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Mr. Smith: Maybe there's a little bit of denial going on, but the bisphenol A experience in Canada over the last year has been a real eye-opener for people. This is one of the most commonly manufactured chemicals in the world: It's the plastic that CDs and DVDs are made out of, it's in people's eyeglasses, it's in the interior lining of a lot of tin cans and it's in the little, tiny windshields of my son's toy cars. When Canada became the first country in the world last year to take action against bisphenol A in kids products, almost overnight you saw stainless-steel bottles and parents jettisoning their classic polycarbon baby bottles in favour of glass baby bottles. That happened within the space of a month or two.
You write that you had to update the book several times thanks to sweeping legislative change, including Canada's ban on BPA baby bottles, Europe's ban on noxious flame-retardant chemicals in televisions, and the United States' restriction on hormone-mimicking ingredients in children's toys.
Mr. Smith: Canada actually followed suit with deca, the most common flame retardant, in the last couple of months. We're now matching Europe's ban on that chemical in electronics. We're actually waiting for a federal announcement on phthalates because now the United States and Europe have banned phthalates from kids' toys. There's really no choice but for Canada to follow suit.
What do you think it will take for companies to cease inserting potentially toxic chemicals into everyday products without consumer knowledge?
Mr. Smith: One of the really exciting things that's happening now is that the corporate community is dividing into two camps. You have some companies who have eliminated these chemicals from their products and are then advertising that as a selling point. Mountain Equipment Co-op, Lululemon and Wal-Mart are deciding to be pro-active on these issues and actually trying to get out ahead of government. On the other hand, you've got other corporate actors who are dragging their heels and sticking their heads in the sand and increasingly being penalized by consumers. These days, especially with the Web, when parents can trade information so readily, consumers are demanding transparency and alternatives. We're quite hopeful that increasing consumer pickiness is going to drive some market change.
What is most troubling to you right now?
Mr. Lourie: We really still do not have any systemic way of testing the kinds of chemicals that are going into our products. The reality is we looked at seven chemicals. There are thousands of chemicals in the marketplace and with 90 per cent of them, there's been virtually no testing on the health of humans.
Mr. Smith: The intergenerational effects of these chemicals is only now starting to be realized. Bisphenol A is now known to affect the developing ovaries of fetuses. There are three generations of effect there. We're only seeing the tip of the iceberg.
There are damaging chemicals in many of the household items we come into contact with every day. Environmental activists and co-authors Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie offer 10 simple ways to detoxify
VINYL SHOWER CURTAINS
SYNTHETIC AIR FRESHENERS
NON-STICK FRYING PANS
MICROWAVE POPCORN BAGS
PLASTIC BABY BOTTLES
HOUSEHOLD CLEANING PRODUCTS
Phthalates are found in PVC plastic and a range of personal-care products. They both keep plastic things pliable and carry scent well (they're the basis of many products with a strong artificial fragrance). It's best to get rid of phthalates if you can because they 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 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.
SAY 'NO' TO NON-STICK AND STAIN REPELLANTS