Americans are increasingly being told by the media and environmental activists that common consumer goods—from plastics to cosmetics to flame retardant-furniture—contain chemicals that endanger their health. These chemicals are referred to as “endocrine disrupters.” The activists charge that they affect our hormones, cause cancer, harm our children’s health, affect fetal development, and even make us fat. Many? of these campaigns are targeted at women, particularly mothers, who naturally are concerned.
However, there is no evidence to suggest that the chemicals in these consumer products actually have such effects on humans at current exposure levels. In fact, these chemicals are far too weak and human exposure too low to produce any measurable impacts. Moreover, similar, naturally-occurring chemicals are found in many foods and are far more potent than synthetic chemicals, and yet humans safely consume them every day. Accordingly, there is little reason to fear such trace chemicals in consumer products.
These alarmist headlines, however, do result in harm to consumers: They lead to unnecessary regulations and decisions by manufacturers that lead to higher prices, fewer choices, and inferior products. Indeed, products may ironically become less safe as a result of this dynamic as manufacturers substitute away from known, effective chemical additives and use less tested, less effective alternatives.
Consumers ought to get the facts, ignore the alarmist headlines, and discourage regulators and producers from taking action based on groundless fears.