We live in a chemical world. In our homes, our cars, our schools and workplaces, we are surrounded by products that contain all sorts of chemicals to make them soft, or fragrant, or fire-resistant, or unbreakable. Products contain chemicals to resist mold, or kill germs, or prevent stains.

There's no doubt that in many ways, these chemicals have made our lives easier. But a growing body of scientific evidence is telling us that they actually do much more than that. In many cases, these chemicals are having a profound effect on our health.

Children often bear the brunt of what has become a daily chemical assault on their bodies. The incidence of serious chronic illness in children has increased dramatically over the past several decades, as their exposure to chemicals has increased. The rate of cancer in children has risen 1% every year for the past 25 years. Alarming rises in autism and other disorders on the behavioral spectrum are becoming a national concern.

Clearly something is wrong.

Politics and powerful lobbying interests often prevent the government from taking action. Absolute proof of harm is difficult to obtain, given the fact that we don't ever test chemicals on people. Without such proof, and under pressure from industry, many chemicals strongly suspected of being harmful remain on the market year after year.

On these pages of Common Exposures, we present some of the cases where the evidence strongly suggests that exposure can be harmful to human health.  Individuals who are concerned about their health and the health of their families may want to take action on their own to limit or prevent exposure.