As if we didn’t have enough to worry about, what with mad mullahs in Iran and a fat psycho in North Korea about to get nuclear weapons, and the Arctic ice-caps about to melt and soak Al Gore’s organic carpets. (Don’t even mention the asylum Washington has become.) But now, thanks to the ever-alert saviors of the planet at the Sierra Club, we can lose sleep over the dangers posed by toothpaste, shampoo, makeup, and deodorants.
That’s right, that seemingly innocent tube of toothpaste you consult after meals every day (you do, don’t you?) may be teeming with dangerous chemicals that put our health at risk, Sierra warns. In an email sent to media, members, and fans of a heavily regulated environment, Sierra laments that the federals don’t ride herd on personal care products the way they do on food and drugs. (And what a mixed bag that has been.) They urge us all to badger our U.S. Senators and House members to support something called the Personal Care Products Safety Act. This would let loose on toothpaste and shampoo the same folks who’ve done such a fine job of running our health care system, matching people made homeless by Katrina with mobile homes, making a bundle from Amtrak in the Northeast corridor, and getting my mail into my mailbox instead of my neighbor’s five days out of six with no more to guide them than the address printed on the front of envelopes.
The bill would require the manufacturers of those things we’ve always welcomed into our medicine cabinets without question or fear to list all their products’ ingredients on labels, allow mandatory recalls of products deemed unsafe, and set manufacturing standards. What could possibly go wrong?
I mean look how helpful some of these mandates have been in other areas. It cost a packet to get all the ingredients and calorie counts listed on food packaging and restaurant menus, thereby driving up the cost of store-bought food and eating out. But this vital information is carefully read and considered by vegans, extreme hypochondriacs, obsessive-compulsives, paranoids, and, as far as we know, Sierra Club members. (“Hey, look at this, Martha! Cheesecake has more calories than parsley. Who knew?” This guy had the cheesecake anyway.)
Sierra claims that industry folks like Estee Lauder, Johnson & Johnson, Proctor & Gamble, Revlon, et al. are on board with having the federals look over their shoulders, which makes one wonder. The legislation was introduced in the Senate by Democrat Dianne Feinstein and Republican (sort of) Susan Collins. This makes the bill bipartisan, Sierra says, as both parties and both coasts are represented. Good thing Susan Collins is in the Senate now. Otherwise Democrats would have a hard time representing stuff they want as “bipartisan” now that neither Lowell Weicker nor Lincoln Chafee remain in the Senate.
We’d be foolish to ignore the warnings that have come and continue to come from Sierra. After all, they warned us of the life-as-we-know-it-is-over calamities such as acid rain, the hole in the ozone layer, Alar in apples, and global cooling (that one came before global warming — you could look it up), to mention just a few. The group is tireless in scanning the horizon for threats, and seems to have endless time on its hands and money to spend. Sierra officials claim they’re optimistic of passage of the tainted toothpaste legislation. I’m not so sure. Whether it happens or not I plan to keep brushing. The email warns that, “The average adult uses nine personal care products a year, exposing themselves to 126 different chemical ingredients.” (I can’t even name nine personal care products.) But Sierra is silent on how many potential toxic chemicals gang up in the mouth if we don’t brush.
It’s not an easy job protecting consumers and the planet itself. But we can all sleep peacefully at night knowing our Sierra Club is awake. And if you hear a strange noise at night after lights out, don’t be afraid. It’s probably just a Sierra Club threat-assessment team rummaging through your medicine cabinet.
Hmm. Those breath mints look mighty suspicious.
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