We live in a chemical world. In our homes, cars, schools and workplaces, we are surrounded by products that contain chemicals intended to make them soft or fragrant, fire-resistant or unbreakable. Other chemicals are used to inhibit mold growth, kill germs or prevent stains. Approximately 80,000 chemicals are registered with the EPA and can be used to manufacture consumer and industrial products. Testing for potential health impacts rests primarily in the hands of the chemical manufacturers themselves.

There's no doubt that in many ways chemicals have made our lives easier. But a growing body of scientific evidence tells us there is much more to the story.  Everyday exposures to large numbers of chemicals and chemical combinations are having a profound effect on our health.

Children, with their small and still developing bodies, and the consequent disproportionate exposures to environmental insults, are our modern day “canaries in the coal mine."  The incidence of serious chronic illness in children has increased dramatically over the past several decades.  The rate of cancer in children has risen 1% every year for the past 25 years. Rising rates of autism and other neurobehavioral disorders, hormone and immune system disruption, and increases in  allergies and asthma in our children are of national concern.

Clearly something is wrong.

Politics and powerful lobbying interests often prevent government agencies from taking action. Absolute proof of harm is difficult to establish, given the fact that we don't test chemicals on people. Without such proof, and under pressure from industry, many suspect chemicals remain on the market.

On these pages of Common Exposures, we present those where evidence strongly suggests that exposures may be harmful to human health. Individuals who are concerned about their health and the health of their families may want to take action to limit or prevent exposure and choose a suggested safer alternative.