During the National Hispanic Week of Action, October, 21st through the 28th, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) will begin a partnership to raise awareness of the health risks associated with exposure to dangerous chemicals, including the increased risk of premature birth, infertility and cancer in the Latino community.
“It’s critical that the Latino community understand the health risks associated with exposure to certain chemicals which can be found in many daily household products,” said Brent Wilkes, National LULAC executive director.
Among the alarming statistics the groups are highlighting: Cancer death rates among Hispanics who are born in the U.S. are 22 percent higher than among those born elsewhere, and American born Latino women are almost three times more likely to have premature births than the general U.S. population. Moreover, both reproductive health issues and early onset of puberty are on the rise for U.S. families across all demographics, but especially in Latino communities. Scientists believe that chemicals found in hundreds of household and personal care products may be partly responsible.
“All of us are exposed to hazardous chemicals every day in the products we use in our homes and where we work.” said Sarah Vogel, program director, EDF Health. “Evidence indicates that Latino communities are disproportionately affected by chemicals. LULAC is uniquely positioned to help raise the awareness and understanding about the need to reduce these risks.”
Reasons for the disparity are not fully understood and require more research to determine whether residents in Latino communities are more susceptible to health effects of certain chemicals, more likely to be exposed at home and in the workplace, or both.
Scientists have identified chemicals used in everyday products that can interfere with the body’s hormone levels. Disruptions to normal hormonal signaling can lead to reproductive health problems. Some examples of “hormone disrupting” chemicals pointed to by LULAC and EDF include:
• Bisphenol-A (BPA): Found in plastic products like bottles, as well as food cans and ATM receipts
• Phthalates: Found in scented cosmetics including lotions, shampoos and deodorants, perfumes, plastic wrap, vinyl tiles and plastic toys.
• Parabens: Found in a wide array of personal care products, including cosmetics, shampoo, conditioner, shower gels and lotions.
• Triclosan: Found in toothpaste, cosmetics, cleaning supplies and antibacterial soaps.
While consumers might try to avoid products containing these specific chemicals, the problem requires a systematic solution. Most chemicals have never been reviewed for safety due to deficiencies in laws that are supposed to protect us, like the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). This law fails to protect Americans from thousands of unregulated chemicals, some of which are known to be toxic to human health – but many more of which have never been tested for safety.
In the following months, LULAC and EDF will continue to provide information which can be found on the LULAC health webpage, www.lulac.org/programs/health/chemicals, and at the EDF health webpage, http://www.edf.org/health/toxic-chemicals-and-latino-health. All information will be available in both Spanish and English.
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