By: Alyce Ortuzar
Please see Ortuzar’s biography below
Friday July 19, 2013
Unacceptable Levels, a new award winning documentary, is a must see. It conveys a clear message from a typical middle class young couple that chemicals are pervasive in our lives and in our bodies. We need to be aware of and understand the health and environmental harms from these rarely tested and barely regulated chemicals. They are serious and even life threatening. The film is a thoughtful and engaging journey of how this family comes to grips with the disturbing realization that every level of government in the United States has failed to proactively protect the public from the health and environmental harms posed by so many synthetic chemicals that surround us.
The movie impresses upon us how we are exposed to chemicals in all aspects of our lives—in our drinking water, food, personal care products such as sunscreens, and home cleaning products. The film’s message becomes compelling when seen through the prism of the environmental and health impacts on children. This focus should make the movie credible to those who believe that if the government permits a product to be purchased and used, it must be safe.
After having their first child, Ed Brown and his wife examine the quality of their food and other consumer products in and around their house. Their journey begins with and takes place through this daunting and profound awareness of their parental responsibilities. They start by reading labels, only to find out that laws are so weak that a label does not have to display every ingredient or component in a product.
Interviews with esteemed scientists reveal that we all have more than 200 mostly untested chemicals in our bodies, which government agencies consider to be an acceptable level of risk. These scientists also argue that the cumulative effects of chemical exposures, even in small amounts, do hurt us. The few chemicals and additives that are tested are not included in the real-world combinations that we are exposed to, so no one has any idea what they do when combined.
These scientists also promote the Precautionary Principle, which some European countries rely on before a chemical or a product is approved. This principle puts the burden on the manufacturer to first prove that the substance or product is safe, rather than approving it and then waiting to see who or what is harmed. The message that this family in the documentary incorporates is to stay healthy by avoiding potentially toxic chemicals, and how to do that with the choices they make while promoting stronger Federal regulations. U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), who recently died, began in 2005 to lead the effort to reform the broken Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). His Safe Chemicals Act gives the EPA the authority to screen all chemicals for safety and to ban unsafe uses of chemicals. The bill currently has 27 sponsors in the U.S. Senate.
The movie also draws attention to chemicals paraded as food and the possible health consequences, especially to children. The film highlights efforts by researchers such as Sally Fallon, co-founder of the Weston A. Price Foundation (realmilk.com) and co-author of Nourishing Traditions, to educate consumers about the harms from these nutrient-deficient products; the benefits of healthy and unadulterated real foods; and where to find them or how to prepare them.
Unacceptable Levels shatters the rhetoric to the public from agencies such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that our food “is the safest food in the world,” even as USDA extension agents promote the pesticides atrazine and roundup to conventional farmers as “textbook farming practices.” Atrazine is an endocrine disruptor scientifically linked to disfigured frogs and fish, and roundup is linked to widespread human health disorders and environmental hazards (see beyondpesticides.org). Studies find that both chemicals are pervasive throughout our ecosystems, including our water sources.
Then there is the sewage sludge applied to conventional farms and in our state forests as fertilizer disingenuously disguised as “biosolids.” But the sludge runs off into our water sources in storm water. Equally deceptive and as potentially harmful is the bandwagon to put fluoride in our drinking water. In the film, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) scientists document the harms from this petroleum waste product that include a decrease in bone mass that can lead to fractures may be a possible carcinogen.
Public messages from U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) scientists also claim that the chemicals in our food are safe. “Ammonia is a declared safe food additive,” and pink slime is a “safe and nutritious” school lunch. It is important to point out that Monsanto lawyer Michael Taylor now runs the FDA. He was instrumental in writing the rules when the FDA approved Monsanto’s bovine growth hormone (BgH) under the leadership of David Kessler, M.D., for injection into dairy cows.
Dairy farmers have since documented how the hormone unnaturally increases the amount of milk a cow produces and causes the overfilled udders to drag on the ground, thus necessitating the increased use of antibiotics to treat the resulting mastitis infections. The rules that Taylor wrote and Kessler approved prohibited any BgH labeling on consumer products. Ecological/organic farmers and stores such as Whole Foods were threatened with lawsuits when they tried to label their diary products “BgH free.” Finally, a Supreme Court case that Ben & Jerry’s initiated and won reaffirmed the First Amendment rights of those farmers and retailers.
To interfere with natural milk production, BgH is a synthetic female hormone that disrupts the endocrine system of the injected cow. And contrary to FDA claims, Dr. Samuel Epstein, M.D., (author of The Politics of Cancer) maintains that the hormone remains in the milk and in other dairy products. He points out that diabetes is an endocrine disorder.
The Brown family takes us on their informative and determined quest for a safe and healthy lifestyle and world. It is an easy-to-watch and easy-to-understand movie, and they calmly communicate what they learn without the drama of too much doom and gloom. This well-researched and worthwhile film is a call to action to take control and help them, ourselves, and others do more to repair our broken system. It is time to call a halt to the U.S. government-sponsored 1950s experiment with “Better Living through Chemistry” and the alarming consequences reflected in the epidemics that confront so many Americans today at younger and younger ages. It is a system that puts profits before people, including and especially at the expense of the health of our children. For more information visit: www.unacceptablelevels.com.
Alyce Ortuzar is a medical and social science researcher, writer, and editor. She manages the Well Mind Association of Greater Washington, an all-volunteer holistic medicine information clearinghouse that focuses on environmental and nutritional influences on mental and physical well-being. The clearinghouse disseminates research and outcome data on safe and effective holistic modalities, maintains a national and somewhat international holistic practitioner database, and provides free practitioner referrals (301.774.6617).