Dead Canaries In The Kitchen
Remember when Teflon-coated frying pans, kitchen pans
and kitchen utensils first went on the market? It seemed amazing that we could fry eggs, meat and even cheese on a hot pan
without creating a mess that was going to take a lot of soaking and elbow grease to clean.
What we did not understand was that DuPont, the developer
of Teflon, was using a poison substance called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) to manufacture not only the Teflon products, but also Goretex, a substance used in making shoes and water-resistant
boots, and stain-resistant carpets and upholstery.
It all seemed too good to be
true. And, of course, it was.
The BBC in London recently issued
a report by the Worldwide Fund for Nature that warned that fumes from non-stick frying pans have been found to be the cause of mysterious deaths of hundreds of pet
canaries and other household birds every year.
Not only are the perfluorinated
compounds in the cooking pans giving off deadly fumes that kill birds, but the substance, used to prepare food for our dinner
tables, also has been found to be a dangerous carcinogen. In other words, the stuff flakes off in our food, we eat it, and
have consumed a chemical that could start a cancerous growth somewhere in our bodies.
If we have new treated non-stick
carpet, or furniture with treated non-stick fabric, or a pair of Goretex boots in our closet, we also are breathing the fumes
from these compounds. We are bigger than canaries so it is taking a little longer to do us in.
But then if we are living in
a new home made of pressed boards, two-by-fours made from pressed glued sawdust, with new carpeting and painted walls, we
are already breathing fumes from the formaldehyde used in manufacturing the glue, paint and plastics that go into our homes.
If we live and work in
homes and business places where there are vinyl floors we are probably walking on asbestos. In spite of all the government
hype to remove asbestos from the heat pipes and floors in our schools and government buildings, you still can buy asbestos products for insulation and tile floors for the home. Just go into your local building supply store and start reading labels.
Are there no government agencies assigned to control this
stuff and keep us safe? Actually, the answer is no.
Our legislators passed a Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) in 1976 but gave it no teeth. Thus the Environmental Protection Agency, assigned to watch over industries that make
dangerous chemical substances, doesn't have the power to stop the marketing of these products. In fact, under TSCA a chemical
company is under no legal obligation to understand or show anybody how its products might harm human health.
An EPA study in 1998 showed that chemical companies failed
to volunteer even basic information on chemical properties or the toxicity of an estimated 43 percent of 2,800 chemicals produced
in the United States.
At the time
TSCA was passed, more than 63,000 existing chemicals were granted a blanket approval for use in consumer and industrial products
A shocking report said that the government reviews the safety of chemicals invented since then through an application process that does not
require health and safety test information. The process also discourages voluntary testing. The government approves 80 percent
of the applications with no restrictions and no requests for testing. Eight of 10 new chemicals win approval in less than
three weeks, at an average rate of seven a day.
How do we escape this onslaught of poison in the new world
Call for a massive reform of our laws. In the meantime,
do not live in new homes. Look for older houses that have escaped the "fixer-up" fad of the 1960's and 1970's, when all these
toxic products were readily available in wallboards, ceiling tiles and floor tiles. Try to find homes made of real solid woods
with real plastered walls. And hope that if there is insulation in the walls and ceilings, it is devoid of asbestos.
If you find such a house, be very selective in the products
you use in decorating, repairing and updating it. Save products are available, but they will cost more and you may have to
drive a ways to get them.
Don't expect to build a new house from scratch unless
you are quite wealthy. Our forests are depleted so if you do find real lumber and wooden building supplies that are not filled
with formaldehyde, they will be very expensive.