Run, hide, stay in bed. They’re going to get you!
The video is a traler for the Sean Penn doco – it is confronting because it challenges us to look at what we use and how it effects us.
Toxicity is actually part of our lives, we can deal with it easily if we learn and take steps to minimise the effects of chemicals in our lives. But we do need to take stock of the things that do effect us.
Do you love that new car smell? Beware.
My first conscious moment of how chemicals affect could affect me was in the 1970s when I was sitting in my father’s car. It was a hot day, around 35c. The windows were up, there was no sea breeze at that point, and all I could smell was vinyl. I immediately wound the window down to allow air to come in and displace what I could smell. I didn’t know then that the sweet smell in my nostrils was vinyl chloride which is highly toxic. In the 80s I commented to a car repair guy that the windshield of my car often had a film on it, he said it was vinyl vappour. It wasn’t until the late 90s that some public comment was made to the effect of always leave your car window down just a little to vent the vinyl vapour.
Vinyl chloride was developed in 1863, and over the next sixty years it would be refined and used in a number of applications from aerosols, to car fabrics. It was in production in the 1930s and was already the subject of research by those concerned for health. One of the research statistics was a consistent record of liver and kidney cancers among those who worked with the product. Since then the companies using poly vinyl chloride or PVC* have developed a more stable formulation, or, in some cases, companies buying in the product have reduced their usage.
The year our two young sons wanted their bedrooms painted in bold and trendy colours, I set to and did it myself, never once thinking to move the youngest’s aquarium tank out while I painted. I used a new formulation of paint on the market, made by a top brand. I thought the fumes were extreme. The next morning the fish were all dead, and we pondered the effect on our own lungs.
When we were on the farm we went organic, I had read more than enough to convince me that herbicides and pesticides, as well as inorganic fertilizers were likely to affect our health. The research into the cancer risk through the use of some agricultural products is now publicly well documented, and by the World Health organisation. Some of our extended family have suffered from agricultural chemical induced cancers.
There’s been a whole range of building product disasters from petro-chemically based products to vinyls, to asbestos, cement dust, fiberglass, and chemically treated particle board. Many of those issues now thoroughly researched and most dealt with.
And then there’s the whole processed and fast food issue, Supersize Me, Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead are among the many documentaries on food and how it affects us. The current issue is sugar. And then there’s cleaning and personal care products.
So, long story short. We have reduced as much plastic as we can, especially those products that are formed from any vinyl chloride compounds, mainly soft plastics. That’s not as easy as it sounds – tubes, packaging, paints, equipment, cars, clothing, building products – it is everywhere. But we are getting there and with the public and corporate awareness, vinyls are being more responsibly produced and monitored, and vinyl chloride is much more stable today than it was three decades ago. We are using natural fibres, metal drink containers, glass where possible, organic products from foods to personal care products to garden chemicals. Who knows what effect these will have? I’m thinking, they’ve got to be better than vinyl chloride!
*Note: PVC is also my initial and in highschool my nickname was plastic!