Toxicologist Steven G. Gilbert, PhD, DABT, a regular guest who is helping us understand the toxicity of common chemicals we may be frequently exposed to. Dr. Gilbert is Director and Founder of the Institute of Neurotoxicology and author of A Small Dose of Toxicology- The Health Effects of Common Chemicals.He received his Ph.D. in Toxicology in 1986 from the University of Rochester, Rochester, NY, is a Diplomat of American Board of Toxicology, and an Affiliate Professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, University of Washington. His research has focused on neurobehavioral effects of low-level exposure to lead and mercury on the developing nervous system. Dr. Gilbert has an extensive website about toxicology called Toxipedia, which includes a suite of sites that put scientific information in the context of history, society, and culture. www.toxipedia.org
LISTEN TO OTHER SHOWS WITH STEVEN G. GILBERT, PhD, DABT
- Toxics in the Air We Breathe—Indoors and Outdoors—and How it Affects Our Health
- Toxic Solvents and Vapors
- How Pesticides Can Harm Your Health
- Why Do People Doubt the Science Behind Toxics?
- There is No Safe Level for Lead Exposure
- Fewer Chemicals Make Healthier Babies
- Why We Shouldn’t Have Nuclear Power Plants
- How Mercury Affects Your Health
- Persistant Bioaccumulative Toxicants
- How Endocrine Disruptors Disrupt Our Endocrine Systems
- The Dangers of Exposure to Radiation and How to Protect Yourself
- Toxics Throughout History—Exposure to Toxic Substances is Not New
- How to Determine Your Risk of Harm From an Exposure to a Toxic Chemical
- The Basic Principles of Toxicology
- Meet a Toxicologist
TOXIC FREE TALK RADIO
The Ethics of Toxics
Host: Debra Lynn Dadd
Guest: Steven G. Gilbert, PhD, DABT
Date of Broadcast: January 13, 2014
DEBRA: Hi, I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. And this is Toxic Free Talk Radio where we talk about how to thrive in a toxic world.
And we talk about this because there are so many toxic chemicals out in the world today. We find them in consumer products in our homes. We’re storing them in our bodies from past exposures. And so we talk about how you can make less toxic choices, choose products that don’t have toxic chemicals, how to get the toxic chemicals out of your body, what we can do about legislation, how to think about toxics, and anything that has to do with toxic chemical exposures and how we can be healthier and less toxic.
Today is Monday, January 13, 2014. And it’s a little bit overcast here in Clearwater, Florida. So it’s a nice Florida winter day, 70 degrees. I know some of you are freezing, but it’s not as cold as it was last week.
So today, we’re going to talk about the ethics of toxics. Ethics is actually one of my favorite subjects. And I know that our guest is very interested in ethics as well. So we’re going to talk about how ethics can be applied to questions of toxics.
My guest is a toxicologist, Dr. Steven Gilbert. He is the director and founder of the Institute of Neurotoxicology and author of an excellent book called A Small Dose of Toxicology: The Health Effects of Common Chemicals. You can get this book for free on his website, which is Toxipedia.org, T-O-X-I-P-E-D-I-A dot org. And if you go to my website, ToxicFreeTalkRadio.com, I have a link that goes directly to this book.
You can just download it, and it’s got great basic information about toxicology that everybody needs to know, written in a very clear, concise, easy-to-read and understand way.
So, I think this is a book that every person on the planet should be reading because it really gives you the basics by somebody who’s trained in this field.
Hello, Dr. Gilbert.
STEVEN GILBERT: Hi, Debra. How are you doing this morning?
DEBRA: I’m doing very well. How are you?
STEVEN GILBERT: Very good.
DEBRA: Good! Well, let’s just start by talking about what’s the definition of ethics. What is ethics?
STEVEN GILBERT: That is a really tough question because ethics—
DEBRA: I know.
STEVEN GILBERT: There are many different perspectives and different applications to it. And I think the most important part for me is ethics is part of decision-making in our values—how we approach decision-making when it comes to exposure to toxic chemicals.
