Big Tobacco and Big Chemical Partner to Put Toxic Chemicals in Your Home

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/arthur-caranta/3008281091/sizes/m/in/photostream/">Arthur40A</a>/Flickr

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Flame retardants—chemicals added to a variety of consumer products that are meant to make them less flammable—have been linked to all kinds of health problems, including cancers, reproductive problems, and hormone disruption. But these phthalates and other problem chemicals are still still found in abundance in our homes, even in car seats and other products made for babies. So why are more of these chemicals being dumped into products than ever before?

The Chicago Tribune has an absolutely fantastic investigative series out this week looking at the abundance of these chemicals in our homes, the deceptive campaign waged to get them there, the bad science that is used to sustain the industry, and the lack of regulation at the federal level.

As the story notes, the use of flame-retardant chemicals has increased from 526 million pounds per year in 1983 in to 3.4 billion pounds in 2009. That figure is expected to grow to 4.4 billion pounds by 2014. They rose to prominence, as the series documents, with the help of Big Tobacco, which saw using the chemicals as preferable to designing cigarettes that wouldn’t set the couch on fire if the smoker fell asleep. The industry has managed to maintain its hold by playing on people’s fear of fire, making dubious claims of safety, and astro-turfing support.

They’re all over most homes—in the insulation, carpet padding, televisions, and couches. Health and environmental groups have long raised concerns about their abundance and impacts. But firefighters aren’t big fans of them, either, as studies have found that the chemicals aren’t effective at preventing fires and actually make the smoke from fires more toxic.

It’s a four-part series, but there are also numerous graphics, videos, and sidebars to check out. Seriously, just go read it.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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