|Either this is Photoshopped, or that kid|
desperately needs an oxygen tank.
Credit: The New York Times
First, Ms. MacCleery, 40, a lawyer and women’s health advocate, collected 70 products in a pile: things like makeup, shampoo, detergents and sink cleaners. Then she typed the names of the cosmetics into an online database called Skin Deep, created by the Environmental Working Group (ewg.org/skindeep), a research and advocacy organization.
The results were not comforting. Ms. MacCleery’s $25 lipsticks contained a dizzying brew of chemicals, including ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate, a possible endocrine disruptor. “When I bought them, I thought I was doing something special for myself,” she said. “But then it turned out I was probably eating petrochemicals.” The lipsticks went into the trash bag. For some products, the site listed dozens of exotic chemicals and compounds. There were estrogenic hormones and neurotoxins and bioaccumulators. For other items, there was almost no information at all. What effects could these substances have on her baby? Ms. MacCleery didn’t know and didn’t intend to find out.
By the time the inventory was over, “I threw out, I would say, all but three or four of the items,” she said. “Everything was toxic. Everything.”Well, it's good to know that the landfill is toxic now, instead of her living room. And the best laid plans..:
BACK on the scale of home economics, Laura MacCleery discovered that it’s not cheap to buy a chemical-free bassinet. “We had it made with nontreated wood, by Amish people,” she said. “I think it was 400 bucks.” The organic mattress was hand-stitched.
“And then the baby was born large,” Ms. MacCleery said. “She was like 8 pounds 10 ounces.” Maya outgrew the nontoxic bassinet in a month.It's nice to see that the reporter talked to some rational parents:
Some parents take up the research into chemical safety with intellectual rigor. Adam Zeiger, father to 6-month-old Eyal, is a 27-year-old doctoral candidate in materials science and engineering in Cambridge, Mass. His wife, Danna, 27, is earning her doctorate in molecular and cell biology.
Even so, “If my Ph.D. process has taught me anything,” he wrote in an e-mail, it’s that “I know absolutely nothing. But at least I can do my homework.”
Mr. Zeiger’s inquiries have left him unconvinced about the toxic threat. “There are tons of people and forums against this chemical,” he wrote. “Or saying to avoid that product. Or, ‘Don’t touch X, Y or Z because they contain something that resembles something, that came from something, that if used otherwise would cause cancer when given to rats in a million times higher doses.’ ”First, let me note here that Josh Bloom has a typically sharp and funny response to the article.
The reporter speaks to some
To be sure, I am a parent of small children who works in a chemical manufacturing environment. I'm pretty cautious about chemical hygiene and I really try to avoid taking compounds from the lab or the plant home with me. My work shoes stay at work, I wear a lab coat and I used to do my wash separate from the rest of the household to prevent cross-contamination (I used to manipulate much larger quantities of material than I do now.) Believe me, I am pretty concerned about their ability to metabolize and excrete xenobiotics. I don't believe that most parents run into the risks that I encounter on a daily basis.
There are, of course, major chemical risks in the home. Lead paint, for example, can be a real problem and one that seriously affects infant brain development. When we lived in an older home, you better believe that I had our kids tested and I followed USEPA's guidelines for mopping down your house to prevent lead dust contamination religiously. But cosmetic chemicals? These things are small beer, comparatively.
Ultimately, this is a problem of psychology. In the age of high-investment parenting, threats to our children can overrun any rational defense a parent might be able to construct. For whatever reason, chemical risk seems to appear much more threatening to some parents. I'm much more concerned about my kids falling down the stairs or drowning in a neighbor's swimming pool. Those are the rational fears -- I have irrational ones, too, but we won't talk about those.
As a chemist, I find chemophobia pretty ridiculous. As a parent, I'm in sympathy -- we all fear unknown threats to our kids. I merely ask that parents step back from genuine fear-mongering that we get from Environmental Working Group and the like and try to gain a rational, risk-based perspective on chemicals in the home.