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The Toxic Chemical Experiment on Our Reproductive Systems

serious woman

The Toxic Chemical Experiment on Our Reproductive Systems


Cassidy Randall

Director of Outreach
and Engagement

People often ask me, “Why a women’s environmental organization?”

I always take a breath before answering, because there are so many reasons, and because each one contributes to my passion to get toxic chemicals out of our world:

Women’s health problems linked to toxic chemicals are on the rise. Rising rates of breast cancer, early puberty, contaminated breast milk, infertility, birth defects – the list, unfortunately, goes on.

Women are greater users of consumer products that contain toxic chemicals, like personal care products, fragrance, and cleaning products.

Women of color are at greater risk. Many products marketed to women of color, such as skin lighteners, hair relaxers, and dyes, contain some of the most toxic chemicals on the market; flame retardant chemicals have increased by 40% in the breast milk of Inuit women in the Arctic; according to the CDC, African American women are 34% more likely to die of breast cancer than white women.

Women experience unique occupational exposures. 89% of maids and housekeeping cleaners are female, exposed to cleaning chemicals all day. 97% of the nail salon workforce is female, exposed to a host of toxic chemicals in nail salon products. Female-dominated occupations are more likely to be associated with fragrance allergy, such as massage therapists, cosmetologists, household workers, and stylists.

Obviously, I could go on – these are all incredibly compelling reasons on their own. But this next reason is personal. And this is why I do the work that I do to eliminate toxic chemicals from the products that we use every day.

Women are the first environment for the next generation. Biologically, we can pass chemicals on to our children in the womb and through breastfeeding.

I have endometriosis, which is the leading cause of infertility among women. Doctors have told me that it’s unlikely that I’ll be able to have children, that I may never have that opportunity to be the first environment for a child.
This story is far too common. Rates of endometriosis have risen exponentially in the last 50 years—it’s estimated that 10-20% of women suffer from it. Like the rising rates of breast cancer, doctors believe the increase is linked to toxic chemical exposure-in the womb, through breastfeeding, or exposures later in life.

A lot of mothers-to-be do as much as they can to reduce their toxic exposures during pregnancy, just like my mother did – but we simply can’t control everything. A 2009 study by our partners at EWG found over 200 synthetic chemicals present in cord blood in newborns. Another study shows that that if the average woman’s breast milk were bottled for sale, it wouldn’t pass FDA regulations. Breastfeeding is still the best option, but the amount of chemicals poses an unnecessary burden on the child.

I do this work because we can no longer continue to justify the reckless use of toxic chemicals that leaves 10 to 20% of women without the ability to have children.

I may not be able to have children of my own, but I’m part of this movement because I want to ensure that my nieces never have to worry about whether they’re exposing themselves to chemicals that will seriously impair their ability to reproduce. About whether something they’re spraying in their homes or putting on their bodies is messing with their hormones, or that a product they pick up off the shelf is determining the fate of their reproductive systems.

And this is why I’m so proud to be part of this movement – because we are actually creating this world that I’m envisioning. And we’re not just creating it for my nieces – we’re creating it for women all over the country.

The last year has been a groundbreaking year for policies that will protect women’s health – Congress held the first hearing on cosmetics safety in decades, and dozens of salon workers traveled to DC for a Healthy Salon Week of Action demanding protections from toxic chemicals in salons. The Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act was just reintroduced, and the momentum behind this legislation is staggering.

The Safe Chemicals Act passed through the Senate committee last year as well, in the first vote on chemical policy in years. This bill was reintroduced a couple of weeks ago, and we have every intention of making sure it passes.

Because the bottom line is that it shouldn’t be our responsibility to research which products are safe for us to use. We should ALL be able to pick products off the shelves that are safe to begin with. And we have the power to make that happen.

When you join this movement, you become part of a rising tide of people who no longer want to participate in this uncontrolled chemical experiment on our bodies. The tide is rising fast and strong, and nothing can break our momentum – not the chemical industry, major corporations, or the politicians in their pockets. We have SO MUCH power, and this is the time to use it.

Join me in supporting the Safe Chemicals Act, and in creating a world free from toxic chemicals that impair our ability to have children or to lead long and healthy lives.

