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The Options

No one today can avoid synthetic chemicals, but there are steps that people can take – in their homes and their communities – to lessen their exposures to the most hazardous compounds. The first step is knowledge. "Right-to-Know" laws have made it possible for citizens to identify specific companies that release the most toxic chemicals identified by the EPA, although efforts to discover what products may contain these chemicals have been largely thwarted.

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The system is far from perfect. Only about 600 chemicals must be reported on EPA's Toxic Release Inventory, out of an estimated 75,000 chemicals registered. Information about potentially harmful chemicals in consumer goods is even sketchier. Labels do not always list every ingredient. (Companies often claim trade-secrecy exemptions on exact formulations.) But available sources do make educated choices possible – and also help citizens to ask the right questions of the government and the chemical industry.

The federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) has evolved into one of the most powerful tools for citizens trying to protect themselves from toxic substances. This guide shows you where to look for information on toxic releases, contaminants in drinking water, potential health effects of specific chemicals and more.
Protecting Yourself
Many of the chemicals we are exposed to every day are found in our own homes. Synthetic chemicals can be found in nail polish, on orange peels or in ice cream. They may concentrate in carpet dust or on plush baby toys. Find out where they may be in your home, and what you can do about it.
Protecting Yourself

Children in spray
Pesticides like DDT were once advertised as miracle chemicals that would eradicate crop pests and mosquitoes.

Excerpt (pdf) from Raising Children Toxic Free by Herbert L. Needleman, M.D. and Philip J. Landrigan, M.D.

Pesticide residues in food.
Play Food Roulette from the Environmental Working Group

National Institute of Environmetal Health Sciences
Environmental information by topic

Texas Center for Policy Studies
Chemical and Pesticide exposures in schools

Photo Credits: EPA, MacDonald, ©2001 Corbis, Fox Movietonews

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