In an article published on February 13, 2016 by The New York Times, journalist Nicholas Kristof reports on the various toxic chemicals people are exposed to on a daily basis, including pesticides in food, flame retardants in furniture, and lead in paint or water. These exposures have been linked to cancer, impeded fertility, obesity, and impaired brain development, Kristof writes.

Despite warnings from medical organizations and health experts, the chemical industry makes tremendous lobbying efforts to prevent more stringent regulation of chemicals and avoid safety testing of chemicals before they go on the market, Kristof further notes. He compares peoples’ exposure to toxic chemicals and associated effects to the cholera epidemic of the 19th century in London, UK, when British doctor John Snow determined a water pump to be the source of the pathogen. The water company rejected his conclusion, but after blocking the use of the water pump the outbreak of cholera declined. This led to the germ theory of disease and investments in sanitation and clean water, Kristof writes and calls for “a similar public health revolution focusing on the early roots of many pathologies.” A starting point should be protecting infants and fetuses from toxic substances by taking on the companies that prevent better regulation. The challenge of tackling the adverse health outcomes induced by industrial chemicals is that “these are silent epidemics, so they don’t generate as much public alarm as they should,” Kristof concludes.

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Nicholas Kristof (February 13, 2016). “Are You a Toxic Waste Disposal Site?The New York Times