by Paige Wolf
“I drank Diet Coke and ate Oreos for 47 years and I’m fine!”
“My mother used Windex and lived to be 96!”
“Millions of people eat at McDonald’s and they’re doing just fine!”
I can not tell you how many times I hear this! And not just from older generations, but from people younger than me.
People don’t want to believe that what they can’t see will hurt them. They are resistant to change, defensive of the brand names they grew up with. It’s often a combination of stubbornness, nostalgia, and not being open to being convinced otherwise.
So what do I say when people tell me that their 86-year-old grandmother eats Cheetos and wears drugstore perfume and she’s strong as an ox? Here are four things I like to point out.
1.The products you grew up with are likely not the same recipe on the market now.
For better or worse, chemical cocktails have evolved over the years, and your favorite breakfast cereal has likely gone through a few changes. There are now around 84,000 chemicals on the market and only about 1 percent of them have been studied for safety. Each year, an estimated 2,000 new ones are introduced for use in such everyday items as foods, personal care products, prescription drugs, and household cleaners – and with the way things are going, we shouldn’t expect mandatory testing at the federal level anytime soon. In 2010, Lisa Jackson, then the administrator of the EPA, noted, “A child born in America today will grow up exposed to more chemicals than any other generation in our history.” Simply put, your childhood did not experience the equivalent of the average chemical consumption of the average child in 2017.
2. Are you really 100% fine?
Are you sure? Did you have fertility issues? Do your kids have asthma? How are your allergies lately? Have you ever had a migraine? Do you know for a fact that you won’t be diagnosed with cancer tomorrow due in some part to bioaccumulative chemicals in your body?
“Fine” is a relative term. Don’t discount your health issues to “luck of the draw” – there may be more to them than you realize.
“Whatever, you could get hit by a bus tomorrow.”
Yeah, I was. It was called sepsis. But doctors credit my amazing recovery with having been in such good health to begin with. If I’d had diabetes or emphysema or any number of other ailments I may not be here today.
Now, could I do everything “perfect” and still get cancer? Absolutely. But if giving up some shitty perfume will help stack the odds in my favor, it’s not a huge loss.
3. If you are truly fine you are very lucky. But not everyone fares so well.
Some people may be more genetically susceptible to issues which can be amplified by hormone-disrupting chemicals and carcinogens. Why not hedge your bets in your family’s favor? When you wear hormone-disrupting perfume and spray Febreze everywhere, you aren’t the only one who has to inhale the phthalates. When you serve Kool-Aid at a party, all the kids are going to drink it. Am I saying you’re a monster for serving juice? Of course not! And, look, I get that half these party places don’t even let you bring your own food. Perfect isn’t possible. But if you can offer something with less artificial additives, why not?
4. Do you really want to spend your money supporting companies who are harming others?
If we really want to take care of ourselves and each other, and move the needle “closer to fine” (cue Indigo Girls), let’s support companies that offer products that are better for our health and the planet. From small local businesses to the larger B Corporations, safer products are more affordable and accessible than ever. When we vote with our dollars, we send a clear message with our wallets. Better is always possible.
Paige Wolf is the founder of PhillyTweens.com and the author of Spit That Out! The Overly Informed Parent’s Guide to Raising Healthy Kids in the Age of Environmental Guilt book and blog, where this post first appeared. She is also the owner of Paige Wolf Media and Public Relations, a B Corporation PR firm focused on sustainable clientele. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband, two children, and American Hairless Terrier.