The Truth About Chemicals: 
What You Need to Know

Chemicals should be presumed guilty until proven otherwise

Let's put things in perspective. If the history of human beings' presence on earth was represented as a football field – for the first 99.5 yards humans lived as hunter-gatherers. It is only in the last few inches that the industrial revolution occurred and humans began living alongside synthetic chemicals. In the last 50 years alone 90,000 different chemicals have been circulated in public use with 700 new chemicals being developed and introduced into the market every year. We are surrounded by them. Chemicals are with us in our homes, in our offices, and in and on our own bodies. The food you eat, mattress you sleep on, pot you cook with, soap you wash with, and rubber toy your baby puts her mouth around are all sources of chemicals you and your loved ones come in contact with every single day.

In evolutionary terms, this is all wildly new to us. The risk of harm is high. And so, too. should be our vigilance. Humans have not yet had time to develop the biological adaptations necessary to thrive in an environment alongside chemicals. To be blunt, we are maladapted. So, if you assumed these chemicals had already been vetted and proven to be safe, you'd be making a reasonable assumption. You'd also be wrong.

Of these 90,000 chemicals that are in wide circulation, only a few hundred of them have ever been tested for safety and their effects on human health. This is largely due to the way that special interests have shaped legislation and the regulatory systems in the United States.

The development of chemicals first took off in the wake of World War II. After the war had ended, the companies that powered our industrial war complex turned their attention to  "better living through chemistry." The development of things like pesticides, food preservatives, and plastics exploded, and went unregulated for decades. In the 1970s after several environmental disasters like ozone depletion by chlorofluorocarbon emissions, and contamination of the Hudson River and agriculture by a hazardous poison spill, the government enacted a body of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) called The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) in order to enforce regulation. However, instead of mandating safety data on the 62,000 chemicals that were already on the market at the time, the TSCA grandfathered them in. No further safety testing was ever done. This mentality has continued to guide regulation through present day.

Unlike pharmaceuticals or pesticides, chemicals in the United States do not have to be tested for their effects on human health before they are released into the market. That is, the compounds found in food wash, body lotion, and children’s toys - the compounds we put into and onto our bodies - have not passed any measure showing they are safe before we find ourselves using them. Under the law regulating chemicals, the policy is innocent until proven guilty.

It's so bad that in total only 5 toxic chemicals have ever been successfully banned from the market. (If you are curious, they are dioxins, chlorofluorocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), hexavalent chromium, and asbestos). Asbestos is a well-known carcinogen that has gotten more press than the others. And yet, even the decision to ban asbestos was overturned, and it is now back on the market and widely used in the automobile industry.  

Even when research is conducted and demonstrates severe health risk, it is nearly impossible to legislate bans. Other known, hazardous chemicals like formaldehyde, a carcinogen; bisphenol A (BPA), an endocrine/hormonal disruptor; lead, a neurotoxin; teflon, a carcinogen, and many others remain in public use. The US is unique in this regard, erring on the side of industry rather than health and safety. Compared with the US ban of 5 toxic chemicals, the EU has banned more than 1,300.

We must protect ourselves from the environment

The first step is understanding the regulatory situation. The next step is what to do about it. Making choices that align with your goals, when it comes both to your personal health and to environmental sustainability, doesn't have to be expensive or tedious. It just requires knowing where to turn for high quality, vetted information. In this article series we will dive in to the research and provide actionable resources

Agency. You have purchasing choice, and therefore, power. Using highly vetted information to inform purchases allows you to opt out of products that may be harmful. 

Advocacy. We must advocate for legislation that better protects the health and safety of both humans the environment. But until meaningful changes are implemented, advocate for yourself and your family by taking proactive steps to protect against the harm of environmental exposures. 

Action. We do the best we can to avoid harmful exposures from the environment, but there are variables outside of our control. ARMRA helps defend against exposures by rebuilding and strengthening your mucosal barriers, which physically block chemicals from crossing into the body.  

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