Ed Brown recalls the “funny taste” of Darth Vader’s legs. He also remembers how it never stopped him from chewing more teeth marks into his Star Wars action figure.
“I still wish I was 5 years old,” said Brown. “Playing with my little Transformers or GI Joe guys, not once did I ever think about what those things were made out of — the paint on them, or the plastic they were made out of, or the stickers on the sides of them… My parents, I’m sure they didn’t think about it either.”
Three decades later, and now a parent himself, Brown thinks about those things.
Like a growing number of moms and dads, he thinks about not only what toxic chemicals might lace his kids’ toys, but also what could contaminate school supplies,Halloween costumes, mattresses, paints, cleaners and shampoos.
Such thoughts can be overwhelming.
An estimated 26.9 trillion pounds of some 84,000 different chemicals are produced in or imported into the U.S. every year. That’s about 250 pounds of synthetic substances per U.S. resident, per day, with the potential consequences of exposures to those chemicals going beyond the individual. Researchers have calculated the cost of virtually unregulated chemical use at nearly $80 billion in annual health care costs, lost working hours and stolen IQ points. And such studies are far from comprehensive.
(This story originally appeared in the Huffington. magazine iPad app.)
While pregnant with her son Edgar, Melissa Wolfe followed the lead of many a cautious woman before her. She took prenatal vitamins and ate organic vegetables. She avoided dyeing her hair and using hairspray. She even went as far as to leave the kitchen whenever someone turned on the microwave.
“I was very vigilant. Perhaps a little crazy,” said Wolfe, of Brentwood, N.H.
Yet Wolfe still fears that her 4-year-old’s autism may have resulted from chemicals infiltrating her womb, whether components of her migraine medicine, contaminants brought home from her husband’s work installing rubber flooring, or remnants of the remodeling the couple did on their house.