Chemicals can have devastating health impacts at vanishingly small doses. Dr. Bruce Lanphear explains how our current system of laws and regulations falls short of safeguarding children’s health from toxic substances in products, such as: mercury released to the environment from wallboard factories, lead or PCBs in recycled flooring, and flame retardants banned from some uses, but not furniture and carpeting.
HBN research points the way to healthier choices by applying five core principles:
We consider the local and global impact of a product on all people at every stage – raw materials, manufacturing, use, and recycling or disposal – taking into account future generations.
The Precautionary Principles states: When an activity raises threats of harm to the environment or human health, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically. In other words, err on the side of safety.
The most reliable way, based upon scientific evidence, to avoid harm (like cancer) is to avoid hazards (like chemicals that may cause cancer). Wherever possible, we must eliminate unnecessary toxic substances from our products, and identify the least toxic alternatives for those hazards that cannot yet be eliminated.
We are only able to make informed choices about what products to use or buy when product contents are fully and openly disclosed. We all have a right to know what chemicals are used in the products we buy, use, and live with.
Informed choices about the products we use are only possible when all their ingredients have been fully assessed for health impacts. Most chemicals have not been, making it difficult to evaluate alternatives to known hazards. There must be an evidentiary basis for concluding that a chemical is safe. Where there has been no assessment, a chemical cannot be assumed safe for human health.