In that regard, with what our definition of human and environmental health is, how do we define that, and how do we approach our decision-making in toxicology, and then risk assessment in particular.
DEBRA: I read your whole entire chapter on ethics and a lot of the sub-links that you have this morning. And one of the things that you have is one of my favorite quotes in the entire universe, which is from Aldo Leopold. He was America’s first bio-ethicist. And he said this in 1949, “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It’s wrong when it tends otherwise.”
And I think that this is not only a statement full of wisdom, but I think that we tend to, in our culture, think in terms of right and wrong, but we don’t know what right and wrong means. How do you determine something is right versus something being wrong?
And in the song that I played at the beginning of the show every day, it talks about standing up for what’s right. But in our culture, we don’t have a lot of agreement on what right is. Yet this statement, this simple statement, explains it entirely, the thing to base decisions on.
Why don’t you say it again, so that everybody can hear it twice?
STEVEN GILBERT: I love this quote. I use it frequently when I lecture. So it says, “A thing is right,” and you’re absolutely correct in that defining what right is is very tricky. But it’s done brilliantly here.
“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community.”
And I love those words—the biotic community.
“It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”
So when we expose, for example, children to alcohol or PCBs, or lead, or mercury, we’re robbing them of their integrity, stability and beauty. And that just is wrong. And I think we start with a definition like this and think about integrity, stability and beauty, we’re a long way toward protecting human and environmental health.
DEBRA: I completely agree. And it does apply to, when Aldo Leopold says, “the biotic community.” I’ve read his book, so I know what he’s talking about ecosystems. But also, our bodies are biotic communities. And so whatever we do that’s harmful to them—
It’s like we’re doing all these things—take vitamins, or try to eat nutritious foods, or things like that, and all of those are having a positive effect—but if you have a huge negative effect like exposures to toxic chemicals day in and day out, that’s all moving towards demise rather than moving towards health.
And so, when we apply this beautiful statement, “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community,” then immediately, we have to ask ourselves, “What are the things that are destroying that and how do we eliminate them?”
STEVEN GILBERT: That’s right! And I think that’s absolutely correct. And I want to bring up another quote that he has. It’s called, “An ethic ecologically,” and he was, like you pointed out, an ecological bioethicist. “So an ethic ecologically is a limitation on the freedom of action and the struggle for existence.”
So, really, it’s saying to me that we need some regulation. We need to govern ourselves appropriately to ensure that we have integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community.
So regulation is not bad. We all wear seatbelts. And there’s a limitation to our freedom, but it has huge benefits. So I think small limitations to our freedom are really important when it comes to protecting human and environmental health.
DEBRA: I agree with that too. I think that freedom is really important, but it’s hard to be free if—I mean, I don’t think that people should have the freedom to destroy life. That’s a freedom we shouldn’t have. We should all be able to unite together around a statement like this and say that this is the ethic of how we live in a community, or how we live as a family, or as individuals, or as a nation, or as a planet. If everybody were to just take the statement, and put it up on the wall, and say, “This is what we’re living by. All our decisions are based on this,” we would have a very different world.
And I think it’s simply, at the very root of it, people and organizations and governments and businesses don’t have this ethical foundation that you and I have found. And of course, there are some other people who have too, not just you and I. But if this were more widely agreed upon, then of course, manufacturers would be producing products without toxic chemicals.
Governments wouldn’t even be arguing about regulations because it just would be a moot point. This is the way we should be living. And it’s ethics. It’s ethics.
STEVEN GILBERT: Yes. And a correlate to that is we have certain rights. And I used to frame this as that we have a right to conditions that ensure that all living things have the best opportunity to reach and maintain their full potential.
DEBRA: I love that.
STEVEN GILBERT: Let me just say that again. I think we should have environmental conditions and conditions that ensure that all living things have the best opportunity to reach and maintain their full genetic potential.
