The Human Experiment
Directed by Don Hardy (2013)
Narrated by Sean Penn, this documentary concerns the growing toxics movement and the fight to bring the US in line with the rest of the world in protecting Americans against toxic chemicals. The ultimate goal of this movement is to put the burden of proof on chemical manufacturers to prove their products are safe before introducing them to the environment. At present new chemicals are considered safe until large numbers of consumers get sick and die.
I was aware the EU had much stronger consumer protections than the US. I was appalled to learn that China’s toxic standards exceed those of the US – that China uses the US as dumping ground for formaldehyde containing products banned in their own country.
The film starts with some frightening health problems related to toxic chemical exposure:
- Breast cancer (virtually unknown prior to 1900) has increased 30% since 1975.
- Infertility has increased 49% since 1988.
- Brain cancer in children has increased 38% since 1990.
- Autism has increase over 1000% since 1999.
- Asthma has increased 80% since 1990.
- Leukemia has increased 74% since 1990.
The filmmakers also provide an intriguing snapshot of the cynical techniques employed by the chemical lobby, which spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year fighting federal and state regulation. Unsurprisingly they rely on the same public relations firms and tactics the asbestos and tobacco industry used to stall regulation of their products.
The most inspiring segment of the documentary concerns Teens for Safe Cosmetics, a movement organized by teenage girls to educate other teens about the dangerous chemicals in their cosmetics. So far, the group’s most inspiring tactic involved entering supermarkets and labeling all the Secret deodorant products with homemade warning stickers.