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Selecting safer products

Selecting safer products

 Why “safer products”?

The simple answer is, all products in the market are not safe in terms of health impacts.

Back in time, while I was lecturing around on lead-contaminated paint and hazardous pesticides in Sri Lanka, people often asked me “why should we select products, why can’t they make available only good products??” true… But, will it ever be a reality?I used to answer that the one who cares about your health and your environment is none other than “you”. what else? would those multinational companies be bothered about what becomes of the farmer and its consumers after using a pesticide? or what becomes of the fish consumers once a pesticide run-off to the water flows? what becomes to the baby when a breastfeeding mother applied a whitening cream with mercury in it?  well…. I don’t think so.

Some countries set laws and regulations to maintain good standards in products, but unfortunately, every product does not obey them. Although it’s said in the law, “not knowing the law isn’t an excuse” manufacturers hardly bother about chemical contaminations in their products. Especially, when they come from small and medium manufacturers. IT’S NOT THAT ALL SUCH PRODUCTS ARE UNSAFE OR ALL PRODUCTS FROM MULTINATIONAL COMPANIES ARE SAFE. It’s merely a situation. Governments only bother up to the point where they set the laws and charge fines in the event of people violating them, yet not bothered by the availability of safer raw materials or quality of imported products.

So, it ultimately becomes the responsibility of the general public to look after their own safety. When it comes to a mother, her selections needs to focus on herself as well as her family. To give a very famous example, whether the whitening cream she applies is good for the breastfeeding baby!

How consumer products affect the Environment?

Consumer products, as have been revealed by scientists, contain hazardous chemicals that not only harm the human health but also the environment and its processes. This is nothing new.. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson says it all. Yet, discussion on the topic is considered to be essential in order to help ourselves by selecting chemically safer products and help the environment by not releasing hazardous chemicals.

What can unsafe products do to us?

Products become unsafe through the unsafe chemicals contained or contaminated in them. What’s the difference? well.. some chemicals are intentionally added while some come free with raw materials.. like they say “does LEAD FREE paint mean free of lead or you get lead free when you pay for the paint? “:D

There are a number of chemicals such that have been identified as causing various effects to humans/ animals/ plants and or the environmental processes. They come in number of “labels”

  1. Genotoxic chemicals
  2. Carcinogenic chemicals (E.g. Arsenic and inorganic arsenic compounds, Asbestos (all forms) and mineral substances (such as talc or vermiculite) that contain asbestos, Lindane,………… )
  3. Chemicals that cause reproductive toxicity
  4. Endocrine disruptors (Phthalates)
  5. Neurotoxins (Organophosphate pesticides )
  6. Immunotoxins
  7. Allergenic chemicals …

all these, of course, come with some of your product/s free of charge! then, it’s your responsibility to decide whether you would buy cancer or only a roofing tile.

 How can we identify safer products?

This is where I would “have a bath”. Because there is no particular criteria to identify what is exactly safe. Some products are safe by all means. Some products become hazardous only to some people when we consider allergic reactions and immunity. Some products are hazardous to not the person who use it but everyone else. For example, microbeads. They are not hazardous to the person who applies it, but to the environment where it ends up with running water from the sink, and to animals who drink that water and live in that water and ultimately to people who consume those animals, more precisely the fish. When discussing on microbeads, I have mentioned this fact clearly, how microbeads bind other toxic chemicals and contaminate fish and ultimately the human. Some other products become hazardous when it is discarded. For example CFL bulbs and some thermometers, barometers, thermos flasks which use mercury.

Even though one may prevent from buying such products, he could get contaminated by others who use them. So, standing on the platform where we are today, we can take following steps to reduce health effects of hazardous products.

  • Be aware!- be curious to find out about toxic chemicals and contaminated products. So that you can merely avoid them by reading the label and the ingredients section.
  • Spread your knowledge- let others know what you found out and make them avoid those hazardous products.
  • Go green – try selecting eco-friendly products whenever possible.  The healthy environment creates healthy people.


  1. Cancer causing compounds: American cancer society website, https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/general-info/known-and-probable-human-carcinogens.html
  2. Neurotoxins: Organophospate insecticides,  https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/documents/rmpp_6thed_ch5_organophosphates.pdf

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