Everyday Toxic Substances….In Your Body

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Thanks to everyday products like cosmetics and cleaning supplies, Americans of all ages have many toxic substances in their bodies…that’s according to tests done in 2005 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Mark Schapiro tells us what the US government needs to do to better regulate these substances. His new book is Exposed.

Weigh in: Are you concerned about toxic chemicals in the everyday products you use? And if you found out that one of your favorite products was a potential health risk…would you stop using it?

Exposed is available for purchase at


Mark Schapiro

Comments [43]

Prof.chris Wanjala from University of Nairobi

Thank you for connecting me with Professor Bahadur Tejani

Feb. 21 2008 05:05 PM
liz from NY

For resources on toxics, how to avoid them, and what your rights are regarding toxics in your community go to:

Jan. 16 2008 04:15 PM
James Graff from Tartu, Estonia, European Union

Avoid almost all things man made that aren't absolutely essential to your survival!

If man made it don't eat it (or allow it any where near your skin or lungs)!

Eat only 100% all natural, organic, whole, raw produce (cooking - especially browning - produces carcinogenic, toxic chemicals - search for acrylamide on the internet!) and boiled egg whites and steamed, organically farm raised fish.

Lose as much body fat as you can - that is where you are currently storing all the toxins you have collected in your life - and increase your muscle and bone mass as much as you can with weight training. Weight training is excellent at improving your immune system and the body's ability to deal with stress.

Every day: Stretch and do hard aerobic and anaerobic exercise followed by repeated sauna/ice cold showers (gradually get used to the cold - you might not believe it but it really doesn't take long to actually start to enjoy the icy water!) All of these activities are excellent at ridding your body of toxins.

The medical and personal costs of not abiding as much as possible to these rules far more than outweighs the extra cost.

(See a doctor and get regular checkups before engaging in any overly strenuous behavior - do no harm!)

Nov. 27 2007 05:16 PM
Roger Ush from Philadelphia, PA

Yeah anybody that doesn't use something just because it was made in China is pretty much an idiot.

It should be pretty obvious to people at this point the subtle negative propaganda that gets inserted into the media, and you can see it working.

If you want an eye-opening view on things checkout "Manufactured Landscapes":

Products are manufactured and disposed of in China, we do all the consuming in between. China is just filling the manufacturing role that Western corporations created.

If companies weren't trying to squeeze every penny out of productions costs to begin with, production factories would still be in the States. Then I'm sure it wouldn't have been as easy to blame poor industry regulations and corporate policies on other countries.

Nov. 20 2007 04:01 AM
csg from new jersey

I'm probably late weighing in on this subject, but I wanted to add that I am very concerned about the toxins in our environment. I have a child with autism, another child with ADHD, and a brother in law with MS. All of these disorders may have a genetic component that is triggered by an environmental factor. No one seems to be able to pinpoint that environmental factor. More and more children are being diagnosed with autism and developmental disorders as well as various cancers. This is NOT due to better diagnoses. Our industrial environment is slowly killing us in many ways. I have gone more and more natural/organic with food and have stopped using certain toothpastes with triclosan. I am careful to read all ingredients and recently bought a book about food coloring and additives. Scary stuff! Thanks for listening.

Nov. 19 2007 10:26 AM

I thought the FDA...haha, just joshin ya -- to answer the question about, 'would I use a product if I knew it was toxic':

Is that a joke question?

In fact -- NPR is getting a bit weirrd lately, has anyone else noticed?

Nov. 14 2007 10:14 PM
Jenny from Great Barrington MA

Has anyone had an experience of purchasing footwear that have a distinctly foul and chemical laden odor??

I just got some boots that are made entirely of man made products. They exude a smell that is unbearable!

Is this a glue that is toxic? A recipe for the vinyl that will posion me?

