My name is Barbara Rubin. I became disabled in September of 2000 as a result of cumulative effects of pesticide exposures. Years elapsed before medical information about such issues became accessible to me regarding the effects of acute and chronic exposures to organophosphate pesticides used in occupational and residential settings.
Then, contrary to agreed-upon workplace accommodations designed to offer me advance notice of pesticide applications, I suffered acute and chronic exposures to the pyrethroid class of insecticides. The resulting central nervous system damage and extrinsic asthma cost me the ability to continue my career as a speech and language pathologist, college instructor, and supervisor of educational and clinical services to disabled preschoolers. Clinical evidence of reduced protective mechanisms to these chemicals was clearly evident from blood tests for various enzymes, vitamins and minerals.
These and other bodily defenses can become depleted with acute or repeated toxic exposures, affecting millions of unwitting Americans. Every human has a different capacity for sustaining their bodily functions when exposed to toxic chemicals. Despite these normal variations in human physiology, this type of chemical trespass is harmful to all. It co-opts our biochemical functions, which ought to be devoted to maintaining optimal health and slowing the aging process.
Our detoxification processes are then placed in the service of poorly regulated industries. We are expected to run unnamed, and often untested, substances through our systems as if we were landfills. Processing chemicals that are incompatible with biochemistry leads to disease-causing inflammation. Residues that aren’t excreted are retained in organs and fat cells.
Europe requires complete labeling of products, and has recently signed the REACH treaty into law. It requires manufacturers to show that their product ingredients do not harm consumers before they can market them. But isn’t that the way it is supposed to be?
Now, I advocate for public safety from the largely unregulated sale and use of toxic chemicals. I also help run an internet support group for others who have been chemically injured, which has led to an incredible journey into the realm of economics, politics and science. The evidence is quite clear regarding this poorly understood source of ill health in America today. Preventable illness will only be reduced when consumers demand information. We must reward responsible industries with our consumer dollars, purchasing items that support, rather than undermine, our lives.
As political reform seeks to increase transparency in government, so must consumers question why we aren’t permitted to know the ingredients in our purchases (e.g., formaldehyde in construction materials, benzene derivatives in fragrances, flame retardants in electronics and fabrics, synergists in pesticides, food additives, etc.) It is hard to believe that Americans have no ‘right to choose’ what we eat, drink and breathe, out of mandated ignorance. The EPA tells us indoor air quality is far worse than outdoor air, illustrating how poor our options have been.
Decision making takes data, so the first step will obviously require full disclosure of product ingredients. A simple contract between vendor and buyer — tell me what I am getting for my money! I hope this will become the mantra of all educated consumers. Hopefully, some of my writings here will spur you to spread this message to your communities, the media, and to legislators.
My sincere thanks go to LaVonne Ellis for creating this blog for me and guiding it through the early years of its existence. Thanks are also extended to Alison French for her current editorial contributions along with a warm welcome to Dr. Rita Gnap who is now lending her valued assistance. I also would like to express my appreciation to the many incredible individuals I have encountered who have allowed me to continue this journey, against all odds. The late Irene Wilkenfeld, taken too soon by damage rooted in chlordane pesticide poisoning, was the the editor of some of the earliest commentaries here. I can only hope to do justice to her hopes for the future of environmental activism.
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