New Silent Spring Study Strengthens Case for Regulatory Reform

By Caitlin Carmody, BCAction Membership Coordinator

A new report from our allies at the Silent Spring Institute provides further evidence of the need for regulatory reform when it comes to toxic chemicals in our everyday products.

In this study, published today in Environmental Health Perspectives, investigators tested common household products for the presence of hormone disruptors that raise concerns for breast cancer, growth, and reproduction, as well as chemicals associated with asthma.

Researchers tested 50 different categories of products, including a range of cosmetics, personal care products, cleaners, sunscreens, and vinyl products. Tests for 66 specific chemicals detected 55 of them. The study included both conventional products as well as “alternative” products marketed as containing safer ingredients than their conventional counterparts. The potentially harmful chemicals showed up in all 42 conventional product samples tested and in 32 out of 43 alternative products.

We already know, through previous Silent Spring studies and Center for Disease Control’s biomonitoring, that these same chemicals are in our homes and in our bodies. What this study shows us some of the ways in which we are being exposed – sunscreen, drier sheets, shower curtains or pillow protectors.

“The findings show that consumers who use a typical array of products are exposed to many chemicals with potential health effects,” said Julia Brody, an author of the study and the executive director of Silent Spring Institute where the study was conducted.

Many of the chemicals the Silent Spring researchers found in products were not on the product label—further evidence that “conscious consumerism” cannot be the answer to avoiding harmful toxins in our everyday products. We must demand better regulation and higher standards so toxins harmful to our health don’t end up on store shelves in the first place.

As many advocates, including BCAction, have been saying for many years: there is no “safe” dose of a harmful chemical, because we are being bombarded from multiple sources by “trace amounts” of toxins. 

Our friends at the Silent Spring Institute say that “this study adds to the evidence that safety testing for consumer product chemicals is inadequate and needs to be modernized, and that consumers need better information about exactly what is in the products they use every day. Also, health protections need to consider exposures to mixtures, rather than one chemical at a time.”

So, what do we do with this information? We know there are chemicals linked to cancer in everyday products, including those not listed on product labels, and that the system for regulating them is broken.

There are two landmark pieces of legislation up for consideration this year that would strengthen the regulation of chemicals like these linked to breast cancer: the Safe Chemicals Act and the Safe Cosmetics Act, efforts spearheaded by the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families Coalition and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. You can get involved in these important campaigns by visiting our Action Center.

The burden of proof should be on manufacturers to prove their products are safe, not on us to prove they are harmful. Nevertheless, studies like this clearly demonstrate that toxins related to numerous health problems, including cancer, come into our bodies via a myriad of everyday products. It’s time that changes.

This entry was posted in BCA News.