This movie could change everything. That’s what I thought as I got a sneak peek of “The Human Experiment,” which launches tomorrow in theaters and On Demand. Created by Emmy-award winning journalists Dana Nachman and Don Hardy, Executive Produced and narrated by Sean Penn, “The Human Experiment” explores how vast amounts of industrial chemicals have permeated our lives for the past 50 years, leaving behind skyrocketing rates of cancer, infertility, autism, asthma and more. With comprehensive information and solutions, this film is a must-see! I was honored to help support the film’s launch, and am excited to attend the Los Angeles premiere. There’s still time to get tickets, if you want to join me! This is a health crisis that breaks your heart, as a parent and an American. To put it in perspective: In 1999, when I was having my first child, one in 500 kids had autism—which has proven links to environmental factors. Today it is one in 88. This is a health crisis that breaks your heart, as a parent and an American.
These facts have been presented before. I shared them when I was the Executive Director of Healthy Child Healthy World; today, they’re in the slideshow that I use for public speaking and sharing with families during Mommy Greenest Home Detox sessions.
But “The Human Experiment” is a game changer, because the premise—that we are all a part of a giant experiment, which negatively affects human health and positively affects the corporate bottom line—helps us look at this information in a profound new way.
The truth is, manufacturers have never been required to prove that chemicals and products are safe before they bring them to market. As the film puts it, “Like a defendant in an American courtroom, a chemical is innocent until proven guilty.” When it comes to endocrine disruptors, carcinogens and more, guilt is nearly impossible to prove.
See “The Human Experiment” as soon as possible, and tell a friend. Seemingly powerless against the chemical industry, the Environmental Protection Agency depends on the Toxic Substances Control Act—already ineffective at regulating the 62,000 chemicals that were grandfathered in as “safe” when it was passed in 1976—to control toxic chemicals developed for use in American products. The act is so “toothless” that the EPA can’t even ban asbestos, a proven carcinogen that kills thousands every year.
As one of the film’s subjects puts it, “We’re don’t even know what’s in our [products]. If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.”
Other countries have acted to reform their chemical management policies. Beginning in 2007, Europe’s REACH (registration, evaluation, authorization and restriction of chemical substances) legislation made manufacturers responsible for the safety of their products and empowered the government to randomly test and recall products that they find in violation. According to the film, this type of reform is being adopted in Korea, India and possibly China—which in many cases already has stricter chemical management policies than the United States.
In America, consumers seem to be the only group forcing manufacturers to change. It’s only when shoppers demand cleaner alternatives that companies develop non-toxic formulations. And it’s working: The green chemistry market, which was assessed at $800 million in 2011, is projected to reach $2.7 billion this year.
I don’t think corporations are evil. I think there’s a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy employed in product development today. The developer asks the lab if an ingredient is safe, and based on EPA assessments, the lab says that it is. But growing consumer awareness about the impact of toxic chemicals–from BPA in plastic to parabens in cosmetics to GMOs in foods–is now forcing corporations to dig deeper. To retain their market share, they have to employ the precautionary principle as established by the United Nations in 1982:
“When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically.”
Because if you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention. And that’s a good thing, for all of us.
You really have to see the movie to get the whole picture, but here’s my takeaway from “The Human Experiment.”
1. Do your research.
2. Depend on non-profit resources rather than corporate marketing to make your buying decisions.
3. Make sure you’re voting for like-minded leaders.
Especially pay attention to how your leaders are acting on TSCA reform that’s heating up in Congress. Are they in favor of the Boxer-Markey bill, which has been supported by a large number of non-profit environmental organizations? Or are they in favor of the Udall-Vitter bill, which is endorsed by the American Chemistry Council and takes away states’ rights to regulate?
With pressure mounting on Congress to pass meaningful toxic chemical reform, there could not be a better time to ask the hard questions. Because, as I’ve been saying for years: You should haven’t to be a scientist to raise healthy kids.