Just curious - Thanks for your time, Jenny

I'm at

Nov. 14 2007 04:10 PM

Dear Leonard: It was vastly interesting to listen to you and Mark Schapiro probing the roles of governmental agencies and industries in USA regarding the use of toxic chemicals in items of daily usage in our nation. The two of you dealt with a comparative analysis of the responses from the European Union, market size 500 million people and USA, 380 million, dwelling on the fact that the Europeans have banned thousands of toxic chemicals like lead, cobalt and mercury from being used in cosmetics, computers, detergents and pesticides from their markets. By contrast the USA has about 12. You also outlined the roles of USA lobbyists, including Colin Powell, to persuade the Europeans NOT to take action before the ban. This admirable investigation affecting our health and longevity of life has one vital shortcoming. What is the point of such extensive and far reaching research if at the end you leave the consumer LESS empowered than before? Are you two immune from this toxicity? Why isn’t it possible for either of you to be a part of the solution to the problem by suggesting where and how we can respond. The involvement of the media was crucial in ending the Vietnam war and in the end of the great British Empire. American journalists played a strong part in this. What’s stopping you two? I will naturally forward your discussion to others. I hope you follow it up with another interview. WITH THANKS FOR YOUR EFFORTS. Professor Tejani.

Nov. 14 2007 02:26 PM
Margaret Fell from Queens, NY

In a New York minute-- or less.

Nov. 14 2007 02:04 PM
Tricia, proud WNYC member from Brooklyn

Claudia, I also care about animal testing, animal ingredients, fair trade, and organic ingredients.

Aubrey Organics seems most compatible with these values, so far. They signed the Safe Cosmetics pact and make stuff mostly in the US. Their conditioner is even better than Pantene!

No, I don't work for them; I'm at a non-profit company. :-)

Nov. 14 2007 01:58 PM
Mary Mills from Jersey City

I love my perfume and I dont want the EU telling the great perfumers how to make their fragrances unless its a case of animal abuse or poisonous
chemicals. Some of these chemicals are found
naturally in organic things. Chemists substitute identical substances when they need to. The
art of perfume is very important to me. I dont plan to drink Shalimar, just spray it. I do think that people should not spray perfume on skin that will be exposed to the sun because it can cause skin tags and rashes, depending on the
chemicals. Some musks and amber like scents will do this. Perfume is an art.

Nov. 14 2007 01:32 PM
Jon P. from Hewitt, NJ


I think you hit it right on the nose. It’s all about money. The overwhelming majority of Americans can’t afford $4 tomatoes, they can’t afford several thousands more for a hybrid car that in the long hall wont even save them any money. The only way eco friendly products will make it in America is if they are competitively close in price to non eco friendly products and they have to be sold in all stores. Not everybody has a whole foods or trader Joe’s in their neighborhood. Given the chose and information, I can guarantee the consumer will pick the better for you product if it was priced the same as everything else.

Nov. 14 2007 01:32 PM
Claudia from NYC

JF - Thank you so much for that site. I went there and looked up a lot of the products I use, and I am really dismayed to find out that if they're less toxic - they're animal tested too. I'm now on a hunt to find safe, cruelty-free products.

It's always all about money, isn't it? Lobbyists, semantics, out-right deception - welcome to unregulated capitalism.

Nov. 14 2007 01:15 PM

Note to LL producer:

(and please pass along to BL producer)

I've begun to use the comments section with some frequency, and notice that others are doing same. Some pretty interesting material. But it doesn't ever seem to get on-air. Do you review it during the relevant segment, or only afterwards. If the latter, let us know in your note above, so that we won't expect any Qs left here to be answered on-air.

The Lopate Show responds:

We do review the comments section during the segment. If there's a question posted that the segment producer finds interesting, they'll pass the question along to Leonard.

Thanks for using the Comments section.

Nov. 14 2007 01:02 PM
Jon P. from Hewitt, NJ


Yes I have thought about it and then some. Dow chemical all but went out of business for breast implants with silicone, Decades of settlements over asbestos products. Then theirs all the recent successful cases against pharmaceutical companies. These are all successful fights against “big business”. And plenty of stupid cases that have come up even though they had not chance of winning like parents trying to sue McDonalds because their kids are fat… Win or loose, litigation goes and gets plenty of press.

