Monday, December 29, 2008

California's Toxic Soup

For those who like to read such things, this link is to a environmental law brief on California's attempt to regulate toxins. 

I have come to accept that my kids are swimming in toxic soup. I thought about moving to Alaska and living in a yurt, like some friends of mine, but I learned that among indigenous people there, the levels of some neuro-toxins in breast milk is almost as high as my own. There is no where to go. I will have to cast down my bucket right where I am. And hope the water is potable. 

After over two weeks at home with three kids under 10, the house was a mess this week. I woke up yesterday determined to tackle it. Seeing me mop the kids begged to be allowed to spray, wipe, wash and otherwise play in the water and suds. Being eager for any productive distraction, I took off my gloves and began sorting through our various cleaning products, looking for something mild and non-toxic. 

After sorting through every thing we had, I finally settled on dish soap-- without anti-bacterial agents. I'm not sure if it is safe, but it is probably safer than the GreenWorks  stuff I used myself. 

Even before my first daughter became symptomatic with a neuro-developmental disorder, I usually bought the greenest product I can find. But the recent discussion about chemical replacements in plastic toys has heightened my sense of alarm. Scientists don't know what is in stuff on the market. In fact, they cannot find out, because by law, manufacturers are allowed to keep this information as trade secrets. And no one has tested most of these things for health effects, and won't until after people begin to become ill or disabled. 

Last year, a researcher from the MIND institute at UC Davis was giving a lecture on the current research about the search for environmental causes of autism. He spoke of the complexity figuring out what is actually out there in the water, the air, our kid's pajamas, food, pillows, toys, soap... and then trying to figure out effects at different stages of development, and interactions between chemicals. Someone asked the inevitable questions about mercury. He said that he was actually more concerned about BFRs (flame retardents) in pajamas, clothing and furniture. 

Pajamas? What could be safer than the matching cuddly, soft, footie jamas I just got them  for Christmas???

California is attempting to regulate toxins in a new way, similar to the approach that the European Union has taken. In the absence of any reasonable effort by the federal EPA, this state is attempting legislation that would require manufacturers to prove their product is safe before it goes to market. Currently, manufacturers push chemicals to market with little or no testing, and if a chemical is proven to be dangerous (often through lengthy litigation) it is after somebody, or many bodies, have been harmed, some times irreparably.  The testing happens after products to to market, and we are the test subjects.  

This legislation might actually prevent the uninformed experimentation on human and animal subjects that is being pursued nationwide under the current policy.  How novel.

Maybe someday I will know whether I can drink the water in my bucket, or give it to my children.