Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

September 22, 2013

VASICEK: Tempering exposure to dangerous chemicals

I advocate balanced meals, but a health food aficionado I am not. I teasingly argue that consuming food with preservatives will preserve you – keep you young. Of course, I am only joking.

Chemicals can be dangerous. As a youth, I remember what DDT did to our bird population. It seemed that only sparrows and pigeons escaped unscathed. When authorities put the ban on asbestos, many folks thought it was much ado about nothing. The problem is this: we do not recognize danger in substances with which we are familiar — even if danger exists. Not many people eat from lead-formulated pewter products anymore; when the dangers of lead were first broadcast, I'm sure the message was mocked. “If we used a product or our parents used a product it cannot be dangerous,” we reason. Sometimes we are mistaken.

Another problem, however, is distinguishing between significant threats and lesser ones. Many substances can contribute to cancer, but how substantially? Even the new energy saving light bulbs are hazardous if broken.

Some cleansing and cosmetic products contain “parabens,” chemicals mocking estrogen. Some suggest these products contribute to the feminizing of men, while cosmetic companies explain that the effect is minimal. Carrageenan is a thickener found in ice creams and many food products. While not cancer causing, some tests suggest it speeds up tumor growth according to wikipedia. If we eliminate everything that might be harmful, we may find little left. We may not know where to draw the line, but we must try.

USA Today documented a move by Wal-Mart to protect consumers:

“Prodded by health and environmental advocates, Wal-Mart Stores announced Thursday that it will require suppliers to disclose and eventually phase out nearly 10 hazardous chemicals from the fragrances, cosmetics, household cleaners and personal care products at its stores.

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