Every year, thousands of new chemicals are introduced into the environment. That is, to the air, water, and soil—to the food we eat, to the fabric we wear and rub against, and the products we use without a second thought. If you heard even a few horror stories about some of these chemicals, you’d wonder if anyone gave them more than a second thought before releasing them into the world, to affect human and nonhuman beings, maybe even helping to change weather patterns. http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/09/humans-have-made-found-or-used-over-50-million-unique-chemicals/
The overriding philosophy in the chemical industry—the people and corporations that brought us everything from plastics to oven cleaner to Agent Orange—is “Innocent until proven guilty.” That is a wonderful way of dealing with a human suspect, but extremely dangerous, not to mention unethical, when applied to chemical compounds. Most aren't even considered “suspect” in the first place.
Yes, there are tests for certain materials meant for direct contact with human beings and, occasionally, their food or companion animals. These tests are conducted at high dosages on lab animals that may or may not closely resemble human physiology. They are often cruel, and that cruelty is in vain if the tests do not accurately reflect their later impact on human health and environmental integrity. Inadequately tested, they go into cosmetics, food, toys, fabric, and other household materials, and used as medicines, disinfectants, pesticides, preservatives, weapons, and so on. Anyone or anything that comes in contact is, in effect, part of an ongoing experiment.
Some of the numerous, egregious effects include birth defects, endocrine disruption (putting human and nonhuman animal hormones out of whack), oncogenesis (initiation of cancerous growths), cognitive impairment (temporary fogginess or actual I.Q. reduction), and behavioral problems.
These chemicals are part of our daily lives. Only when sufficient and irrefutable evidence mounts up about a chemical’s dangers does anyone do anything about it. And sometimes, not even then.
The chemical industry has given us many truly amazing innovations, no doubt about it. I’m not calling for the whole edifice to come tumbling down, only for a few renovations to its uncontested principles—ones that affect us all.
As long as we maintain this approach in order to protect big business interests, people and the natural environment will continue to suffer.
Tell me: what chemicals do you wish had been more carefully tested or monitored before being released? Do you have any experience with something that caused an allergic reaction - or worse?