- 'The Human Experiment' documents toll of toxic chemicals
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The film cites skyrocketing rates of autism, breast cancer and infertility and questions the role of some 80, chemicals used legally in the United States and the uphill battle against powerful interests of industry to curb the chemicals. Co-directed by Dana Nachman and Don Hardy , a former Emmy-winning TV news team, it tells the stories of three women affected by chemicals and the activists calling for sensible, science-based research and greater regulation to protect public health.
That should be the burden of proof [in household and industrial chemicals] to avoid scientific catastrophe. The film follows a young woman diagnosed with breast cancer; another with polycystic ovary syndrome, struggling to get pregnant; and one with a nonverbal brother with autism. They, too, wonder how chemical toxins may have played a role these health problems.
The film looks at several chemicals that have been linked to disease in humans and are still in legal use. Bisphenol A or BPA, is an industrial chemical that has been present in many hard plastic bottles and metal-based food and beverage cans since the s. Toxicity studies have shown "some concern" about its effects on the brain, behavior and prostate gland in fetuses and young children, according to the Food and Drug Administration. The EPA is currently investigating BPA, which has estrogen properties and is an endocrine disrupter, for human health risks.
Polyvinyl chloride PVC is used in building materials as well as vinyl clothing, and has been linked to cancer and immune system damage. Several national companies have begun to transition to PVC-free packaging. Since , there has been a national phase-out of bromated flame retardants that are used in sofas and in electronics. The chemical can end up in breast milk and body fat, causing thyroid and reproductive damage.
Particles can fall to the floor and leave dangerous dust. The heart of the film is the Congressional debate over reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act , which requires that chemicals must be scientifically proven to be dangerous before they can be taken off the market. We err on the side of industry, putting things out there assuming they are safe--assuming they are innocent until proven guilty.
In the United States, chemicals like lead, for example, in fuel, paint and other building materials, were on the market for years before they were found to cause neurological problems and were banned by the EPA under the Substances Control Act. Andy Igrejas, executive director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families , a national coalition of parents, reproductive health professionals, environmentalists and businesses, praised the film.
If there is any major theme in science in the last 20 years -- some chemicals are toxic at very low doses, not just when you are working in a factory, but they can be a problem for anyone. The group lists chemicals on its website that have been identified by "authoritative bodies" as hazardous to human health. In June, the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N. David Vitter, R-Louisiana, with 22 sponsors introduced a bill to reform the toxic substances law -- the Chemical Safety Improvement Act.
Since Lautenberg's death last summer, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. But Safer Chemicals Healthy Families does not support the bill in its current form, saying that it needs "strengthening. The measure, however, is supported by the advocacy group, the American Chemistry Council , which the film alleges "hijacks the science" by funding safety studies and pouring millions of dollars into the defense of industries, using slick public relations tactics and strong lobbying to fight stricter regulation.
The ACC, which has not seen the documentary, according to the filmmakers, argues more than a dozen federal laws govern the "safe manufacture and use of chemicals. The ACC said it takes "the safe use of chemicals in consumer goods very seriously. We are committed to making information about our chemistries available to the public, enhancing cooperation with regulators and working with other manufacturers and retailers to support the safe manufacture and use of everyday products.
Scientists like Susan Kay Murphy say research is challenging and cannot predict the way chemicals in the environment will affect different people.
But the film suggests consumers are supporting more "green" products and retailers are starting to pay attention to consumer concerns. Last year, the company vowed to remove many more chemicals from all its baby products. Phthalates are found in soft vinyl PVC and many personal care products.
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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, exposure to phthalates is wide spread and animal studies show that they are toxic to the reproductive system and may reduce female fertility. Triclosan is a pesticide commonly added to toothpaste and antibacterial soaps and thought to cause hormone disruption.
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Since making the film, co-director Nachman, who has three children under 8, said she has "made a lot of changes in my thinking. Everybody knows someone with cancer or learning disabilities. All rights reserved. Republican who helped lead Clinton impeachment says Trump-Ukraine call 'troublesome'. Record cold hits Midwest before temperatures plunge along East Coast.
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'The Human Experiment' documents toll of toxic chemicals
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