Why the Guardian is launching a major reader-funded project on the toxicity of modern life


From pesticides in our produce to toxic dyes in cosmetics, the Guardian is launching an ambitious series to explore the health risks Americans can face from exposure to chemicals in our everyday lives

Pesticides in your breakfast cereal. Carcinogenic chemicals in your furniture, and contaminated drinking water.

Welcome to Toxic America – a Guardian project which will explore the health implications of living in an environment that can expose all of us to chemical contamination on a daily basis through the air we breathe, the food we eat, the products we use and the water we drink.

The American public is routinely exposed to toxic chemicals that have long been banned in countries such as the UK, Germany and France. If they’re deemed harmful in those countries, why not in the US?

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We will examine the power of the $640bn chemical industry – which has a lobby that’s currently better funded than the NRA.

In addition, gaps in the US regulatory system mean untested chemicals legally enter food, cosmetics and other consumer products in the US, and make their way into our soil and water. Of the more than 40,000 chemicals used in consumer products in the US, according to the EPA, less than 1% have been rigorously tested for human safety. Under the Trump administration there are signs it’s only getting worse: attempts to regulate even deadly chemicals have been reversed by the business-friendly leadership at the EPA.

These toxic chemicals are not visible and this slow-moving public health crisis does not get enough attention from the US media. The Guardian hopes to change that – and we need your support. We’re asking our readers to help us raise $150,000 to increase our coverage of the toxic chemicals in our environment for the rest of 2019. This series will investigate the ways in which chemicals in our water, food and environment can impair growth, development and health. This toxic fallout can include: cognitive and behavioral difficulties, obesity, diabetes, infertility, birth defects, and cancers of the male and female reproductive systems.

We once thought these consequences only occurred as a result of extremely high exposures from disasters or other rare incidents. We now realize that low-level exposures to chemicals used in agriculture, personal care products, food packaging, furniture, electronics and carpeting can disrupt the molecules our body uses to maintain our body temperature, metabolism, salt, sugar and even our sexual development, according to authorities such as the Endocrine Society.

It’s possible to find formaldehyde, a known carcinogen banned in cosmetics sold throughout the European Union, in US hair-straightening treatments and nail polish. Parabens, linked to reproductive problems, are ruled out in the EU but not the US, where they lurk in skin and hair products. Coal tar dyes can be found in Americans’ eyeshadow, years after they were banned in the EU and Canada.

With rigorous, accessible reporting, this series will help you sort through the complex science and conflicting messages about what’s safe, what’s harmful and what’s unproven.

If we hit our fundraising goal by 30 June, the six-month project will include dozens of articles, videos, opinion pieces and visual stories over the course of 2019. The series will:

  • offer advice on how to navigate the supermarket to reduce your exposure to health threats – and toxic chemicals found in food, cosmetics and cleaning products.

  • look at the potential everyday dangers in our homes, from flame retardants in the sofa to carcinogens in dry cleaning.

  • explore how chemicals in our environment can impact fertility, parents and babies.

  • report on how plastic pollution is impacting human health as microplastic enters our food supply.

  • expose threats to our drinking water supply.

  • examine the role of the American chemical lobby and raise awareness about its political influence and impact on public policy.

  • hold politicians, the Trump administration and regulatory agencies accountable for any failings to keep potentially dangerous chemicals out of products.

It will also look into the deeper questions of how we got here, who is responsible and what the solutions are. This time consuming, in-depth reporting is only possible with support from our readers. We hope you’ll consider making a contribution to this project to fight for transparency and accountability about the chemicals that can pollute our bodies, our soil and our water. Every contribution will help us reach our goal.

You can reach us with questions, comments or story ideas at ToxicAmerica@theguardian.com.

Read more: www.theguardian.com


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