In recent years much research has been done on the potential toxic effects of many of the substances commonly used in various commercial processes and products, and to what extent they may be finding their way into the bodies of this planet’s inhabitants. Following are a few examples of what this research has brought to light.
Industrial Chemicals: Under this heading exists a vast array of chemicals that are used in manufacturing. Not all such chemicals are toxic, of course. But workers in factories which produce or use such things as pesticides, petroleum products, plastics, detergents and cleaning chemicals, solvents, plated metals, preservatives, drugs, asbestos products, fertilizers, some cosmetics, perfumes, paints, dyes, electrical equipment, or any radioactive materials can be exposed, often for extended periods, to toxic materials. And of course, the consumer can be exposed to residual amounts of such chemicals when he uses these products.
Agricultural Chemicals: Pesticides are the most obvious of the toxic substances to which workers in agricultural activities could be exposed. These include insecticides (insect-killing chemicals), man-made fertilizers and herbicides (chemicals to kill unwanted plants such as weeds).
Under the heading of herbicides come several which contain a substance known as “dioxin,” known to be a highly toxic chemical, even in amounts almost too small to detect in the body. (Dioxin is found in “Agent Orange,” a chemical defoliant used in the Vietnam War. This chemical was the subject of considerable publicity when it was found that some US soldiers were exposed to it, apparently with varying adverse effects.)
Contact with chemicals used in agriculture can occur in a number of ways: The chemical can be carried on or in the plant itself and so eaten; it can be carried on the wind and be breathed in directly by those living or working in agricultural areas; or it can even be carried into drinking water supplies.