Sick of dust

Updated: Mar 29 2005, 05:30am hrs
The report Sick of Dust: Chemicals in Common Products-a Needless Health Threat in Our Homes brings home the hazards of toxic chemicals. The study, being touted as the first of its kind in the US, tested household dust for a variety of chemicals and says it found disturbing evidence of toxic chemicals in ordinary homes across the country. The study looked at 70 homes across seven states in the US. And found that the chemicals used in such seemingly harmless household items as furniture, carpets, computers, upholstery and cookware have been found to be toxic and harmful to the immune and reproductive systems in animal tests. Thats something that ought to set alarm bells ringing not only in the US, but in other countries of the world too. For its clear that alongwith the comforts of modern living have come its perils.

For instance, the study found polybrominated dephenyl ethers, commonly known as brominated flame retardants on every computer that was sampled. The chemical, also used in plastics foams, textiles etc, can accumulate in the body. It found phthalates, used in toys, furniture, vinyl flooring, perfume, nailpolish; and pesticides used to check insect infestations in carpets.

The irony is that there are safer alternatives to these toxic chemicals. If only industry were responsible enough and consumers enlightened enough to ensure that these alternatives are fully explored and exploited. Unfortunately, in India there is little awareness about the potential dangers from the use of such hazardous chemicals. It is estimated that Delhi alone has close to 1,800 industries generating hazardous wastes. Asias largest chemical market, Tilak Bazar, is located in the heart of one of the most congested parts of the city. Delhi is not an exception. Smaller towns and cities are just as bad, if not worse, with industries discharging toxic effluents into open community drains. We need much greater public awareness in order to build pressure on manufacturers to use safe alternatives. Only then, perhaps, will we be able to lead safe lives.