is it safe

Background

Is it safe? The general public wants to know. Toxicologists and other health professionals can provide a vital public service by presenting basic information about safety assessment. They can encourage the public to embrace a role in informed decision-making regarding risks from chemicals. TEF is pleased to offer this video as an excellent starting point for Website viewers to learn more about toxicology. Classroom teachers and other speakers on toxicology subjects have also expressed a need for teaching tools to use in public presentations. The Is It Safe? video answers that need, introduces basic concepts about risks and toxicities, and provides approaches that can assist in addressing safety-related issues.

Concept

The goal was to develop a program that would empower the public to sort through issues addressing chemical safety, an “Is It Safe? A Citizen Can Decide!” approach, if you will. High school students and adults are the target audience. The program can be viewed in the home on the Web or presented at schools or at other sites such as libraries, community centers, and service clubs.

The following ideas add more insight into the motivation for the effort:

  • By presenting a few easy to understand basic scientific principles, an individual becomes better equipped to make sound decisions about chemical safety
  • Designating a product as “safe” is not absolute, but rather offers a reasonable assurance that the specified use will not cause an adverse outcome.
  • Chemicals compose everything in our world, including the materials used by industry to make products such as plastics, wiring, clothes, automobiles, fuels, and electricity. Drugs, cosmetics, constituents in foods or items added to foods, and a wide variety of household chemicals used in homes and gardens are all made of chemicals.
  • There are three stakeholders involved in safety-related decisions. Two are well known to the public, 1) the producer and seller of the product; and, 2) governmental entities – most commonly the regulatory agencies – who set standards and have some oversight responsibility for the activities of the producer/seller. The third stakeholder is the public itself. Individuals often fail to recognize their own key role.
  • TEF’s program will make the convincing case that the public can play a vital role in chemical safety decisions. It will remind them of what they already do that is relevant to decisions about safety. Further, it will introduce a paradigm that others find helpful in making such determinations. This paradigm suggests that two elements – hazard and exposure – need to be considered to determine the risk or potential for adverse effects.
  • TEF acknowledges that many people have difficulty with issues that may have no black or white answer. Many answers involve tradeoffs. Thus we may make a personal choice of selecting a drug with the beneficial aim of treating an illness, although there may remain the risk of a possible adverse effect. People need to learn to see both sides of a question and consider the situation in its totality.
  • The central message is that there is a vital role for the individual in issues related to chemical use. A thought process has been developed that should help one identify and weigh the information needed to decide if a product is safe and how to properly use it with minimal risk of adverse effects.

Format and Use

The core program is a professionally produced audiovisual with a duration of about 20 minutes. The program is available for downloading from the TEF Web site or on CD-ROM.

Path Forward

The Toxicology Education Foundation (TEF) and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of the federal National Institutes of Health, co-sponsored this project and shared equally in the cost of the original English version of “Is It Safe?” TEF has set a goal of raising funds to translate this award-winning video into other major languages of the world, expand our video offerings to other related topics, and continue to enhance TEF’s Web site in other ways that make all of TEF’s offerings readily available to the general public on the Web.