Every day we all come into contact with hundreds of chemicals, only a fraction of which have been thoroughly tested for safety. These chemicals enter our homes on the soles of our shoes, in the products we use to clean our kitchen floors, in the furnishings we buy. They lurk in shampoos, in shower curtains, and even rubber duckies. Some of these chemicals are known—and yet simply unregulated—carcinogens.
As we build tighter, more energy-efficient homes, chemicals increasingly linger in our air and dust. Indoor air has been described as one of the most serious environmental threats to human health. Yet we still lack data on the sources and implications of many of these toxic exposures.
This lack of data should not paralyze us, though. We can adopt the precautionary principle, which guides us to make decisions based on the information we have now. This principle calls for preventive action in the face of uncertain but suggestive evidence of risk, especially when safer alternatives are available.
Here we offer some ideas for taking action and some profiles for taking inspiration.