How one father's quest for the truth led to an eye-opening new film
Imagine unwrapping a brand-new pair of pajamas for your 8-year-old daughter and being hit with an unbelievable stink. That's exactly what happened to Jon Whelan, a single father of two. His quest to discover the source of that awful smell prompted him to produce Stink!, an award-winning documentary that uncovers some uncomfortable truths about the regulation-or lack thereof-of toxic chemicals in the United States.
Neither the store that sold him the pajamas nor any government agency was able to shed light on the problem, so Whelan had to spend about $500 of his own money on lab tests to find the stinky source: carcinogenic flame-retarding chemicals. Along the way, he learned other disturbing facts, such as:
- Flame-retarding chemicals in kids' pajamas are not regulated.
- There are only about 10 chemicals that are legally banned from personal care products in the United States, compared to roughly 1,400 in the European Union.
- Existing laws don't require manufacturers to disclose many of the toxins that are used in household and personal care products.
- The chemical lobby is out of control.
"Companies aren't breaking the law," says Whelan. "The law is broken." After a fruitless Freedom of Information request, he learned that even the FDA can't find out exactly which toxins are hiding in many products.
How to Protect Yourself
"Fragrance" is the single biggest loophole, because fragrance components don't legally have to be disclosed-and some of them are deadly. Your best bet: choose unscented products or those with a natural scent, clearly described on labels and manufacturers' websites. Whelan also recommends shopping in health food stores for all of your cleaning and personal care products.
"Health food stores are providing a filter, doing the hard work of curating products that are not toxic," he says. To watch Stink! , visit stinkmovie.com.