The Boston Globe Denounces Toxics Action as “Chemophobia”

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The Boston Globe article “Worried too much about chemicals? You could have chemophobia,” asks “Which causes more harm? A) pesticides and other synthetic chemicals sprayed on fruits and vegetables, or B) salmonella and other microbes living on such produce.”

We respond, why do we need to compare two undesirable health conditions? The article is based on the research of Gordon Gribble, Professor of Organic Chemistry at Dartmouth College, who states, “misperceptions about the dangers caused by the use of man-made chemicals in our environment has caused… a colossal mess.” But we know there is no “misperception” and there is no “mess”. Instead, there is awareness and there is a movement to reverse an epidemic of morbidity and mortality of breast cancer and other diseases based on these simple, yet disturbing facts:

  1. Breast cancer rates have doubled over the past 40 years; today, a woman’s lifetime risk of being diagnosed is approximately 1 in 8.
  2. Researchers have already identified over 200 chemicals which cause mammary tumors in animal studies. Many of these chemicals are common in our daily environments.
  3. Out of over 80,000 synthetic chemicals registered for use in the United States, only 200 have been adequately tested for health effects and only five have been banned.

As advocates of environmental justice for all, the nation’s primary law regarding chemical regulation is a priority for the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition (MBCC). This law, the Toxic Substances Control Act has not changed since 1976 and was flawed from the start. It is no surprise that momentum is building from innumerable citizens, scientists, health professionals, academic leaders, and others across the country enthusiastically calling for a reform of this outdated policy. This is not simply a movement of “chemophobes.”

The reality is that citizens should be concerned about both synthetic chemicals and microbes living on our produce because both cause harm to human health. Articles like this touting “either/or” logic distract from a conversation about solutions to these urgent public health problems.



We urge all MBCC supporters to post a comment or submit a Letter to the Editor to (include name, address, and telephone number with your 200 word submission). You can also write directly to the author, Deborah Kotz, or contact her on Twitter @debkotz2.