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In recent "booga-booga-scare-the-moms" news, we learn:
A major 2011 analysis of typical pregnant women across the US found widespread evidence of toxic chemicals in their blood, often at levels that have been linked to higher risk of developmental and reproductive problems in babies in other studies. Beyond this, the pregnant women in this study were typically exposed to mixtures of various toxic chemicals at one time, with effects we have yet to understand.
So, on one level, this is scary and alarming. But on another level, is anyone really surprised that there are all kinds of toxic chemicals in our systems? Does anyone think this phenomenon is unique to pregnant women? And, perhaps most importantly, does anyone really think there's much that any individual woman can do about it? Short of moving to an isolated island and subsisting on water and organically grown fruit her entire life?
That's what bugged me about some of the coverage I saw--the notion that somehow if we're all just a little bit more careful about what kind of lipstick we use and what kind of soaps we keep by our kitchen sinks that we can do something meaningful about our individual situations. I don't buy it. I think the real change has to be made at a policy level. We have to greatly reduce the toxins we allow into our environment, food, air, and water supplies. No amount of individual effort will make that much of a dent.
So whenever I see these articles that talk about "what you can do", I become grumpy. It puts way too much of an onus and burden on women (note the opportunity for yet another mother-guilt complex) to fix these urgent, system, widespread problems themselves. Check this out:
The antibacterial chemical triclosan is perhaps the best example of this. For most of us, there is no proven benefit from using this chemical. Meanwhile, many experts are concerned about triclosan causing bacterial resistance, increased allergies, thyroid hormone problems, and sex hormone imbalances. [...]
Where does a woman get exposed? It’s obvious on the label of antibacterial liquid hand soaps. But it’s in lots of other products as well, from spoons to socks and from toys to trash bags. Many women are surprised to learn that it is often found in eye shadow, blush, lip gloss, lipstick (e.g., Revlon Overtime), facial cleansers (L’Oreal Dermo), fragrances (Avon NATURALS), antiperspirants (Soft &Dri, Old Spice), and toothpaste (Colgate Total).
And the article goes on to say: shop green! Check the labels. Come on. And where, pray tell, is a mom, say, in a median income family in the U.S. supposed to find the time and energy to research all the bad chemicals she should avoid and which products have them? Keep in mind the manufacturers are constantly changing their products. And if I recall correctly, manufacturers have been known to change the brand names of chemicals, or vary them slightly in order to.. well.. let's guess, right? What could their motivation be? It's completely unreasonable to expect anyone other than scientists and policymakers to have to pay such attention to this level of detail. If "triclosan" has "no proven benefit" and potential harmful side effects, then don't put it in my lipstick, mm'kay?
Of course I don't want a body full of toxins. And of course I want my kid to eat healthy foods and breathe unpolluted air and drink clean water. But there is only so much time in the day - is my time really better spent researching which deodorants are least likely to cause developmental problems in potential future babies, or is it better spent advocating that the FDA and USDA and other acronyms stop letting poisons into our products in the first place?
I just spent 10 hours in airports and airplanes. I'm pretty grumpy. And I don't have time, right this second, to go and research the brand of bottled water the hotel provided to make sure it's not leaching something noxious into my bones. I'm thirsty. In a civilized society, I wouldn't have to obsess about such things.