Some days, to be honest, I find myself wishing that my professional life wasn’t quite so centered on burying my head in arcane research trying to decode scientific mumbo-jumbo that seems to suggest some possible new toxicological bogeyman. It can get a little brain crushing. And the data can be a downer, too. But then a reminder comes along that it’s good to help people stay ahead of the chemical curve.
That happened yesterday when Friends of the Earth released a new report showing it had found polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in a host of baby and kid products that include cribs, car seats, and strollers.
The news that stuff for kids contains an easy-leaching chemical linked to cancer, hormonal disruption, and developmental disorders (to name a few) is pretty shocking. But then again, not really. Not if you’ve been reading what we’ve had to say. Our first warning about PBDEs came in October of 2003, almost five years ago. And if you check groups like the Environmental Working Group and Greenpeace, you can see that we haven’t been the only ones concerned about these substances.
Don’t get me wrong -- I’m very glad the FOE is on the case, glad CBS News did a big two-part series on report, glad the word is finally getting out. But if you’ve been paying attention, you have to wonder why didn’t FOE do this research four or five years ago, after the whole trouble with PBDE’s first started?
Whatever… I’m just happy for any increased awareness. But mostly I’m happy our company and its readers have all been aware of the issue for years and have known enough to ask about it when buying furniture and mattresses and electronics and all the other products that could contain PBDEs. We’ve been doing what we can to keep this stuff out of our homes and bodies for years already.
That’s really the moral of the story: if you want to know what’s coming, if you want to take precautionary steps today to protect your family from the tomorrow’s chemical worry, keep tuned to your favorite under-the-radar environmental news sources because that’s where you’ll hear about these things first. By my calculation, it takes three to five years from the first mention of a problem with a given chemical to travel from scientific journals and eco-news outlets to the evening news and the morning papers, and even then there are no guarantees that it’ll appear above the fold and not on page 45 next to the report on hog belly futures.
After all, we’re talking about precaution here, about insulating ourselves from potential problems before they have a chance to start trouble in the first place. That means taking a proactive stance, not a reactive one. And that means learning about chemicals that might go bump in the night long before sunset comes.
To learn more about PBDEs check out their entry on our Dirty Dozen list of chemicals to avoid. To reduce their levels in your home, practice safe dusting.