Don’t get me wrong, I could write a book on plenty of chemicals not even used by the general public but used in Industry that are extremely hazardous. And I’m sure 90% of the chemicals under my sink would kill me in 30 seconds if I consumed them. I’m just being the devils advocate against this “constant fear factor” that the media wants us to be in. I think there are more important things in this country we should be worried about. Like why do people live in poverty in a country so rich? Why are minorities still at such a disadvantage? Why do we still use gasoline as our major source of fuel? Why are there so many kids in the foster care system? These and many more issues are what I think are much more of a detriment to our health as individuals and as a country then my bottle of 409 under my sink.

Nov. 14 2007 12:58 PM
Tricia, proud WNYC member from Brooklyn

Consumers actually have some power to improve products. We vote with our dollars. The more we educate ourselves and those around us, the more we steer our dollars to less toxic products and more responsible companies. Stubbornly irresponsible companies lose money. They must change or go out of business.

(Chestine, you can try cotton or hemp shower curtains.)
~Electronics: There are less-toxic choices. One cool source is . has useful info. :-)

Nov. 14 2007 12:57 PM

Can the US challenge these rules in the WTO as unfair restraint of trade? (I think the rules are great. It just occurs to me that the US may have another avenue to undermine them.)

Nov. 14 2007 12:43 PM
Justin from Montclair, NJ


Nov. 14 2007 12:42 PM
Justin from Montclair, NJ

Another point on bath products: be careful about labels that say "all natural" or "obsessively natural" like with Kiss My Face products. That is a slogan and not a claim, they are in no way natural.

Nov. 14 2007 12:41 PM

How long before U.S. corps learn how to lobby Brussels?

Nov. 14 2007 12:41 PM
chestine from NY

They already do that - Europeans wouldn't wear perfumes we wear for one, or wear a lot of things we make - they get better coffee - we buy the dregs here - we have a big enough market

Nov. 14 2007 12:39 PM
Josh M. from Brooklyn

I wouldn't stop using my electronics if there were no alternative, but I would pay extra for an environmentally friendly version of the same product. Thank you for having Mark on your show. This is an extremely important topic. Please have more shows on this matter. We owe it to ourselves.

Nov. 14 2007 12:38 PM
Justin from Montclair, NJ

Like the guest has said, cosmetics/beauty products are not really regulated and definitely not tested by the government. It is totally up to the companies makeing the products to have their own standards. When I found this out I started my own personal care manufacturing company making things all natural that I would use- I tested everything for safety and would not use anything synthetic since many common ingredients are in no way good for your health. My company is 63-North ( and I disclose everything in my products unlike most big companies that essentially lie on their labels.

Nov. 14 2007 12:37 PM
daniel from midtown

This is such sad commentary on our government. "For the people," my ass.

Nov. 14 2007 12:37 PM
chestine from NY

And PPS - who knew that Anita Roddick was full of merde when she said body shop products were natural?

Nov. 14 2007 12:31 PM
chestine from NY

I have a friend who had birds - anything dangerous for the birds is dangerous for us - nonstick pans, etc.

Also Europe still has traditions and standards - like nutrition for example - we are borne of industry and that's just how we think - mechanically.

Nov. 14 2007 12:29 PM

Jon P.
Several points. Longevity is more a function of curing diseases more than ofsetting negative influence of chemicals. Doesn't mean the latter doesn't exist.

On liability, think about it for just a nanosecond. If you're having trouble getting your mind wrapped around it, think about the difficulties the litigants had for decades in the tobacco case.

Nov. 14 2007 12:29 PM
chestine from NY

I wonder about Israeli standards - i found a zinc based deodorant made in Israel - you only have to put it on once every 5 days or so! Smells good adn no aluminum!

Otherwise I use Weleda - all made by Rudolph Steiner people - organic, biodynamic etc. - they make toothpaste out of sea salt - no fluoride

but my shower curtain?

