Chemical Exposure in Everyday Life | INFJ Forum

Chemical Exposure in Everyday Life


Product Obtained
Retired Staff
Nov 12, 2008
1w2 sx/so/sp

This article on CNN has sparked me to start a discussion about how we are exposed to chemicals (some dangerous) every day. The article lists 5 major chemicals that we are exposed to regularly, that are reported to have possible harmful effects. This is the list of the 5: Bisphenol A (BPA), Phthalates, Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA), Formaldehyde, and Polybrominated Diethyl Ethers (PBDE).

I was reading through some of the comments on the article, and saw many people saying we need to stop using all of the products that contain these chemicals, and avoid them at all costs. The question is though, do we really need to? Is it even an option that we can do as a socieity?

I personally am bais in this because of my acedemic background. Nevertheless, I feel like people are overreacting to this. The fact of the matter is everything on the planet is exposed to harmful things on a regular basis, and most things are not "proven" to be harmful at the levels found in daily exposure. Centuries ago, people were exposed to differnet chemicals, and they were more or less ok from it. I think there is an over reaction, and that it isn't even a finacial or socicatial option to phase out the products we use that contain these low level chemicals.

People are engaging in a hyperbole about the negative effects this chemicals have. The negative side effects this chemicals have are indeed bad, though I believe they are not that big of a threat. The media tends to exaggerate, and therefore many of the detritmental side effects this products have are viewed as overly dangerous when in reality their effects are minimum and sporadic. The positives outnumber the negatives, and this chemicals are important towards society, now of course if humans come up with alternatives to this chemicals then that would be great. This affects us mainly at a local level, with effects limited to the human population so I believe the continuation of using this products is not bad.
Having lost my dad to brain cancer as a child, I've always been cognizant of chemical exposure and tried to mitigate it, within reason. Brain cancers are on the rise, and the majority of them are thought to be caused by environmental exposures vs a genetic connection. Living in a bubble isn't an option, but there are definitely times that I wished that I lived off-grid and in a sustainable way like in past eras. I try to make better choices in all products, especially food, but I've chosen not to give up certain conveniences because better products aren't always available when I need them. So, I'm a little disappointed in myself at times, but as consumers demand healthier, more eco-friendly products, more alternatives should become available.
I agree with what you guys said so far Indy and Raccoon. I'm going to try not to parrot whats already been said. So another thing to consider is biological diversity. The data has been in for a long time, smoking causes lung cancer. But not everyone who has smoked has gotten lung cancer, and not everyone that has gotten lung cancer has smoked (for sake of the example ignore second hand smoke). That is thanks to biological diversity and individuals' own bodies being able to protect themselves. It shouldn't be any different for the populace with regards to a lot of these other chemicals mentioned too. Plus it really does matter how much exposure you get to these compounds at any given time. Any of those linking agents from polymers have to leach out from the polymer before it can go anywhere. With those its low dose and the amount (as far as I'm aware) is random. In many cases there is a threshold with how much dosage you need before seeing adverse effects. For something like formaldehyde, I don't know much biochemistry yet, I'm going to assume it wouldn't be hard for the body to break that down into something more manageable like methane.

Tap water has trace minerals, gas, and ions in it that vary from region to region. Its a job of chemical analysts to test water for trace amounts of the more dangerous substances all over the world and standards are in place on what the safest thresholds are. In the college town where I live in we push the limit with the amount of arsenic that is allowed in tap water. I know this full well yet it never ever once crosses my mind every time I drink the city water and go out running in the crazy Kansas weather. The threat of it hurting me is really so low it isn't worth worrying my head over.

Regardless, like it or not these chemicals aren't going to be going anywhere until there is a marketable alternative. Once a chemical has been introduced in mass production and is relied on as a stable for an industry you can't just up and take it away. Doing so would kick the economy in the teeth and lower the standard of living chemistry is responsible for that we all enjoy. If healthy alternatives are found that's great. If it can be produced efficiently and economically then it'll get adopted. If not then that's too bad, it's a no go.
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Great thread and maybe not an easy one for a chemist to start so i salute you sir!

I think the possibilities science offers are very exciting but like everything else it is at the mercy of the system it exists in. Capital (concentrated wealth/power) decides where it wants to invest (in order to make a profit) and unfortunately this isn't always what is best for the people.

Short term profits are the goal of corporations. If they create a product which their research tells them has harmful effects for the biosphere (or more directly people) then all they have to do is bribe the scientists responsible for signing off new products and also any regulators that might investigate; they don't even need to bribe all of them, they just have to bribe enough to get the majority vote

Concerning chemicals being around for a long time and not causing harm....they have caused harm. Lead in old paints, arsenic was in cosmetic products and mercury was used in hat making (it was making hat makers go mad....'the mad hatter'), to name a few, they were causing harm but people carried on in their ignorance, much like today

People do not die instantly from chemical exposure so it does not capture the public imagination. Chemicals do build up in our systems though causing harm over the long run. Chemicals also stay in the biosphere (food chain, water supplies and people) and circulate for example: Dioxins (which entered the biosphere a long time ago), Persistant Organic Polutants (POP's), Pesticides/Plant Protection Products (PPP's).....the list just goes on and on

I think there is the world of difference between knowing something and really understanding it. For example i could say to someone 'you know that those things contain cancer causing chemicals don't you?' and they might say 'yeah i know' and then carry on using them. However if they know someone who has died of cancer, or they get cancer themselves, then perhaps they really begin to understand the realities of it

I have known many people with cancer and many who have died of cancer. The cancer epidemic is a reality.

There are indications all around us of the harmful effects of chemicals:
  • rise in cancer
  • rise in asthma
  • rise in skin disorders
  • rise in allergies
  • lowering of male sperm counts
  • birth defects
  • dissapearance of the bees
  • resistance to antibiotics
But because people are not making the connection to the cause the big profit making corporations will continue pushing their harmful products on to us.

Do not believe that corporations are kind and want to make a better world....they don't they just want to make profit and sometimes that is by doing harmful things. Science and particularly the funding of science (within a capitalist society) is very much shaped by the corporate profit making agenda
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