UNITED STATES—Simpler is better. I felt this strongly while watching “The Human Experiment,” an expose of the silent army of chemicals that pervades our clothing, cosmetics and even our houses. The motivation for this movie was a startling journalistic discovery that will pretty much blow your mind. Get this: the chemicals used in the manufacture products sold in the U.S. are NOT required by law to be safe for human use. This means that the overwhelming assumption that if something is for sale it’s safe, is untrue.
Example: Johnson & Johnson No Tears Baby Shampoo contained formaldehyde. No kidding. No Tears had cancer-causing formaldehyde in the U.S. long after Johnson & Johnson reformulated their baby shampoo for other markets. Because they could do it; because it saved millions not having to retool. And that’s business, baby, until customers get involved.
OK, let’s forget about corporate America and consider practical tips gleaned largely from a post-screening Q & A. These are simple things you can do that will put money in your piggy bank as well as diminish the chemical onslaught.
–Simply open the windows. Remember the air quality outside is better than inside, as a rule. Even in Los Angeles! Opening the window doesn’t cost anything.
–Clean your toilet with vinegar instead of bleach and ammonia. You avoid the immediate risk of conking out when deadly fumes are emitted when the two mix. Plus you pay pennies on the dollar for vinegar, compared to name-brand products. Vinegar not only saves you dollars. You can use it for salad dressing. Win-win-win.
–Use glass containers for water and leftovers instead of plastic. Plastics, in layman’s terms, have very bad juju. You can buy glass containers or recycle Snapple bottles.
–Instead of money out the window for deodorant, use lemon slices rubbed in the armpits. According to the Internet, it trains the body to produce a less disagreeable scent. And it’s freeing more money to live the life of Grady. So if life hands you lemons, make deodorant.
–Drop the shaving cream, says the bearded filmmaker Don Hardy, Jr. (In this matter I took my cue from Albert Einstein, the apostle of simplicity. Asked what kind of soap he used to shave, an astonished Einstein replied, “Why the same kind of soap I use to take a bath!”)
So many choices. I’m reminded of when Robin Williams gets dizzy over all the brands of ketchup in an American supermarket in “Moscow on the Hudson.” When deprived of a preferred choice such as our favorite mentholated shaving cream, instead of happiness, variety breeds testiness. In the matter of choice I am constantly reminded of something I learned at Laemmle’s Sunset Five: There’d be Coke Zero, diet Coke, caffeine free and plain old Coke. The minute people got involved in choosing, they were trapped. We need to remind ourselves that the real choice is always yes or no; do I want a drink or nothing. And if you are thirsty, it will always help both well-being and the pocket book to think courtesy cup of water.
Bravo to the makers of “The Human Experiment” for suggesting simple life-changing actions and pushing people to get actively involved in waking up manufacturers to the perils of their products. However, I really didn’t need to know that that cheap PVC pipe is nasty stuff. I happen to have PVC in my own house and it leaves a taste when the water sits to long. Not only does the PVC leave a bad taste in the mouth, I had a bad taste in my soul when leaving the theater. But it’s just not cost effective to rip out the wall at this point.
Indeed, the hive of fears and apprehensions are a deadly psychic chemical; I feel as if I’m being asked daily to shoulder way too heavy a load of health risk data. “The Human Experiment” gave me a lot of that, but I know the filmmakers, Don Hardy and Dana Nachman, with their background in investigative reporting, are saying things that need to be heard. When the toxic smoke and mirrors clear, there’s plenty of fuel in their film to embrace simple options to help cleanse the chemical imprint from our lives.
Humorist Grady Miller is author of “Lighten Up Now: The Grady Diet.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.