Basically, if you’re exposing kids to lead and mercury and other toxicants, you rob them of their potential, genetic potential. And the same thing with wildlife.
I’m in Pacific Northwest. And we have salmon. We have blocked the salmon from going upstream where we put copper in the water. We’re blocking their ability to reproduce which is robbing them of their potential.
I think we have to look at this, that we have certain rights. We have a right to know what we’re exposed to and right to a clean air, clean water, clean soil. And we have a right to an environment that protects our health.
DEBRA: We do! Each one of us has that as our birth right, absolutely. We’re coming up on needing to take a break. And when we come back, we’ll be talking more about ethics with Dr. Steven Gilbert. And he’s from the Institute of Neurotoxicology, and author of A Small Dose of Toxicology: The Health Effects of Common Chemicals. You can get that for free at Toxipedia.org.
I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. And you’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio.
DEBRA: Okay! So, we had a little technical difficulty there, but I understand you all can hear me now. Steven, can you hear me?
STEVEN GILBERT: Thank you.
DEBRA: Good! Okay, there you are.
So, we’ve been talking about ethics, the ethics of toxics with Dr. Steven Gilbert. This is Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd.
So, we do have a right to this. And it’s right in the Declaration of Independence. I want to read this.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.”
It’s not just a right, it’s an unalienable right.
“…that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
It’s the first one. Our first unalienable right is the right to life, to be alive, to be healthy, and to be healthy enough that we can pursue happiness.
This is what the United States was founded upon, this statement of our rights that we should be able to be healthy. So there!
STEVEN GILBERT: That’s just great, Debra. Thank you for saying that.
DEBRA: You’re welcome. Now, I noticed in your book that you had a section on human rights, but you also have a section on children’s rights. So, tell us how children’s rights are different from the standard human rights.
STEVEN GILBERT: I think children’s rights, we have the certain responsibility as “adults.” We have a responsibility to our children to ensure that they have an environment that they can reach and maintain their full potential.
The children are more vulnerable. They eat more, breathe more, drink more than adults do. So they’re more vulnerable to toxic exposures. I think that they have a special right and attention that need to be paid to the conditions with which they grow and develop in.
But I think that’s what I refer to. I actually have a paper I wrote on that, Why Children’s Rights. And that’s where that quote comes from, “conditions that ensure all of these things have the best opportunity to reach and maintain their full potential.” It was my really thinking about children and that we do have a responsibility to ensure that they have an environment worthy of their existence.
DEBRA: I completely agree. What are some other ideas? I’m thinking precautionary principle, let’s talk about that. I know we’ve talked about it before, but I think that some of these things bear repeating. So let’s talk about precautionary principle.
STEVEN GILBERT: They do. I love the precautionary principle. I think this is [really important for] decision-making.
And just to back up a little bit, historically, there’s a lot of controversy around the precautionary principle. But if you look back,
Sir Bradford Hill, who did a lot of work on smoking, and the documentation that tobacco causes lung cancer—and this is a good example of where economics has trumped health issues. But he wrote in 1965, “All scientific work is incomplete, whether it be observational or experimental. All scientific work is liable to be upset or modified by advancing knowledge. That does not confer upon us the freedom to ignore the knowledge we already have or postpone the action that it appears to demand at a given time.”
And he was probably referring to the issue of smoking causing lung cancer. The industry created a lot of uncertainty around this. And he came out with a number of principles about causation.
So, I think that’s very important, to establish causation. But if you don’t have all the scientific proof, you have good indications, then you move forward with action to protect human and environmental health.
And this is where the precautionary principle comes in which was defined in 1998 at the Wingspread Conference. It says,
“When activity raises threat of harm to human or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically.”
So, even if there’s some uncertainty, we need to move forward to protect human and environmental health. And it took us years and decades to figure out, “Do we indeed cause a lot of harm?” and give the government the authority to restrict the uses and to modify advertising around cigarettes?”
