From lipstick to burgers: how our lives have become so chemical dependent

The start of the suburban sprawl modified the US into a commonwealth of voracious consumers, and the chemical industry responded by creating makes to meet those demands

My students sometimes ask me why in the United Government there are cancer-causing ingredients in their cosmetics, or neurotoxins in their mattresses. Or hormone disruptors, and prescription drugs, in their drinking water.

I always answer by chalking out a map of “the two countries “, and its grid of 48,000 miles of interstate highways that were fabricated after world war ii. The superhighways was originally envisioned as a justification against foreign attack, I tell them. But the unintended significances include a multitude of major environmental and health problems we are only now beginning to understand, from climate change and species extinction to cancer.

Follow my reasoning, I tell my students: before the crusade, the vast majority of Americans lives in municipalities, or they lived on farms. Suddenly, with all these bright, shiny new superhighways, millions of veterans returning from the battle discovered they had a third alternative: they could move their families to brand-new parishes improved” out in “the two countries ” “. Developers began the feverish changeover of farms and woodlands into subdivisions, and the period of suburban sprawl had begun.

Q& A

What is the Toxic America series?