Consumer Influence in the World of Corporations, Their Products and Their Influence—and How WE Can Make Change in Spite of It
Natural living isn’t always the easiest choice. It certainly isn’t the simplest, or in many cases the least expensive. But to choose to live more naturally can greatly benefit our mind, body and soul so that the “inconvenience” is of little consequence. A big part of our success in finding more natural solutions often comes from an avid desire to learn. Personally, I’m not satisfied when a corporation or government agency says a product is “safe” or “natural”. I prefer to often dig a little deeper, to see it for myself (and I know you do too!)–and while this has led me to some of my favorite products and remedies, it’s also opened my eyes to a big challenge to our notion of trust and our inherent safety as a society.
Corporate earnings trumping all other concerns has always been a potential issue in our capitalist system, but it can become even more flagrant when the need for profit outweighs the imperative nature of truth and safety. This is especially hard-hitting because many people, unfortunately, believe what is beings sold to them in advertising and on packaging. There is a trust and expectation that companies have standards, and that when they fail to meet those standards, the FDA and EPA and other agencies will step in and solve the problem. Unfortunately, history has shown many examples that this isn’t true. So, it’s up to us as individuals to make better, more-informed choices, to advocate for ourselves—and to demand better.
Here are 3 examples of products that not only pose threats to your health and safety, but which are still on the market because companies refuse to see the truth, and government agencies have yet to make a stand—but YOU can, by your purchasing choices.
I grew up with Teflon pans. They were the sliced bread of the cookware world, making cleaning a breeze in family meals. But Teflon has hidden dangers. It’s made with poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which over 200 scientists have agreed are carcinogenic. These chemicals weren’t just an issue if you scratched the pan and ingested the particles–after as little as 5 minutes heating on the stove, the pans can actually release these chemicals into the air, where they could be inhaled by you or your children.
While you might not have a big container of weed killer in your home, that doesn’t mean it won’t impact you. Glyphosate is the main ingredient in the world’s most used weed killer—and it’s also listed by the World Health Organization as a probable carcinogen. It’s most dangerous, of course, to the workers who manufacture the product and the farmers who use it every day. But it’s also very difficult to get completely off of plant goods, so glyphosate has been found in trace amounts on a number of popular products, including breakfast cereals and snack foods. And, when regular consumption of these products happens over time, even a “small” amount becomes an increasing load of toxic burden.
There have been thousands of lawsuits related to baby powder—the popular household product is made primarily with talcum powder, which has been linked by multiple studies to an increased risk of ovarian cancer. Yet, the manufacturer denies any safety issue at all and continues to market their products as safe for use by women on the most sensitive parts of their bodies—and on their children.
In each of these cases, the FDA and EPA fell short of protecting us, the people. The EPA created a voluntary program to encourage companies to stop using Teflon, but they have never banned the use of PFAS in cookware. The FDA is only now looking into glyphosate, after being called out for being too lenient with its manufacturer. Talc is regulated in food products but not in cosmetics, an area that continuously falls short regarding product safety and scrutiny. What’s amazing is that other countries have made sweeping bans on ingredients like these, yet we continue to allow them in homes across America.
The bright side is that in each of these cases, grassroots efforts by ordinary citizens have brought these issues to light. Purchasing choices, petitions, even lawsuits—these efforts have made the manufacturers begin facing accountability and making change in their offerings.
Getting involved and making your voice heard is imperative. But, so are the choices you make every day. Choosing to live naturally and to pick ethical, eco-friendly products makes more of an impact than you realize. Every purchase is a vote, a vote for things made the right way by companies that you believe in. The more folks who make these decisions consciously, the more corporations will see that we aren’t willing to accept less.
And if you’re unsatisfied with a whole category of products, don’t buy them. We live in a time of immense abundance, and one of the things we have plenty of is knowledge. There are so many thoughtful people seeking natural options and sharing them with others. Find home remedies and seek counsel from friends in the community. Your mind and body will thank you.
With every step, we have the opportunity to make our society a healthier, more conscious place to live and grow. So, consider these things the next time you’re at a marketplace. Before you grab what’s “convenient”, consider the inconvenient path and all its many benefits.
Co-authored by Sarica Cernohous and Lindsey Pasieka of consumersafety.org