And this is just one example. There’s a great book called Doubt is Their Product by David Michaels. If want to read more about this, I have other examples.
Lead is another good example of that. I spent years doing lead research. But why wasn’t it the responsibility of the corporations to show that lead was safe? We had the burden of showing that lead was harmful, which I think is the wrong way to be going about this.
I can go into other examples of that. But one of them is the Food and Drug Administration. We have a very precautionary approach when they put new drugs on the market. The pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry is required to produce enormous volumes of data to show that the product is both effective and safe.
We don’t have that condition when they put chemicals on the marketplace for industrial chemicals. For example, Bisphenol A.
Many of us are exposed, almost all of us are exposed to Bisphenol A. But we never gave consent to be exposed to that chemical, nor was there adequate research done to show that it was safe for all this exposure.
DEBRA: And we’re just at this point where there are so many chemicals on the market that haven’t been tested. And we need to be making individual decisions to protect our health.
It would be better if we could just assume that everything was safe, but we can’t. And that’s where each one of us, individually—
I’m working on re-designing my website right now. It’s going to be ready in a couple of weeks. And one of the things that I was thinking was about how I did all this research for myself as an individual. And then I said, “Well, there’s no need for every single person to start at square one and research all these chemicals. And I should just share this information.”
But it really is about each one of us having to make that decision because we don’t have the ethics as a nation, as a government, as a society, to say, “We need to be doing the things that contribute to the health of our biotic communities and our bodies, rather than allowing them to be destroyed.”
And we’ll be right back after this. You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. My guest today is Dr. Steven Gilbet, toxicologist. And he’s got a great book called A Small Dose of Toxicology: The Health Effects of Common Chemicals.
You can go to ToxicFreeTalkRadio.com and the link will take you right to the free copy.
DEBRA: I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. And my guest today is Dr. Steven Gilbert, a toxicologist. And he’s the author of A Small Dose of Toxicology: The Health Effects of Common Chemicals, which you can get for free. The link is on my website at ToxicFreeTalkRadio.com, or you can go to his website, Toxipedia.org, which has lots and lots of all kinds of information about all different aspects of toxics, including the history, the ethics, the social implications—everything. It’s very thorough.
So, the next thing I’d like to talk about is your page, Ethics of Epi-Precaution. And there are two points on there that I think are really important.
The first one is the idea that we need to move beyond just doing no harm to doing good. So tell us about that first.
STEVEN GILBERT: Very good. Thank you for bringing this up. So epigenetics is a new understanding of how DNA expressed itself. We used to think that DNA was made up of certain chemicals, tyrosine to adenine, cytosine and guanine. And that was the way things worked. We had to modify the DNA to make changes.
But in the last few years, we’ve learned that you can modify the expression of DNA. So DNA creates proteins and governs our bodies and governs life. And you can change the expression of this DNA by modifying the DNA.
So, this is a really important understanding because it’s not just changing DNA, it’s making subtle changes to the DNA that modifies its expression.
So, this is important because chemicals can do that, make subtle changes. But even more important, our environment can do that—how we were raised, our stress can change that. So we interact with our environment and the conditions that we grow up in.
So, my thought was with that understanding, I really need to be thinking more broadly that our environment and the conditions in our environment are important. So it’s not just the matter of doing a harm—and doing a harm is usually construed as not having chemical exposure (so no lead exposure, for example, or no PCB exposure)—but we also need to have a good environment that’s more stress-free, that honors people’s development, that provides good education, that really, we need to do good, not just do no harm.
So, I think that’s going to be the challenge in the future. How do we create an environment where we’re actually optimizing the potential of people to develop and maintain their potential?
DEBRA: I completely agree with you. I’ve been looking at these issues of toxics for more than 30 years. And a long time ago, when I started trying to sort out, well, what was toxic and what wasn’t toxic, I had one of those realizations that looks so obvious after you have it, but you don’t even see it at all before you have it. And that is that things can be categorized actually in three categories—they can be harmful, they can be beneficial, but they could also do nothing.