Nov. 14 2007 12:27 PM

Boy, color me unsurprised that W tried to undermine the European regulation. See my comment above.

Nov. 14 2007 12:26 PM
Rick from Long island city

I was just telling af co-worker i didn't want one of the peanuts he was offering cause they were from china... Now i see where the concern lies... I will buy my products from the EU via the internet...

TY again Leonard

Nov. 14 2007 12:25 PM
Jon P. from Hewitt, NJ

I’m not saying chemicals are all good, but why are people in America and Europe living longer then ever before in human history? Why aren’t there people dying left and right considering many of these chemicals have used by consumers for several decades now? And in the land of litigation that we live in, why aren’t everyone and their brother suing chemical companies for wrongful death cases. And why have recent studies shown that as a whole, cancer rates are actually down in America over the last decade?

Nov. 14 2007 12:22 PM
Jeffrey Slott from East Elmhurst

What is the big surprise here? Come on, people... you're Americans. You are consumers. That's the reason why you're here. Your health doesn't matter. Your children's welfare doesn't matter. You exist to contribute to the ever-increasing bottom line of corporations. Now, shut up and go out and buy.

Nov. 14 2007 12:19 PM
Rick Boyce from Manhattan

Europe says, it might be harmful, ban it.

U.S. says, Corporations are making money, prove it hurt you or leave us alone!

Nov. 14 2007 12:18 PM

RE: faith in govt. Anyone who had that prior to 00 should revise their minds pdq. Part of the W plan has been to destroy govt from the inside so that he can claim that govt doesn't work so he can privatize everything.

Nov. 14 2007 12:17 PM
Rick Boyce from Manhattan

Several Countries in Europe banned Lead Paint in residential interiors One Hundred Years Ago!

But, continued to use Leaded gasoline longer that we did!

Nov. 14 2007 12:15 PM

Are U.S. consumers going to get a free ride on European regulation?

Nov. 14 2007 12:12 PM
Paul from Brooklyn

I heard someone on CNN interviewed saying (paraphrased:

"A lot of people complain about China. But what if China stops making poison pet food and toxic toys? Then the prices are going to go up at WalMart. So we better be careful what we wish for."

The sincere concerns over prices she expressed was horrifying, considering the lack of concern over the poisons in the products.

Nov. 14 2007 12:08 PM
Sarah from Brooklyn

The only things I would hesitate to give up are my acne products...I've only found one system that works, and to me the frustration of having bad skin is worth the risk. I recently tried switching from proactiv to baking soda/apple cider/tea tree oil to fight my pimples, and got a faceful of pimples within a few weeks.

Of course...I might regret sticking with the chemicals 50 years from now, when I come down with facial cancer or something.

Outside of my acne regime, I use the simplest, most all-natural, chemical-free products I can find.

Nov. 14 2007 11:13 AM
jf from ossining

I already check the contents of my products using the excellent database that puts out. they're the best!!!

Send them your donations, forget the politicians...

Nov. 14 2007 11:04 AM
Alan from Brooklyn

No product is so indispensable that I would slowly poison myself to use it, although toothpaste and effective deodorant both come quite close I suppose...

Nov. 14 2007 10:44 AM
Tricia, proud WNYC member from Brooklyn

I feel betrayed and contaminated. I thought our government tested products for safety. Then I read an article and checked the ingredients in my makeup and toiletries. Every one had toxins/carcinogens! Even Whole Foods sells toiletries with dangerous ingredients. It took days to research and buy new stuff. Thanks for this coverage, Leonard.

Nov. 14 2007 10:21 AM
Katherine from Manhattan

Umm...yeah. What kind of ? is that!

Nov. 14 2007 09:49 AM
Etta Eskridge from Mount Vernon, NY

I am very concerned about toxic chemicals in products and leaching into our environment. But it all comes back to cigarettes for me because if people were truly concerned about cancer causing agents in the environment, why are they smoking? We live in a cloud of denial and don't really want to know about the dangers of our excesses until it hits home. Then its usually too late.

Nov. 14 2007 07:39 AM

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