dr. Peter Ross of the federal Institute of Ocean Sciences shows that pesticides, which are entering the marine environment via groundwater, are among some 23 toxic contaminants that are threatening the survival of killer whales. One of those near the top of the list is 2,4-D, the key ingredient in many lawn-weed killers.
Many insecticides and fungicides sold for domestic garden use contain endocrine-disruptors, reproductive toxicants and carcinogens, such as captan and maneb, both commonly used fungicides. The 2004 review by the Ontario College of Family Physicians highlighted the increased risk of cancer posed by some pesticides and called for reductions on their use. Concerned about this risk, and the link between "cosmetic pesticides" (chemicals used simply to make gardens and lawns look better) and childhood leukemia, Canadians in many communities have convinced their municipal governments to enact bylaws that restrict or ban the use of cosmetic pesticides.
So far, more than 60 communities, including Vancouver, have existing or pending bylaws. Consumers have many alternatives to pesticide use including organic gardening methods and using non-toxic insecticides and herbicides only when necessary.