And so I started looking and saying, “Well, okay, so here’s a toxic chemical. Let’s not have this in my environment.” And then here’s something like cotton, which is just there, but not doing anything either way. It’s not providing a benefit. It’s not causing a harm.
And then, there would be something like say a nutritious food, and that nutritious food would be giving a positive plus benefit.
And then I started seeing, well, what are more of these positive things that we could be having. Like clean water is a positive thing, as well social connections and education, love, all those things that provide positive things in our lives.
And I also recognized that many years ago, I thought that if I would just avoid the toxic chemicals, that my body would heal.
And I think that that’s true to a certain degree because I think that bodies tend towards health if you don’t suppress that health with toxic chemicals. But I found more recently that if I do things that positively push my body towards health (like eat proper nutrition, take proper supplements, exercise, get enough sleep, those kinds of things), then my recovery from toxic chemical exposure goes much faster.
So, I’m in total agreement with you about this “doing good” part, that if we think about what do we need to do to reduce those harmful factors, and then put our efforts and attention into building those positive things, then we’re going to be in really good shape.
STEVEN GILBERT: Yes, that’s why I called it “epi-precaution” because really you really need to move above and beyond precaution. Precautionary approach says to reduce harm, but epi-precaution is going beyond the precautionary approach and has them doing good.
Just like epigenetics is above and beyond the gene, epi-precaution is above and beyond the precautionary principle.
It says, “the need to provide a loving and supporting environment and doing a harm is just not good enough. We need to have a positive environment to ensure the children, and we all, can reach and maintain our full potential.”
DEBRA: I just love all of these thoughts. I wish that everybody far and wide would think this way because it just produces such a good result.
STEVEN GILBERT: We really need to be thinking more in a preventative approach, and how do we prevent disease rather than just treat it.
We have a system that has worked very hard to cure disease, and not prevent it. There are lots of money to be made off curing disease and treating disease—our hospitals, our insurance system. Everybody makes money off disease. It’s very difficult to make money off of prevention. It’s even more difficult to make it off of kind of having a loving and supporting environment.
That’s really what it’s about, creating an environment that prevents exposure to chemicals and reduces the exposure to chemicals. It creates an environment that supports and honors health, and promotes health, rather than just trying to fix it when it’s gone wrong.
DEBRA: Yes, and that requires, I think, about 180-degree turnaround in our society because that’s just not how we think—but that is what is the effective thing to do.
And so the first step—I think you and I would agree—would be to reduce the harmful factors, and then put in the good factors.
And certainly, you can do those side by side. But both are necessary, so that you’re not having the harmful chemicals fighting the positive benefits of what we’re trying to do.
STEVEN GILBERT: In that regard, we need to know what we’re exposed to. We should have a right to know. That’s one of the rights we should have, it’s to know what we’re consuming.
We should have some battles politically over this Toxic Substance Control Act, TSCA (which needs to be modified, so we have more control over the chemicals we’re exposed to and know more about them). We’ve had battles politically over genetically-modified organisms and whether we should have a right to know what’s in our food supply and the GMO in our food.
I really believe we have a right to know what we’re exposed to. And industry often takes the opposite side, that everything’s fine, we don’t need to know all that stuff.
DEBRA: I totally agree with you. If we don’t know, then we can’t make choices. I’ve given this example before, but I’ll give it again—oops, no! We’re going to go to break, and then I’ll give the example after the break.
You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. And my guest today is Dr. Steven Gilbert, a toxicologist, and author of A Small Dose of Toxicology: The Health Effects of Common Chemicals. And you can get that at my website for free, ToxicFreeTalkRadio.com. And we’ll be right back.
DEBRA: You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. And my guest today is Dr. Steven Gilbert, author of A Small Dose of Toxicology: The Health Effects of Common Chemicals and publisher of the exceptionally comprehensive toxic site, Toxipedia.org.
