Everyday toxins

Rachel Claydon writes:

Momentum around the issue of toxic-free consumption seems to be building. New research released recently by the principal investigator at the Medical Research Council’s Human Reproductive Sciences Unit, Professor Richard Sharpe, provides further evidence of links between the toxic chemicals contained in many everyday products and major heath issues. This recent study warns that chemicals found in many cosmetics can damage the reproductive system in male foetuses, especially during the eight to twelve week stage of a pregnancy.

While the research was based on tests with rats and does not provide conclusive proof of harm, it nonetheless resonates with previous studies which point to a link between infertility problems and testicular cancer, pollution and chemicals in everyday products, and pregnant women are nevertheless being advised to avoid using perfume and scented creams.

Cosmetics are not the only products causing concern. Carpet, bedding, cling film, air fresheners and non-stick pans are among a number of household goods containing chemicals that campaigners believe have not been adequately safety tested. And American research published this week suggested an association between Bisphenol A – a chemical found in plastic packaging for food and drink – and the incidence of heart disease and diabetes, although it is a ‘preliminary’ stidy and it didn’t show a causal connection.

Toxic accumulation has been on environmentalists’ radar since the 1960s, and there is a growing body of regulation to try to tackle it. The issue is increasingly reaching the general public through media coverage of this kind of research – “Perfumes linked to infertility” screamed the front page of London’s Metro in response to Richard Sharpe’s research. Increasing consumer awareness of toxins in everyday goods is an important emerging trend, and we are seeing growing interest in toxic-free products such as Ecover and organic cotton. Producers who want to stay ahead of the trend would do well to check for poisons in their supply chains – before campaigners or researchers do.

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