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TOXIC CHEMICALS AND WOMENS HEALTH

TOXIC CHEMICALS AND WOMENS HEALTH ALICIA KRONE WOMENS HEALTH EVERGLADES UNIVERSITY

2 TOXIC CHEMICALS AND WOMENS HEALTH TOXIC CHEMICALS AND WOMENS HEALTH There are more reports coming out about products Americans use daily and potential hazards. Lead paint, lead lipstick, and childrens toys are the most commonly known. Harsh chemicals in cleaning products also lead with some concern. As the research goes further one begins to understand exactly how deep that rabbit hole goes. Almost everything Americans use has potentially hazardous materials in them. The laws protecting people against these chemicals have really not been properly carried out. There should already be a primary concern for making changes. Although there are many groups out there pushing for change, its a slow moving battle. Most of these groups are headed by women. As Americans uncover more truths about manufacturing companies, they find out they are knowledgably being poisoned by them. There are about eighty thousand to eighty five thousand chemicals that are in use in the environment today in the United States. Toxic chemicals can enter the environment through contaminated water, the food chain, air pollution, household products, medications, food, landfills, etc. Only a small percentage of these chemicals have been evaluated to date. Most of were evaluated for impacts in adult males in industrial settings. There is barely any research for the effects on women. Women also have been found to use more beauty and cleaning products than men. A study by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics reveals that most women use an average of nine products per day, exposing themselves to at least a hundred chemicals. Women are also still doing over seventy percent of the household work and chores despite gender role changes. The small amount of daily chemical exposures can lead to a build up and will add up over time. Laws requiring proper labeling are not being carried out. They are failing to protect all people from exposure, and fail to even educate people on how to protect themselves and their families. Women also have a higher fat content than men do, and chemicals can accumulate more in fatty tissue.

3 TOXIC CHEMICALS AND WOMENS HEALTH In a study in 2003, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention said women had significantly higher toxicity levels of the ten out of one hundred and sixteen chemicals they tested. Three of those ten are most commonly found in beauty and cosmetic products. One study on average said that women put about five hundred chemicals on their bodies in the morning while they are getting ready. (See chart) Women are also the first environment for the development for the next generation. In 2005, the Environmental Working Group revealed that over 287 hazardous chemicals pass through the placenta into the fetus in an average pregnancy. Synthetic chemicals are so rampant in breast milk that if it was bottled to be sold, the FDA would not approve it based on toxic levels in the studies of pregnant women. Women also make up ninety-seven percent of the Nail Salon Industry workforce. Fifty eight percent of those people are of child bearing age. More nail salon technicians are reporting chronic migraines, skin rashes, breathing problems, cancers, and miscarriages. The Federal Office of Womens Health showed that two thirds of women indicated that they alone are responsible for healthcare decisions for the family. Chemicals found in cleaning products have been linked to fertility problems, birth defects, and increased risk for breast cancer, asthma and respiratory disorders, and hormone disruption. There is no law for cleaning products to list all ingredients; keeping trade secrets form the consumer. In the past two decades, breast cancer has gone from one in twenty, to one in eight women being affected. The Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2008 reported that eighty nine percent of the one and a half million people in the Maids and Housekeeping Industry are women. People in lower income or higher industrialized areas are at greater risk being closer to waste collection facilities. The Kaiser Foundation found that women are responsible for all consumer decision making, in eighty five percent of all United States households. This is amazing news, it makes women a very powerful consumer group that could be responsible for persuading corporations to change their ways.

4 TOXIC CHEMICALS AND WOMENS HEALTH There is a group called Womens Voices for Earth and they have cofounded many campaigns to push changes in our system. They find that with healthcare problems on the rise, researchers fear if we are not proactive now, we will no longer be able to afford to test the impacts of these chemicals on our bodies and our children. The time for change is now; otherwise it may get to be too late. Ninety percent of all people diagnosed with autoimmune disorder lupus, are women. Nail polishes contain ingredients linked to cancer and reproductive problems. Hair straighteners contain cancer causing formaldehyde. Salons and Salon workers are not required to be labeled. Workers and clients alike are not aware of what they are even exposing themselves to. The Womens Voices for Earth co-founded the National Healthy Nail and Beauty Salon Alliance, which is pushing to protect the health of the nations salon workers. They also recognize impact studies must be focused more on women, not men. New Peer Reviewed Studies also show that products being marketed to AfricanAmerican women have chemicals which are endocrine disruptors. Women should not have to be chemists in order to protect themselves and their families. March 8, 2012, the peer reviewed article in Environmental Health Perspectives contains many studies by a few different toxic-free activists and their findings. The Silent Spring tested over two hundred products ranging from shower curtains and baby bottles, to sunscreen and lip gloss. Products were from companies like Colgate, Johnson and Johnson, Procter& Gamble and Ecover to name a few. They all found that PVC products such as pillow protectors and shower curtains contain high levels of toxic phthalate DEHP. This chemical has already been banned in childrens toys but is so widespread everywhere else; children still come into contact with it. Phthalates have been linked to asthma, adverse impacts on brain development, and reproductive health in little boys. Studies also show that children spend the first and most crucial part of their development in an environment that exposes them to known chemicals in everyday products. The Washington Toxics

5 TOXIC CHEMICALS AND WOMENS HEALTH Coalition, Commonweal, and the Toxic-Free Legacy Coalition all participated in a study together. They all concluded that pregnant women cannot avoid exposure to these chemicals because they are in just so many products. Policies need to be put in place that keeps toxic chemicals away from pregnant mothers and most importantly the developing fetus. The study tested women in Washington, Oregon, and California. The results are a little frightening to be honest. Every single woman tested was exposed to bisphenol A, the hormone disrupting chemical used to make plastics and lines food cans. It is linked to early puberty, diabetes, obesity, and reproductive problems. Each woman had between two and four Teflon chemicals, used for stain protection and non-stick cookware. It is linked to low birth weight, obesity, and cancer. Every woman had Mercury in their system, known to harm brain development. Every woman had been exposed to at least four phthalates which can be found in plastics and some shampoos. This studys results are frightening because pregnant woman are supposed to be avoiding as many toxins and chemicals as possible. This study shows that even the most careful mother cannot protect herself or her child in the environment we have created for ourselves to live and thrive in. In conclusion, since 1976, only two hundred of the eighty five thousand chemicals on the market have been tested for health and safety of men. The Department of Ecology must fully implement the Childrens Safe Products Act of 2008 by developing a robust, scientifically-based list of chemicals that are harmful to children. They also need workable rules that require manufacturers to report when they use harmful chemicals. We need to ensure the fundamental right of children to be born without toxins in their bodies and can grow up in a healthy environment. Steps need to be taken quickly to stop this from continuing. The groups of women, who advocate this movement have a long road ahead of them. The safety of us and our children and grandchildren should be enough to change things, but its going to take a lot more to convince everyone of its grave importance.

6 TOXIC CHEMICALS AND WOMENS HEALTH REFRENCES Commonweal- www.commonweal.org Physicians for Social Responsibility- www.psr-la.org Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families- www.saferchemicals.org Toxic-Free Legacy Coalition- www.toxicfreelegacy.org Washington Toxics Coalition- www.watoxics.org Womens Voices for Earth- www.womensvoices.org