So, before the break, I said that I wanted to give an example, and that is that in our marketplaces today, if you were to buy, say, apple sauce (that’s a good example), and you were to go into a supermarket, you would look at a jar and read the ingredients, and it would say apples and water, and maybe sugar. And what it doesn’t tell you is chlorine and fluoride in the water, and pesticides on the apples, and wax on the apple peels, and all the chemicals that are involved in that.
The way it is labeled though is that if you were to go to a natural food store and buy apple sauce, it would say “certified organically grown,” “certified USDA,” “certified organic apples and filtered water,” and “evaporated cane juice,” and all these ingredients that indicate the absence of chemicals. So, they don’t tell you that there are toxic chemicals in products, and that the ones that don’t have the toxic chemicals have to label themselves in ways to explain that.
And that’s backwards. I think that our shopping patterns would be very different if the organic ones just didn’t say anything and the toxic ones said, “This contains this toxic chemical and that toxic chemical and another toxic chemical.” And I think that’s where the labeling really does need to change. We need to see those toxic chemicals on the label.
STEVEN GILBERT: Yes, we could certainly do a lot better job of providing information. It goes to all kinds of products too, not just our food, but the cosmetics—
STEVEN GILBERT: …from what’s used in personal care products to what’s used in the receipts in our cash registers, receipts that have BPA in them. It’s just a pervasive issue.
And I think Europe has done a better job, is working hard to do that, and has more precautionary approach. They give more credence to that, that we have a right to know about what we’re being exposed to and a right to know what chemicals are in the products that we use.
DEBRA: I think so too. I saw that many years ago when I went to Germany. It’s funny in Germany because people are still allowed to smoke cigarettes everywhere, and they do. And they sit down in the cafes, eating sugar pastries, and drinking coffee with pesticides on it.
But if you look at their personal care products, they had natural fiber beds, and certified organic food and all these kinds of things, it’s very, very natural in that regard. And then they have these little pockets where they’re still doing things that some of us here haven’t been doing for a long time.
STEVEN GILBERT: We do a funny job about regulation. I’d like to pick up one other person before I move on, Garrett Hardin in The Tragedy of the Commons. And this is a really interesting paper that was produced in the 1960s.
He talked about that the products we use, the technology we have is also part of the problem. And the conclusion of this paper was it is our professional judgment that the dilemma has no technical solution. He states that from saying that many of the problems we have require regulation. There is no technical solution to a problem.
For example, over-fishing, we have the technology now to find fish in the ocean, and destroy any fish we want in the ocean.
We’re doing that actually with tuna. But the rules and the fix to that problem is not technology, but it is restriction of the fishing.
And so we have to be really aware that technology is not the solution to all problems. It actually creates some problems, and we need to have regulation to deal with these issues.
DEBRA: Well, I would argue, since we’re talking about ethics, that if people had ethics, then each person individually, and each company individually, would say, “We need to do the thing that supports the biotic community” and that they wouldn’t overfish because it would just feel wrong to them.
This kind of ethic was part of native cultures. They had an idea that they were living in an ecosystem. And if they overfish, and if they over-hunted, that there wasn’t going to be anything else there for them to eat.
And we don’t have that sense today because all our food comes from the supermarket. And so it’s always going to be there.
I remember my mother, when I was a child, she said this so many times that it’s imprinted in my brain. She would always say,
“Well, there’s always more at the store.” Well, there isn’t always more at the store.
STEVEN GILBERT: Things like that, I think, is part of the problem.
DEBRA: That is part of the problem. And so we’re not out there in the fishing boats, looking at the fish, and saying, “How many fish are there? How many can we take out? How many needs to stay in order for them to reproduce and produce more fish?”
Those things are just not part of our awareness. And yet, we think—this is another thing I realized a long time ago. Our survival sense is “How do we survive in the industrial world? How do we make enough money to go buy something?” But our actual survival is dependent on us understanding the natural world, and how our actions affect what goes on in ecosystems, and how those ecosystems provide for us, that what’s providing for us is not multinational corporations, it’s the earth. And if we’re not taking care of the earth, it’s not going to be there to provide for us.