15 Responses

  1. Cassidy,
    Thanks for sharing so personally about your reasons for concern. Yes, we need to be sensitive to the reality that infertility is a real challenge for so many women today. Knowledge is power and we all have the power to make better choices moving ahead as informed consumers.

  2. I am so proud to be part of this movement to save women and girls from the devastating effects of chemicals on our health. My daughter had early puberty and sharing her story helps me underscore the importance of changing chemical policy in our country. Thank you for this concise, matter-of-fact wake up call. My work, along with hundreds of other Ava Anderson consultants, supports this important legislation, and our message is being shared in households across the country. Together we can raise awareness through education, influence purchasing decisions, and affect changes in chemical policy. Thank you for all you do!

  3. Irene

    I’ m glad to see you are taking this to our politicians. Hopefully they will do something to eliminate the toxins in our everyday products. European countries DON’T allow these toxins. It bothers me to see harmfull chemicals in so many products. I think if more people were aware what is really going on they would be in Washington speaking out!

  4. Dana Blumensaadt

    I am so concerned with the chemicals we face on a day to day basis and now we have GMOs to deal with! Our food, body products and cleaning products should all be chemical free. Let’s put our health and environment ahead of greed!

  5. Love this!! I’m part of a company that is part of the movement to clean up the beauty industry. Our VP of product safety is the former director at Safe Cosmetics Campaign so we care deeply about this topic. Thank you for sharing.


  6. Always enjoy your site. I ,m a hairdresser that is trying to change this industry that is unnecessaryly over product driven.To sell products and do chemical work is how most hairdressers make money, that is why the CUT comes second best.Well they are all wrong as with the right haircut products are not needed.

  7. Wow Cassidy,
    Thank you so much for sharing your story, it’s very important for people to hear! There is so much illness linked to toxic chemicals and unfortunately as a stylist, I see it happening everyday!
    Bloody noses,sore throats,rashes, trouble breathing, dizziness and severe migraines are just some of the symptoms salon workers have to face these days just trying to go to work and make a living. No one should ever have to choose between their health and their career and no one should ever have to worry about these chemicals limiting their ability to have children!
    I’m so sorry for the hand you’ve been dealt, but so proud of you for turning it into a movement! Thank you for the work you do and thank you Women’s Voices for the Earth! ♥

  8. I can no longer tolerate odors, fragrance, chemicals due to a thyroid disease. It is literally killing me. I gave up toxic chemicals in hair products back in 2009. It feels good to be free. We live in an overly scented consumed in “smelling good” yet many do not understand the harm they are doing to themselves and others.

  9. Debra

    Wonderful that you have created positive change! You have “made lemonade from lemons” and are helping to forge a better tomorrow in a healthier world.

  10. Lisa

    Hi Cassidy,

    I so much appreciate the work you and the others do at WVE, particularly getting your voice heard and educating us in a real-world, logical and meaningful way. No scare tactics just facts and truth. I have joined you, WVE, and EWG in the many efforts you put forth to make our families, our homes, our community, our world healthier and safer. Please continue your efforts and know that there are more silent responders than there are those of us who can take a minute to say Thanks.The benefits of your work and our support is evidenced by the victories we achieve — hearing the good news is so encouraging and strengthens us for the fights we are still battling.

    My annual donation to WVE is on its way!!

  11. When we started finding out how toxic products are, we committed to building the inn nontoxically and operating it that way. We committed to organic beds, linens and then had the problem of how to keep them organic when so much that a guest might bring with them would not qualify. To keep things simple we provide all the bath and body care products for our guests. This works well for most, but it will be great when we don’t have to worry so much about how to stay organic. Your work is helping bring this future forward!

  12. Women also naturally have more fat in their bodies. In the face of toxicity, our bodies retain water in order to dilute water soluble toxins and store fat soluble toxins in fat cells in order to protect us. Our organs of elimination naturally take care of these toxins but at the rate of exposure we are dealing with every day, those organs are overloaded, sluggish and we are becoming sick and more prone to disease like cancer.

    Women who are constipated are 4-5 times more likely to develop breast cancer. That’s because they are not eliminating every day and the toxins get stored in fat cells, breast tissue is made of fat and voila, there’s the connection.

    Avoid the toxins as much as possible, deal with constipation if it’s an issue and cleanse on a regular basis. You can get great herbal cleanses at your local health food store.

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