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Feel the fear and live life anyway

WE HAVE nothing to fear but life itself.

Forget horsemeat. That's just horses for courses (starter or main). Here, in a nutshell, is what we have to fear: everything. I speak following a landmark World Health Organisation report this week which said chemicals in everyday products could cause cancer, asthma, infertility and birth defects. It's like a reverse NHS: illness from cradle to grave.

By "everyday products", they mean toys, car dashboards, credit cards and even PVC flooring. It's the stuff of a mid-market headline writer's dream: be very afraid. Of all the things in your life.

Often, these people are out to fool us into fear. But this is coming from the WHO, so we won't get fooled again. Indeed, the United Nations agency has suggested a ban on phthalates, and not just on the grounds that it's particularly difficult to say.

Far from being a yoga-like health exercise for those with a lisp, phthalates are chemicals used to soften plastics and give non-EU cosmetics a silkier feel. I say "non-EU", not in the Nancy Mitford sense of being infra-dig, nor yet to imply the European Union has a cosmetics division. I mean phthalates are banned from cosmetics made in the EU. It isn't just cosmetics, EU or non-EU. There are even phthalates in shower curtains, and leading worriers say you should always go for glass screens instead. Seriously, this is getting serious.

And it isn't just phthalates. Bisphenol A, found in cutlery, CD cases and sunglasses, till receipts and tin cans, has been linked to fertility problems, cancer and heart disease.

Brominated flame retardants – good name for a band – are found in soft furnishings, carpets, rugs and gadget casings. Unsurprisingly (in the sense that, by now, nothing more can surprise us) they've been linked to hyperactivity, hopeless sperm and learning difficulties.

Did I mention these chemicals are gender-bending? That's right, they interfere with your hormones. Hormones, madam: you'll find them by feeling around at the back of your knee.

On so doing, you may think: "I can't feel anything. Maybe I don't have any of these hormone thingies. To be on the safe side, I think I'll just go and dye my hair." Well, think again. British scientists warned this week that many hair dyes contain chemicals linked to cancer.

Boffins at Leeds-based Green Chemicals said something sinister called secondary amines get under the skin and can react — sometimes years after application — with tobacco smoke or exhaust fumes to form poisonous, cancer-causing chemicals called N-nitrosamines.

To be fair, the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association – hmm, where can I join? – said the law forbids using secondary amines of the sort that can react this way. Whom to believe? One beautician said chemical companies had a vested interest in covering such things up as one would a blemish or pimple.

And don't any of you chaps – assuming you are still chaps: when did you last check? – think you can go and seek comfort food. Another report said eating chips more than once a week could adversely affect your prostate. Did you, like me, read that back to see if it didn't say more than once a day? Nope, it's once a week. My prostate must be the size of Wales by now.

This is all horrifying. It didn't help when the Chemical Industries Association pointed out in its defence that naturally occurring substances in beer, chocolate and coffee could have more powerful effects on our hormones than made-made chemicals. Well, thank goodness for that. For a minute I thought there was something we could trust.

But they're all out to get us: our burgers, chips, hair products, cutlery and sunglasses. What's your poison? Everything.

It's hopeless. How can you keep yourself pure? There's stuff in the water and stuff in the pipes. There's stuff on the crops and stuff on your rice. There's stuff on your dashboard and stuff on your floor. There's stuff in your credit card, stuff on your door.

So let's put on some non-EU cosmetics and face it: we're stuffed.

Contextual targeting label: 
Health

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