The toxic chemistry of everyday life

from Steve Walsh, Tea Tree Gully Community Group

Canadian environmentalists Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie decided to tell the story of pollution in our modern world. They used their own bodies as laboratories and recorded their experience in a book Slow Death by Rubber Duck, Penguin books 2009. We will share some ideas from this book through a series of blog posts.

Non-stick products and stain repellents: these types of chemicals are found on furniture, carpets, clothing, non-stick frying pans and even fast food wrappers. Known as perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), they are linked to cancer and can mimic human hormones affecting how the bodies and brains of children develop. To avoid these chemicals, don’t buy the latest ‘stain repellent’ pants or shirts, replace your non-stick frying pan with stainless steel or iron, and pop your popcorn the old fashioned way (the inside of microwave popcorn bags are coated with PFCs).

PVC plastic and fragrances: dangerous chemicals called phthalates are found in PVC plastic and a range of personal care products. They’re strange chemicals because they make plastic things feel soft and rubbery (the number one pollutant in a standard rubber duck) and they carry scent (the basis of many highly fragrant products) but they also mimic human hormones and harm children. The authors found that levels of phthalates increased by as much as 22 times after they used common, brand name personal care products. Simple ways to avoid phthalates include getting rid of your vinyl shower curtain, refraining from the use of synthetic air fresheners, and choosing unscented body care products whenever possible.

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