That's "Billion" with a "B." But, that's just the assigned dollar amount to the cost of disease. This doesn't address the human struggle and suffering that are associated with these diseases.
Now, I'm a pretty laid back parent. I'm by no means an alarmist. My pediatrician knows that if I'm actually calling, then there is really something wrong. I'm a free range-ish kind of mom, but let me tell you, friends, the alarm in my head is going off. More and more evidence is mounting connecting our skyrocketing childhood cancer, autism, learning disorder, asthma, rates to the myriad of chemicals our children are exposed to everyday.
Last night all I could think about was the article I had read just a couple of days before. The authors, Leonardo Trasande and Yinghua Liu, looked at the costs of lead poisoning, mercury poisoning, asthma, ADD, autism, and childhood cancers, all of which are believed to have environmental causes. As in, the child wasn't born to have asthma, the environment she was born into contributed to her developing the disease.
What enrages me is that I have for years put my faith in the Environmental Protection Agency. There is, after all, a Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) that has been in effect since 1973. We wouldn't really have to worry about known carcinogens in our shampoos and lotions. Because, well, who would put known carcinogens in the things we put on our bodies? My naivete knew no bounds.
Do you know that the EPA has listed more than 84,000 chemicals manufactured, used, or imported in the U.S. into it's TSCA inventory? Do you know that the EPA is unable to publicly identify nearly 17,000 of these chemicals because the chemicals have been claimed as confidential business information under TSCA by the manufacturers? Did you know that of the thousands of chemicals approved by the EPA for widespread use, there were no required studies on toxicity? Of the 84,000+ chemicals in widespread use, only 10% have been reviewed for safety. There is a Voluntary Children's Chemical Evaluation Program that the chemical companies agreed to, to placate the EPA in 1998. Do you know that in the six years this program has been running only 6 chemicals have been reviewed? Not quite the thorough job that I had assumed was happening.
We have gone a long way to reducing chemical exposure in our house; from the food we eat, to the products we bathe with. So now what? How do I reduce the exposure to my children?
For one thing, I'm not buying that proprietary nonsense. Literally. If you won't tell me what is in the product you are selling me, I'm not buying it. Period. (Better Life has always listed all of our ingredients.) And remember, just because a product calls itself "GREEN" doesn't make it so.
Secondly, I approached my children's school, where they spend the majority of their day, about eliminating the highly toxic, institutional cleaning products that are used in the building. I'm in the process of putting together a proposal for the school board to get the school switched to completely safe cleaning products. The proposal includes information regarding links to asthma and learning disabilities. (When I'm finished, I will post the proposal here so that you can also approach your children's school or daycare.)
And thirdly, I have written my congress members about rewriting the Toxic Substances Control Act.
While I know that I can't protect my children from everything, when there is a real, known, threat to their health and well-being, I can't sit idly by and not do what I can to eliminate it. The chemical environment has changed dramatically since we were children, this isn't a situation where we can say, "Well, I turned out ok!" Because the amount of chemical exposure for today's children is many times greater than what we faced. My daughter trusts me to keep her safe. I have to do the best I can.