CNN Health announced yesterday that EPA was preparing to place limits on chemicals in drinking water. Specifically, the article speaks of perchlorate, a chemical that affects iodine uptake in the thyroid, which could affect your unborn child down the road. It might feel like Groundhog Day (the movie, although yesterday was Groundhog Day) when you consider that the Clean Water Act was passed 38 years ago. However, this is an important additional step because it is the first time that EPA has considered a chemical (in drinking water) that doesn’t have a direct health impact but rather one in the next generation. This potential action at EPA and the introduction into Congress of the Safe Cosmetics Act in 2010 both suggest important steps in the right direction. But, consumer beware. The pace of change in areas of consumer protection is often glacial. As a country of over 300 million people, we must allow analysis and debate from all sides and account for plenty of compromise before changes in regulations come about. Far better that than rapid, irrational changes foisted upon the people by dangerous autocrats. As Winston Churchill quoted, “democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others that have been tried.”
Where does this leave the American consumer while the regulations are being considered and potentially enacted and enforced? It leaves us to do what we must do everyday. We must know what we’re putting into and on our bodies - - to the best of our abilities. The existence of perchlorate or other potentially harmful chemicals in drinking water is a tough one for us to crack on our own, but there are other choices we can make to help reduce the number of potentially harmful chemicals in our lives.
Regulations and science are changing all the time. Each day we learn about a new potential source of concern or why the concern of yesterday is no longer relevant. We must do the best we can. Become a label reader. Embrace foods, drinks, personal care products and household products that don’t contain potentially harmful chemicals. Use your powerful consumer dollars to tell companies what’s acceptable and what’s not. And then, when the laws go on the books and the regulations go into effect, you’ll be that much better off.