I don’t know about you but I’m both an inveterate label reader and a sceptic – have been for years. Cans, boxes, bottles: you name it, I read it. It’s a bit of an in-joke at our family dinner table. There’s Dad reading the label on the pickle jar again. Maybe it comes from growing up when consumerism was still in its infancy and the wonders of modern science were accepted without question.
‘Better living through chemistry’ was more than an advertising slogan back then – it was, in those innocent times, a declaration of faith in modernity. Then came DDT, asbestos, agent orange and horrors of Love Canal. Suddenly, corporate chemistry didn’t look so good anymore.
Today it’s more of the same. The toxic substances in your sunscreen, shower curtains, plastic bottles and cleaning products may be killing you. Chemical companies are literally getting away with murder. Profits trump human health – the industry continues to peddle poisons with little accountability while resisting any attempts to regulate their trade.
So I read labels, recycle like crazy, shun food additives and try to limit my intake of hazardous chemicals.
But it’s not enough. As citizens we have the right to know what poisons are out there. We need to push our lawmakers to get tough. How can we allow industry to poison people for profit in the 21st century?
Wayne Ellwood for the New Internationalist co-operative.
Since independence in 1966, Botswana’s annual growth rates have been the highest in the world – bar none. It is estimated that were it not for the impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, growth rates would be one or two per cent higher today.