Informal Feminism

{April 3, 2011}   The Importance of Awareness

I hope everyone had the chance to read and enjoy the article on male feminists. This week I am going to talk about this crazy documentary I came across while surfing Netflix earlier in the week called Homo Toxicus. This is a Canadian documentary made in 2008 that explores the dangers of the chemicals that we intake on a regular basis and the harm that those chemicals are doing to animals, the environment and ourselves. This is an extremely relevant topic since the crisis in Japan and the radiation damage parts of the ocean are now facing. The toxins that we are exposed to everyday are something that we need to be aware of for our own health and survival.

In the first section of Homo Toxicus Carole Poliquin, the documentarian explores how we are faced with chemicals just by using everyday household items. She points to shampoos, soaps, cleaners, and even frying pans to explore this issue. She explains that the chemicals that they add to these products are harmful because they act as endocrine disrupters. That means that they are very damaging to our hormones, they block the path of our natural hormones because the chemicals act as if they are our hormones. What is seen by this is that there is an increased risk of breast and prostate cancer, as well as other reproductive disorders. Poliquin points out the irony of our situation when she tells that camera that she had bought her pink T-Fal frying pan to support breast cancer, only to find out that the chemicals in the Teflon act as endocrine disrupters. So she had bought something to support breast cancer that increased her risk of getting breast cancer. These chemicals are prevalent in our shampoos and soap as well, the chemical that makes your shampoo lather also acts as an endocrine disrupter. These products are in daily use in our homes, without a real understanding of how harmful they can be.

Poliquin also talked about the chemicals that we see entering our system through the environment. Pesticides are allowed to leak into our water and can cause serious issues to our bodies. In one section of the film Poliquin talks about the fact that frogs are no longer producing male frogs in certain areas because of their exposure to these chemicals. These frogs’ reproductive systems have been badly injured at the hands of these chemicals and the lax laws surrounding them. The researcher that Poliquin spoke with stated that they had seen a huge increase in hermaphroditic frogs and a decrease in male frogs, the male frogs that were being born were more often born with lower sperm making it more difficult to reproduce. Poliquin went to health Canada and asked them if they felt that this was an issue for people because of the results that they had studied in frogs. The representative was kind enough to point out the physical differences between people and frogs and let her know that they couldn’t claim harm to humans because of the difference, which sounds like bullfrogs to me. Poliquin then went to Sarnia, right here in Ontario and also known as chemical valley, and the aboriginal community there. In that community, which backs onto the chemical plants in Sarnia, they had seen a large drop in male children being born and women having extreme difficulties reproducing over all. Many of the women had suffered multiple miscarriages and the male to female population in children was 6 females to 1 male, a normal male to female population ratio is 106 males to every 100 females. This community has suffered as a result of being exposed to the harmful and dangerous chemicals being produced in the factories in their own backyard. So maybe you can’t judge harm to humans by looking at harm to frogs but you can see harm to humans when you look at certain communities of people.

In the final section of the film I am going to discuss Poliquin discusses the harmful chemicals being put into foods. She discusses the pesticides used in growing food and how harmful they can be. She also talks about the harm being done especially to sea creatures. Once a chemical is in the air it becomes part of our air system, what that also means is that when it rains that chemical gets pulled into the rain and dispersed throughout the ocean. What then happens is that fish eat it and now have harmful chemicals in their system they can’t get rid of. Fish eat smaller fish and absorb the chemicals through those smaller fish. People then fish and eat the fish they catch, which makes it so that they absorb the chemicals in the fish. This process has done irreparable harm to certain communities, such as the Inuit’s up north who relay on raw fish as a large part of their diet. These communities are seeing many different problems arising become of this, including things like severe hearing loss in large groups of children. Poliquin also discusses the harm that our mass production of meat is creating because of the hormones and antibiotics being pumped into the animals to be able to continue to supply our mass consumer culture. These hormones and antibiotics are then being passed along to us when we ingest them.

So I have given an idea of what the film is about in the last few paragraphs, though you should go and watch the film because what I have said here is only a fraction of what she touches on, but what does it have to do with a feminist blog you may be asking. While these issues are issues that affect our world, not one section of our world but the whole damn thing, and as such is something extremely important to discuss in any forum, so as to raise awareness. The issues that women are facing as a result of these harmful chemicals being added to every aspect of our lives is huge, when Poliquin went to Sarnia and talked to the women specifically they were devastated by the harm that had been done to their bodies and reproductive systems. In the larger populations of people we have yet to see the kind of devastation these smaller communities experience but I have no doubt that it will soon be apparent.

In Canada we have what is called risk management policies. What this means is that health Canada assesses a risk and then determines the smallest amount safe for the population. However, with many of these chemicals it has been proven again and again that even in the smallest amounts it is harmful to the human body. What becomes clear is that health Canada is bowing to the larger corporations and giving them the keys to our health, which is terrifying. It is also something that women are faced with time and again; our reproductive choices or choices for our own health are being controlled by someone else. It is also something that women need to be aware of because we use many of these chemicals in our daily lives without realizing the harm to ourselves. Poliquin did a blood test during the film and it can back with 110 chemicals in her blood in small amounts. When she asked about the harm, the doctors told her as long as she wasn’t sick there was nothing to worry about. However, these chemicals can easily progress to a level that can make you sick, in our current state our children are now being born with these chemicals in their bodies. So while the damage might not be apparent to everyone now, I have no doubt that it will be seen the years to come and that is not far in the future.


This comment was posted on the facebook link to this blog and I think it is very important to share here. By D.P. –

yeah scary shit! this is totally a feminist issue because women still do the majority of housework and are exposed in higher concentrations, class and race also come into play as we see impoverished racialized communities being hardest hit by environmental damage. And its very difficult to determine the outcome when all these different chemicals and toxins are interacting with each other in the natural environment, not really the same as testing in a controlled lab setting.

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