The Number One Earth Day Concern: Us
"Pharma in the Plumbing." Photo by James Day for Time.
As the fortieth anniversary of Earth Day approaches, sustainability advocates take stock in the status of our current environmental scorecard. Four decades ago, headlines included news of toxic pesticides as well as urban smog—and the polluted Cuyahoga River caught fire.
As a recent Time article indicates, the biggest problem now is not the state of the environment; but of the state of our own health. In "The Perils of Plastic," Bryan Walsh exposes the extent of damage caused by the many synthetic polymers developed since World War II, which have largely gone unregulated by the U.S. government.
In a recent lecture given at the University of Minnesota School of Architecture, McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC) environmental chemist Michael Werner corroborated the inadequacy of the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, which has allowed manufacturers to keep information about their materials a secret. As a result, endocrine-disrupting pollutants like Bisphenol A and phthalates have proliferated unchecked, leading to increased levels of many diseases.
Fortunately, the Obama administration comprehends the extent of the problem and intends to make positive changes. According to New Jersey senator Frank Lautenberg, "It’s obvious that the system doesn’t work. We can’t permit this assault on our children’s health—and our own health—to continue."