As consumers we assume that the chemicals we are exposed to every day are safe, that someone is protecting us, right? There are more than 80,000 chemicals in commercial use today, 80-90% of these have never been tested for their impact on human health.
This is just one of many disturbing facts I learned at the Melbourne screening of The Human Experiment, a documentary film produced and narrated by Sean Penn.
The film tells the stories of people whose lives have been affected by toxic chemicals and the uphill battle against powerful industry interests to curb chemical usage. Basically, it’s a case of innocent until proven guilty where chemicals are concerned.
There is mounting evidence that the increase in chemical usage in the past 25 years is harming our physiology. In that time there has been an alarming increase in childhood allergies, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and leukaemia; early onset puberty; sperm counts are 50% lower than they were in the 50s; infertility is on the rise, more people are getting cancer, and activists believe the increase in young people getting cancer cannot be explained by genetics alone. Researchers have also found more than 300 chemicals in the umbilical cord blood of newborn babies, rendering them pre-polluted even before birth.
Australian healthy home expert, Nicole Bijlsma, shared her own experience in discovering the link between her 10 miscarriages and an immune disorder she suspects was caused by long-term exposure to the high level magnetic field she and her husband were sleeping in, with a metre box on the other side of their bed head. After moving to another bedroom, their sleep improved and one year later she gave birth to twins. Nicole gave us an insight into the state of play in Australia:
- Australia has the second highest rate of asthma in the developed world
- The average age of menarche (first menstruation) in Australian girls is 10.5 years, while some are getting their first periods as young as 7. In the 1900s the average age was 16.
- Bisphenol A (BPA) – a chemical used in food packaging – is linked to breast cancer and obesity and has been banned in other countries, but is not banned in Australia
- There are more than 1000 hormone disrupting chemicals in household products
- Our exposure standards for emissions from electromagnetic fields are not adequate
- The European Union has adopted a regulation (REACH – Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) to address the production and use of chemical substances and their impacts on human health and the environment – REACH is a driving force in implementing groundbreaking chemical legislation in the EU. We are yet to see anything like this in Australia
It is impossible to gather all the information required to remove harmful chemicals and there are too many commercial interests at stake. Chemical companies are using the same courtroom defence tactics as those used by tobacco companies over the past 50 years. It’s called the “4 dog defence” and it goes like this:
1. My dog does not bite – we’re not guilty
2. My dog bites but didn’t bite you – a mild concession, but “average people aren’t exposed to it”
3. My dog bit you but it didn’t hurt you – “alright people are exposed but they are not harmed by the chemical”
4. My dog bit you and it did hurt you. But it wasn’t my fault – “it was the individual’s fault”
Yes, this information is alarming and it is only scratching the surface. But the take home message is to be empowered with this knowledge, not alarmed. We all have the power to influence a change in demand for these products by switching to safer ones, because the reality is there is a safe natural alternative to every product we use.
If you want practical tips on how you can opt out of the human experiment and reduce your daily exposure to chemicals and radiation go to Nicole’s website: www.buildingbiology.com.au
The Human Experiment will be screening again in Melbourne on September 10 – you can buy tickets here.