Wednesday, October 04, 2006

"The Pollution Within" from Plattsburgh, NY

This week I'm in Plattsburgh, New York for asbestos awareness and refresher classes. On the way up, on the train, I read an interesting article in the October, 2006 issue of National Geographic. The article's name is "The Pollution Within" written by David Ewing Duncan (learn more about this article at It certainly seems lately their is a theme on the information I've been reading or exposed to lately. "The Pollution Within" is an article about the chemicals we are exposed to on a daily basis and their ability to enter our body and possibly accumulate in the body. It is very interesting reading especially after seeing the 911 movie we discussed in our previous blog.
An interesting point the article makes is that many of the chemicals we are exposed to everyday, have little or no scientific research on their effects on humans. Some of these chemicals show varying effects in animals, such as impacts on neurodevelopment, thyroid function, and reproduction. But very little is known about their effects on humans. Our exposure to these chemicals can come from the food we eat, the plastics we use for wrapping and storing food, our clothes, furniture, and cosmetics. Though there are potential health risks, using these various chemicals have saved lives (such as fire retardants) and may be worth the risks.
From this article we learned that in 2005 the European Union gave initial approval to a measured called REACH - Registration, Evaluation, & Authorization of Chemicals requiring companies to prove the substances they market or use are safe, or that benefits outweigh any risks. Needless to say the bill is opposed by the Chemical Industry and the US Government. The measure would encourage companies to find safer alternatives to suspect flame retardants, pesticides, solvents, and other chemicals. This bill would give a boost to the green chemistry movement.
The United States should not be opposing this measure, but should consider how we can support this measure and update our own laws to meet the challenge of achieving safer chemical use. The United States Government should be promoting and exporting our environmental protection and conservation expertise. As Green Building movement picks-up momentum, more data will come out on how these buildings pay for the extra costs with reductions in energy, and maintenance costs, and their ability to attract occupants that are willing to pay premium prices for the apartments, condos, or offices.
We need a better understanding on the various effects that chemicals have on our bodies and the potential effects that the interaction of multiple chemicals have on our bodies. Let's hope if the US doesn't get its act together regarding chemical exposures, we might get information from the European Union or data from the Green Movement to assist us with a better understanding of these effects.

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