Synergy; “The interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects” (Google search).
I would like to view Toxic Substances in Consumer Products through both lenses; synergism, and externalities. It did come as a massive surprise to read that the vinyl lunch bags I just bought my daughters may contain lead. It also came as a surprise to learn that while the FDA does regulate cosmetics, cosmetics aren’t subject to pre-market approval—with the exception of color additives (Tickner, & Torrie, p. 6-7). I feel like that’s a bit of a contradiction, although I guess most cosmetics do have color additives, right? This seems like a loop hole, kind of….sort of, but what do I know?! So I guess, to answer the first question, I thought I was protected as a consumer, but I guess I’m not protected very well, or at least not as well as corporations are.
I know that synergy happens all day everyday in our bodies, and environments, I know that the cause of one action can have many different effects (externalities). I know that the Egyptians used lead in their totally ‘on fleek’ eyeliner. I know that the paint in our home built in 1972 most likely has lead, I know that our glittered pop-corn ceilings most likely have asbestos. I also know that the public health policies surrounding lead and asbestos exposure were put into place to protect people who worked around the stuff everyday, and that eventually affected consumers for the greater as well. A few years ago when I was doing research for an environmental studies course, I learned that the elementary school I went to had toxins spewing into it from a paint washing facility NEXT DOOR (https://yosemite.epa.gov/r9/sfund/r9sfdocw.nsf/vwsoalphabetic/Cooper+Drum+Co.?OpenDocument)! I know my family and I are surrounded by extremely toxic chemicals, though it feels as if very little is being done to protect the consumer. It is especially concerning when we consider how many different products we consume; everything from, electronic devices, tables and sofas that have toxic chemical ‘known to the state of Caliornia or something’, even our vehicles, my make-up, my daughter’s vinyl lunch box, our mattress, our laundry detergent, other cleaning items, and then there’s our food. Again, I can only imagine what kind of synergy is going on, and I often wonder what the effects will be.
I’ve been assuming organic cosmetics, cleaning products, and other personal hygiene products had better consumer protections—and it sounds like they might, since they have two agencies to answer to. “Cosmetic products labeled with organic claims must comply with both USDA regulations for the organic claim and FDA regulations for labeling and safety requirements for cosmetics” (https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/labeling/claims/ucm203078.htm#If_a_cosmetic. I would like to learn a lot more about regulations are required for organic items vs non-organically labeled items. And I think if there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that, the less I consume, the more safe my environment will surely be. That is, when there’s less stuff, less chemicals, less toxins known to somebody to cause birth defects (even salicylic acid is teratogenic!), then the better off we are as consumers. So, maybe the less I consume the safer I am? That doesn’t seem fair, but I do have a choice at least.