Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day 2011: The work continues

On April 22, 1970 twenty million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment. Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment. Groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife suddenly realized they shared common values.

Earth Day 1970 achieved a rare political alignment, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, city slickers and farmers, tycoons and labor leaders. The first Earth Day led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.

Over 40 years later, the environmental movement is going strong.  More and more organizations are being created to address different environmental concerns.  The concepts of sustainability, conservation, and restoration, are becoming more mainstream than ever before. Protecting the earth is no longer seen as a radical fringe movement. And although there have been enormous strides in the last four decades, there is still so much left to do.

In 2009, the Environmental Defense Fund reported that of the 82,000 chemicals available for use in the U.S., only about 200 had been required to be tested for safety. The EPA announced March 15, 2010, that its inventory of more than 84,000 selected chemicals manufactured, used, or imported into the US was now available online at no cost.  Here are some statistics:

In the past 50 years more than 75,000 chemicals have been introduced into the environment. Today 300 synthetic chemicals are found in the bodies of humans. Even newborn babies have synthetic chemicals passed on from their mothers.

 —REACH (Registration, Evaluation, and
Authorization of Chemicals, a European Union program)

Nationwide, air pollution causes between 50,000 and 100,000 premature deaths per year – and soot accounts for a majority of these. Soot is the most deadly air pollutant, accounting for more deaths than homicides or automobile accidents. According to the California Air Resources Board, diesel soot accounts for 70 percent of the cancer risk from toxic air pollution statewide.



The Washington (state) Department of Health discovered that one fourth of tested farm workers handling pesticides were overexposed to extremely hazardous chemicals. Carbamates or organophosphates can cause dizziness, breathing problems, muscle twitching, and paralysis. Scientists are discovering a whole universe of health effects associated with the products of our industrial age with profound implications for public health and regulatory policy. The continuous appearance of toxic effects at lower and lower levels of exposure is especially troubling since low-level exposure to some chemicals is practically universal.

 —The 2050 Project Newsletter, Fall 1994;
State of the World 1994, Worldwatch Institute
More than 32 million pounds of household cleaning products are poured down the drain each day nationwide. The toxic substances found in many of these are not adequately removed by sewage treatment plants. Guess what happens when these are returned to the rivers from which cities draw their drinking water?

 —Spring 2002 Edition of CCA Newsletter Partners "Cleaning Without Toxic Chemicals"


  • More than 75,000 chemicals are licensed for commercial use.
  • More than 2,000 new synthetic chemicals are registered every year.
  • The EPA tallied close to 10,000 chemical ingredients in cosmetics, food and consumer products. Very few of these chemicals were in our environment or our bodies just 75 years ago.
  • In 1998, U.S. industries manufactured 6.5 trillion pounds of 9,000 different chemicals.
  • In 2000, major American companies dumped 7.1 billion pounds of 650 different industrial chemicals into our air and water.
  • Except in the case of foods, drugs or pesticides, companies are under no legal or regulatory obligation to concern themselves with how their products might harm human health.

—Alexandra Rome, Co-director of
the Sustainable Futures Group
at Commonweal, a nonprofit health
and environmental research institute,
until 2000.


  • Within 26 seconds after exposure to chemicals such as cleaning products, traces of these chemicals can be found in every organ in the body. 
  • More than 1.4 million Americans exposed to household chemicals were referred to poison control centers in 2001.  Of these, 824,000 were children under 6 years.
  • A New York sanitation worker was killed in 1998 when a hazardous liquid in household trash sprayed his face and clothes.
  • At any given time, there is 3.36 million tons of household hazardous waste to contend with in our country. 

Chec's HealtheHouse,the resource for Environmental
Health Risks Affecting Your Children


  • In 1990, more than 4,000 toddlers under age four were admitted to hospital emergency rooms as a result of household cleaner-related injuries. That same year, three-fourths of the 18,000 pesticide-related hospital emergency room admissions were children.
  • Over 80 percent of adults and 90 percent of children in the United States have residues of one or more harmful pesticides in their bodies.
  • Petrochemical cleaning products in the home are easily absorbed into the skin. Once absorbed, the toxins travel to the blood stream and are deposited in the fatty tissues where they may exist indefinitely.

—"In Harm's Way," a study by
"The Clean Water Fund" and
"Physicians for Social Responsibility"
May 11, 2000

What is even more alarming is that this information is over a decade old. How much has the situation changed since then?  84,000 chemicals?  REALLY?

This Earth Day make a commitment to remove dangerous chemicals from your personal environment.  Many companies now produce safe, effective household cleaners, laundry detergents, and personal care products. Do your family, and yourself, a favor and make your home (and planet) a little safer. 

Here are 10 companies who are providers of environmentally friendly cleaning supplies. Some of them still have products that need to be improved on in terms of their health effects on us, but the focus is that they are “green” and non-toxic for our Earth. They are listed in random order. Each of these companies offers a full line of “green” home cleaning products and some even more.

1. Seventh Generation
2. Greener Choice OxiBrite
3. Ecover
4. Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day
5. J. R. Watkins
6. Nature Clean
7. Method
8. Simple Green Naturals
9. Shaklee
10. ECOS – Earth Friendly Products

On this Earth Day, and every day....become the change you imagine.