WASHINGTON – Almost all Americans believe the federal government has a duty to ensure chemicals used in making consumer products are safe, and even more say companies aren’t doing enough to keep toxic substances out of products, a new survey finds.
The online survey of 1,200 registered voters, by Lake Research Partners on behalf of the University of California, San Francisco’s Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment, found 92 percent agree the government should “require products be proven safe before companies are allowed to put them on the market.”
“A mix of lax regulatory oversight by the federal government and deceptive and dangerous decisions by chemical companies have left every American polluted with toxic substances associated with a number of serious health problems,” said Melanie Benesh, vice president of government affairs at the Environmental Working Group.
The full survey findings show 93 percent of the voters also agreed that companies are not doing enough to remove toxic chemical ingredients from products. EWG has long worked to highlight concerns about harmful substances being used in everyday items, including lead, phthalates, pesticides and the “forever chemicals” known as PFAS made by 3M, Chemours and other companies, used on a wide range of products.
“The results of this survey demonstrate clearly that the public is fed up with the failure of public health agencies and companies to safeguard human health and the environment from toxic chemicals,” Benesh said.
“The decades of deception by chemical companies like Chemours and 3M that knew their products were toxic but hid that information from the public is why babies in the womb are now born pre-polluted with everything from PFAS chemicals to pesticides,” she said.
In September, EWG scientists reviewed 40 studies examining the presence and health effects of PFAS in cord blood, with each study detecting a wide range of PFAS.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fluorinated chemicals contaminate the bodies of nearly all Americans,. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends in a report that people with a history of elevated exposure to PFAS should be offered medical testing.
Very low doses of PFAS have been linked to suppression of the immune system, including reduced vaccine efficacy. These chemicals harm development and the reproductive system, such as reduced birth weight and impacts on fertility; increase risk of certain cancers; and affect metabolism, such as changes in cholesterol and weight gain.
Toxic PFAS also are suspected endocrine disruptors, which can mimic or throw off the regular functioning of the hormone system, causing a wide range of health problems. And they’re in thousands of consumer and industrial products.
It’s virtually impossible to avoid being exposed to these substances. They’re in almost everything we encounter every day, many times a day – cosmetics, tap water, dust, furniture, cookware, clothing, food like fruit and vegetables that have residues of pesticides on them, food storage containers and packaging.
Minimize your exposure
While the government moves slowly to regulate and ban harmful hormone disruptors, here are some tips to limit your exposure to potentially harmful chemicals:
- Choose clothing, carpeting, furniture and curtains without stain- and water-resistant finishes or fire-retardant treatments.
- Dust and vacuum frequently, using a HEPA filter when possible, as this will help you lower your exposure to lead, phthalates and PFAS.
- Consult EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™ to reduce your exposure to toxic pesticide residues on fruit and vegetables.
- The right filter for your water can help remove harmful contaminants, including endocrine-disrupting PFAS and pesticides. Consult EWG’s Tap Water Database to find out what’s in your water, and then review our water filter guide to learn which one is best for your home. (For many reasons, bottled water is not the best solution under almost all circumstances.)
- Phthalates can be found in personal care products but also in cleaning products, diapers and other common consumer items. Phthalates aren’t always listed on ingredient labels, though, so consult EWG’s Skin Deep® and Guide to Healthy Cleaning to find safer products made without endocrine-disrupting chemicals.
The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.