Toxic materials are everywhere - from heavy metals in electronics to flame retardants in furniture and clothing, pesticides in our food, and harmful chemicals in plastics.
Hazardous chemicals are regularly used as additives in consumer goods. Some of these chemicals are known to be hazardous, yet current regulation systems allow them to continue to be brought into our homes in products. But even worse, for most of these chemicals we simply have no idea what they are doing to our health and environment.
Shockingly, of the more than 100,000 synthetic chemicals in use today, only a handful have ever been tested for human health impacts. And because we are exposed to many more than one at a time, it is particularly appalling that none have ever been tested to see what impact they have on us in combination.
Toxic materials are everywhere - from heavy metals in electronics to flame retardants in furniture and clothing, pesticides in our food, and harmful chemicals in plastics. PVC (polyvinyl chloride) products, for instance, are possible to avoid, and they are dangerous to our health and environment from start to finish - in the factory, at home, and in the trash - releasing poisonous chemicals linked to cancer and birth defects all along their lifecycle.
The best solution for the global waste crisis is to simply produce zero waste. But we cannot achieve this goal if the products we create and use are contaminated with toxic materials. No matter how much we reuse or recycle, if our products are toxic, we still end up with polluted bodies in a polluted environment.
But there is hope! This is a totally avoidable situation. Companies can replace these chemicals with safer alternatives, but voluntary action by a few companies is not enough to remove hazardous chemicals from the market. Our governments have a responsibility to protect public health by ensuring that all products be made in a way that's safe for the environment and human health.
Clean production, which is a way of creating nontoxic materials in a safe, sustainable way, is a critical strategy that has been successfully applied in many industries. Reducing our overconsumption of goods and making the producers of products responsible for their entire life cycle through extended producer responsibility are two other key strategies.