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Survey reveals little concern over health implications of household chemicals PDF Print E-mail

ImageThe Safer Solutions survey of household chemical use has disclosed some alarming and erroneous beliefs.

Many modern day illnesses such as asthma, allergies and hyperactivity in children are now being linked to chemicals that we are exposed to daily within our homes.  It is now recognized that babies and young children are at the greatest risk from this chemical exposure.

An online survey carried out by Total Environment Centreís Safer Solution program to ascertain the communityís knowledge about hazardous chemicals in and the around the home has yielded some surprising results.

Respondents, mostly women, demonstrated a very high level of knowledge about hazardous chemicals, however a total of 40 per cent showed little concern about potential health effects.  This is an alarming statistic given the increasing body of evidence about the health effects of synthetic chemicals used in everyday household products and their impact on the development of babies and young children.

Illness such as asthma, allergies, chemical sensitivity, hyperactivity in children and chronic fatigue syndrome are now linked to the chemicals we are exposed to in our homes. Studies have found that certain carcinogenic and toxic exposures sustained early in life appear more likely to lead to disease like leukemia, breast cancer and, possibly, some chronic neurological diseases such as Parkinsonís Disease, than do the same exposures encountered later in life.

The Safer Solutions online survey was forwarded to NAPCANís NSW database with additional respondents drawn from NSW environmental education and local government email lists.The majority of respondents were female (80 percent).

WHO study implicates chemicals in ill-health

In June this year the World Health Organisation (WHO) released the most comprehensive study yet on how preventable environmental hazards contribute to a wide range of diseases. The study estimated that more than 33 per cent of diseases in children under the age of five are caused by environmental exposure. 

These WHO findings have important policy implications because environmental risk factors can, in large, be modified by established, cost-effective interventions.

High cost, low effectiveness of safer solutions a myth

The Safer Solutionís survey found respondents used between 11 and 30 different chemical-containing products in the home, with the majority being cleaning products (washing powders, detergent and surface cleaning sprays) and personal care products (shampoo, sunscreen and deodorant).

The continued use of chemical products rather than natural, safe alternatives can in part be attributed to the myth that natural products are more expensive. More than 80 percent stated they would be likely to use an environmentally safer cleaning product if it was the same price as conventional cleaners.

Safer Solutions aims to dispel the myth that natural cleaning is more expensive and less effective. For example, simple, natural and non-toxic products such as bicarbonate of soda and vinegar are as effective as chemical cleaners yet are cheaper and do not risk the health of families or the environment.

Under the Safer Solutions program, the Total Environment Centre has developed a new website - www.safersolution.org.au  - that addresses the use of chemicals in and around the home, the garden and in DIY renovation. The site provides information and simple-to-follow ideas on how to reduce the chemical load in the home so that the health of families is protected.

Information: Morag White
P: 02 9261 3437
F: 02 9261 3990
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