Our Stolen Futurea book by Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski, and John Peterson Myers



Do you believe that chemicals in products sold to consumers have been proven safe?

Think again.

Most chemicals in modern use have simply not been tested for their impacts on human health, even very basic effects.

According to a report by the Environmental Working Group, Beauty Secrets:

  "No pre-market safety testing or approval is required under any federal law for chemicals in cosmetics, toys, clothing, carpets, or construction materials, to name just a few obvious sources of chemical exposure in everyday life. This little known fact is the premeditated result of an orchestrated campaign by the chemical industry to avoid testing and regulation of their products. It largely explains why products like hair spray, hair dye, pacifiers, stain repellants, glues and children's toys get on the market, only to be found to contain highly toxic compounds at unsafe levels after decades of widespread use."  

If tests have been carried out, they usually are far too simplistic to anticipate many important health effects.

This graph shows the percentage of high production chemicals made in America that have never been tested for different health effects. Most have not been tested.

from Environmental Defense



For example, many cosmetics including nail polish, eye glitter and anti-perspirants, contain phthalates, including types of phthalates that are known reproductive toxicants.

A growing number of studies with animals have discovered that modest fetal exposure to one or more of several phthalates causes reproductive birth defects --including males with feminized reproductive systems-- but there are virtually no epidemiological studies examining the impacts of exposure to phthalates on the reproductive systems of people exposed in the womb.

Based on the animal studies, the safest prediction is that they will cause problems for people, too. But industry claims that because there are no data proving harm, there are no effects. What is really a proof of ignorance they claim instead is proof of safety.

Industry's argument is superficially more plausible than that. They point to the fact that some phthalates have been in use for decades. They argue that were they not safe, we would have discovered their risks by now. But the reality is that no study has ever looked at the effects of exposure in the womb to phthalates on subsequent reproductive health during adulthood, or indeed many other plausible health endpoints, exactly the sort of studies that would be necessary to lay to rest concerns raised by the animal studies.

And heightening those concerns, the Centers for Disease Control has discovered that women of child-bearing age are the most likely of Americans to have high concentrations of phthalates in their bodies. Beauty Secrets, by the Environmental Working Group, revealed that the source of these phthalates is likely to be cosmetics. The CDC's study did not sample children, but many of these products are intended for use by children.

For more information on the myth that the current approach to chemical testing establishes their safety, visit The Chemical Industry Archives.







OSF Home
 About this website
Book Basics
  Synopsis & excerpts
  The bottom line
  Key points
  The big challenge
  Chemicals implicated
  The controversy
New Science
  Broad trends
  Basic mechanisms
  Brain & behavior
  Disease resistance
  Human impacts
  Low dose effects
  Mixtures and synergy
  Ubiquity of exposure
  Natural vs. synthetic
  New exposures
  Wildlife impacts
Recent Important    Results
Myths vs. Reality
Useful Links
Important Events
Important Books
Other Sources
Other Languages
About the Authors

Talk to us: email