A strange childhood memory: A glass bottle sitting atop the toilet tank, holding a fat wick soaking in green liquid. Mother called it pine scent.
Who knows what Air-Wick contained? For me, it never conjured a forest, only vague nausea.
Our country embraced “better living through chemistry” in the 1950s and hasn’t let go. Synthetic fragrances are inescapable, unleashing their multi-syllabic toxins everywhere from public restrooms to magazine inserts.
Walking to the mailbox, I’m the proverbial canary in the coal mine, plagued by my neighbors’ perfumed dryer sheets.
A University of California — San Francisco study found that 100 percent of expectant mothers tested were contaminated with toxics, including PCBs, organochlorine pesticides, perifluorinated compounds, phenols, phthalates, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, PBDEs and perchlorate.
These chemicals can trigger allergic reactions, harm neurological functions and create infertility.
Hormone-disrupters damage sperm, trigger thyroid malfunctions and cancers.
Many of the toxins in the moms-to-be have been banned for decades.
Once in our environment, these manmade chemicals stay.
Women, men and children use products with mind-numbing lists of chemical ingredients — and more hidden as trade secret “fragrances.”
Manufacturing toxic products also releases toxins into the air and water around the factories and into the bodies of workers, says Annie Leonard in “The Story of Stuff — Cosmetics.” Unregulated ingredients indicate a broken regulatory system, she explains on YouTube.
Cars and trucks, power plants and crop spraying, wood stoves and swimming pools already release toxins into our environment.
More pollution sources are on the drawing boards across Washington.
People are increasingly concerned that some 20 biomass incinerators being planned to generate electricity, including one in Port Angeles and another in Port Townsend (See PT Airwatchers). These incinerators would release thousands of tons of greenhouse gases, pollutants, dioxins and toxic nanoparticles into our air and water.
(Disclosure: I began addressing health and environmental concerns about biomass incinerators in the Sequim Gazette in September and volunteer with seven local conservation and environmental groups in challenging the permits to build woodburning utilities on our shorelines.)
Naysayers scoff that everything’s toxic in large enough dosages.
Still, we’re not a healthy nation.
The CIA World Factbook says the United States ranks 50th out of 223 nations in life expectancy and 178th in infant mortality — common measures of a country’s overall health.
Asthma cases have more than doubled since 1980, claiming some 5,500 lives each year. The rate is steadily growing, the U.S. Public Health Service reports.
While it’s difficult to trace an individual’s illness to a single pollutant, continually increasing environmental toxins may be poisoning us, like ancient Romans poisoned themselves with lead.
Our delicate immune systems are a bit like buckets — they can only hold so much before overflowing.
Genetics helps determine our bodies’ tolerances and sensitivities. So does personal history: Where we’ve lived and worked, what we eat and drink all contribute to our personal toxic limits.
Exceed your immune system’s capacity and you sicken. Or die. Individually we can’t easily monitor environmental toxins or other threats to our safety and heath. But we do have a right to factual, unbiased research and information and a right to expect safe food, clean air and water.
We depend on agencies like the EPA and the FDA to monitor toxins and contaminants, ensure that safe procedures are followed and provide us with the evidence to show how well they’re doing.
Public interest groups from the Washington Toxics Coalition to the American Lung Association strive to keep the systems honest.
Determining what’s honest, however, has grown more difficult. Direct consumer drug advertising, once banned, now medicalizes problems and relentlessly pushes the latest, expensive treatments on a poorly informed public.
Researchers, forced to scramble to fund their work, increasingly publish results skewed by corporate sponsors.
Corporate interests also fund legitimate-sounding organizations masked as citizen efforts or consumer protection groups to greenwash their activities.
It takes time and effort to unwind these spins on truth.
Can we find our way to health, to an equitable, sustainable future for ourselves, our families and our communities, even though our decision-making and political systems grow more polarized every day?
This is a challenge facing everyone in Clallam County, the state and the nation.
There’s hope. There are models to learn from, solutions waiting in the wings and creative people seeking new paths.
Let’s find them.
Among my favorite places to look: Yes! Magazine. Ode. Utne Reader.
Modern Maya welcome end of the world we know
Wed, Dec 12, 2012
Mycelium rock! Peering into the underground world of mushrooms
Wed, Jun 20, 2012
Living on invisible boundaries
Tue, May 8, 2012
Bee-wildering rites of spring
Wed, Apr 11, 2012
Who’s messing with what? And why?
Wed, Mar 28, 2012
Giving can transform you and your community
Wed, Mar 14, 2012
When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging
Tue, Feb 28, 2012
That’s billion – with a B
Wed, Feb 15, 2012
A plastic world with plastic oceans
Wed, Feb 1, 2012
Coping when values and costs collide
Tue, Dec 6, 2011
Are we broke? Or broken?
Wed, Nov 23, 2011
Moving from yes or no to multiple choice
Thu, Nov 10, 2011
Who can we bank on?
Thu, Oct 27, 2011
Coming to terms with money, greed and power
Wed, Oct 12, 2011
Lies, damned lies and price tags
Wed, Sep 14, 2011
We all pay for our failing justice system
Wed, Aug 31, 2011
From techno-trauma to a glimpse of Nirvana
Fri, Aug 19, 2011
What’s going down the drain?
Thu, Aug 4, 2011
Life’s biggest lesson
Thu, May 26, 2011
So long, lawns — Mother Earth will not miss you
Wed, Apr 27, 2011