Incontrovertible scientific evidence shows that we’re surrounded by hazardous chemicals. Not only that, but our bodies are riddled with nasties accumulated from the sky, the food chain, the technological hardware that runs our world even the soap we use to wash our faces. Hey, here’s a radical idea: perhaps if we tried to consume less
We live in a sea of toxic chemicals. Every single person on earth carries in their bodies minute quantities of hundreds to thousands of hazardous chemicals: polyaromatic hydrocarbons from smokestacks and vehicle exhausts; pesticides, fungicides and herbicides from industrialised agriculture; methyl mercury from coal-fired powerplants; dioxins and furans from rubbish incineration; hormone-mimicking plasticisers and plastic softeners from polycarbonate bottles, the lining of tin cans, soaps and cosmetics; perfluorochemicals from stain-resistant coatings and non-stick cookware; flame retardants from electronics and furniture. The list goes on.
This chemical contamination is part and parcel of our wasteful use of resources and energy. At its core it’s a sustainability issue, but it is never addressed as such – and this is the problem. “Biomonitoring” tests measuring chemicals in the US population are carried out by the Centre for Disease Control in Atlanta, and the results are freely available online. The latest results, released a few years ago, cover 148 chemicals. South Africa? Er don’t hold your breath.
Tests consistently flag the same chemical contaminants in the atmosphere, water, soil, animals and people the world over.
Read more in the December 2009 issue of Popular Mechanics – on sale on Monday, 16 November.