The precautionary principle is an approach sometimes used by policy makers in situations where there is the possibility of harm from making a decision and conclusive evidence is not yet available. It essentially means better safe than sorry. This is the approach that I use in evaluating the toxicity of products. When I research a product or material and there is credible, emerging evidence that it is potentially harmful I will recommend against its use. This doesn’t mean you should never use it or throw it away, but rather it’s an indication that there is a reason to be concerned and safer alternatives should be sought when possible. Think tobacco and asbestos. For years consumers were told that these products were safe, in spite of evidence to the contrary.
The current regulations in our country are not even close to adequate to keep us safe.
- Over 40,000 registered chemicals are in use in the U.S. and only 1% have been rigorously tested for safety.1, 2
- In the U.S., 11 chemicals have been restricted for use in Personal Care products vs. 1373 in the EU.3
- Congress passed a law in 2016 to improve regulation. As of 2020, the EPA is actually requiring less testing than under the old law.4
The belief that the amount of chemicals present in consumer products is so low that it is not concerning doesn’t take into account the cumulative or synergistic effect of the onslaught of chemicals we are exposed to every day. This example from oecotextiles.blog illustrates this risk. “a dose of mercury that would kill 1 out of 100 rats, when combined with a dose of lead that would kill 1 out of 1000 rats – kills every rat exposed!”
We must advocate for dramatic improvements from government and industry in chemical management. In the meantime, let’s choose to be safe rather than sorry.