STEVEN GILBERT: I really agree with that. We have spent a lot of years externalizing the cost over to the environment. We’re doing that now with coal-burning utility plants that spew a lot of toxic chemicals from up the smoke stacks that’s from burning coal and that contaminates the ocean with mercury, for example, which turns up in our fish.
Unless we start looking at more holistic issues and take into account that we just cannot keep externalizing and doing things cheaply because the environment just cannot take it in—global warming and climate change are other examples of that. Like I mentioned, coal-burning is another one. It’s a big issue here on the West Coast. They’re shipping coal to China to be burned.
And then the smoke, and then the contaminants from that coal-burning ends up blowing towards the West Coast as well as contaminating China. You could see the consequence in China with its enormous air pollution problem.
So, we really do need to be looking at more holistic ways of thinking collectively about what the earth can tolerate.
DEBRA: I completely agree. That hour just went by fast. We only have about four minutes left. I would like to ask you what final things would you like to say that you haven’t said? I’ve been doing all the talking and asking questions.
STEVEN GILBERT: I think the important thing is for people to come up with a definition of human and environmental health that they feel like is their own, and to look at the precautionary principle as the foundation for decision-making, raising threats of harm, and we need to take action even if things are uncertain, that we don’t need to have adequate proof all the time. We need to accept some uncertainty.
And the burden of responsibility demonstrating safety needs to be on the proponent. Right now, the safety of the issue is usually demonstrated by showing there is harm. So we get caught on—I mean, I spent years of research trying to show that lead is harmful at very low levels. But the industry who made a fortune off of lead should have had the burden of responsibility of demonstrating that it’s safe at low levels.
So, we really got to change that. I urge people to get involved in the legislative process—for example, the Chemical Policy Reform Act. We’re really working on a policy level also to change the way we govern ourselves.
DEBRA: I agree with all of that. I do. So would you read to us again Aldo Leopold’s statement?
STEVEN GILBERT: It’s really a wonderful statement.
DEBRA: It is!
STEVEN GILBERT: It was in A Sand County Almanac, 1949.
“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”
I think it’s such a wonderful statement that is really the heart of the matter. It really speaks to what rights we have, and how we need to protect our environment going forward and preserve human and environmental health.
DEBRA: I totally agree.
STEVEN GILBERT: I also want to mention that my book, A Small Dose of Toxicology is now in Chinese. It was just printed in China about a week ago. And it’s global. You can purchase it. But we’re making a huge effort to try to reach out to other people and provide the information around the world.
DEBRA: That’s great. My book, Toxic-Free, was just published in Latvia.
STEVEN GILBERT: Fantastic!
DEBRA: So, it’s now in Latvian, French, Hebrew, five languages. I don’t remember what they are. But this is good. It’s good that all this information is getting out, and that these ideas are getting out.
Well, thank you so much for being with us. And we’ll have you on again. There’s so much to talk about. Maybe next time, we’ll talk about the history of toxic chemicals. That’s a good one. Next time, we’ll talk about that.
STEVEN GILBERT: Debra, thank you for the work you do.
DEBRA: Thanks! So you’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. And you can go to ToxicFreeTalkRadio.com and you can find more information about upcoming guests. You can listen to all the past shows in the archives. You can even leave comments if you want on the archive shows about questions you might have—well, I’m not sure that they’ll all get answered, but you can make comments about what you think about things in the show, add additional information, and find out so much from the people who are actually working in the world today to make our lives and our world a less toxic place to live.
Also, across the top of the page, there is a menu to different parts of my website where you can go to click the shop button, for example, and it will take you to website links of more than 500 places where you can buy toxic-free products. You can click on body detox, and find out how to get rid of toxic chemicals out of your body.
And that’s all the time we have for today. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. And you’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio.