Sean Penn Film 'Human Experiment' Explores Potential Dangers of Toxic Chemicals in Household Products


The ACC said it takes "the safe use of chemicals in consumer goods very seriously. We are committed to making information about our chemistries available to the public, enhancing cooperation with regulators and working with other manufacturers and retailers to support the safe manufacture and use of everyday products.

"We understand that there are questions about the possible effects of chemicals on the body and the environment, and we strongly support efforts to build on existing knowledge about safe exposure levels, and reach sound conclusions based on thorough, credible, scientific investigation."

Scientists like Susan Kay Murphy say research is challenging and cannot predict the way chemicals in the environment will affect different people.

"It's really hard to make recommendations and even if you do find something that appears to negatively affect a group of people, it may not in another group," she said.

"So little is known about epigenetic effects and the potential for long-term consequences," said Murphy. "Like my kids, none of [their medical problems] showed up at birth, and you can't prove there is a chemical cause."

But the film suggests consumers are supporting more "green" products and retailers are starting to pay attention to consumer concerns.

In 2011, industry giant Johnson & Johnson agreed to reformulate its baby shampoo which contained amounts of potentially cancer-causing chemicals, dioxane and a substance called quaternium-15, which releases formaldehyde.

Last year, the company vowed to remove many more chemicals from all its baby products.

In September, Proctor & Gamble announced it would remove phthalates and triclosan from all its products. Phthalates are found in soft vinyl (PVC) and many personal care products.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, exposure to phthalates is wide spread and animal studies show that they are toxic to the reproductive system and may reduce female fertility.

Triclosan is a pesticide commonly added to toothpaste and antibacterial soaps and thought to cause hormone disruption.

Since making the film, co-director Nachman, who has three children under 8, said she has "made a lot of changes in my thinking."

"I have fewer products and the ones I do buy, I know are trusted companies and trusted brands," she said.

"I hope the film jumpstarts the audience to do their own research," said Nachman. "It's an issue people already care about. Everybody knows someone with cancer or learning disabilities."

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