When my phone rang and the voice on the other end said it was Dana Nachman, you could have knocked me over with a feather. She didn't know it yet, but I have been a fan of Dana's since she produced a film with Don Hardy on 9/11 (which won an Emmy, by the way). Those of you who read this blog regularly know how that day affected my family personally. I liked the work Dana did on that documentary, and when she told me she was currently working on a film focusing on environmental toxins and its impact on human health, I got really excited. Dana wants to put a human face on this issue, and what could be more human than the face of infertility? Given The AFA's strong commitment to chemical avoidance, however, I had a couple questions.
Q: Tell us about the film in just a few sentences.
A: “The Human Experiment” is about the thousands of chemicals we come in contact with everyday. They’re in our cosmetics and other personal care products, our cleaning supplies, our furniture and our electronics. Many of these products have not been tested for their safety. Meanwhile, many diseases and conditions such as certain cancers, autism, learning disabilities and infertility are on the rise and no one is really sure why. “The Human Experiment” is following 7 people who believe chemicals are responsible for these detrimental changes in our health. These people are on a quest to make chemical companies accountable for their products, so that we’re no longer guinea pigs in this giant human experiment.
Q: Your past films have been about things like wrongful conviction and responses to terrorism, so this topic is somewhat of a departure. Why did you want to make this film?
A: I was working as a producer at NBC in the San Francisco Bay Area when I first learned about this issue. I did a series about household products and toxins. For that story, I interviewed a UC Berkeley professor who told me about how indoor air quality is typically way worse than outdoor air quality… even if the outdoor air we’re talking about is right next to an oil refinery. He said it is because of all of the products that we use. He described homes as toxic boxes and that imagery always stuck with me. I found myself leaving my doors and windows open all the time! After leaving NBC and finishing my other films I realized (much like with the other films) that it wasn’t a matter of whether or not we were going to do this film… we had to do it! The subject is just that outrageous and it needs to be exposed in a big way.
Q: As you've researched this topic more, what has most surprised you about the issue of chemical exposure?
A: Really it’s the most basic premise of the movie that I find most shocking, that products do not have to be tested for their safety before they reach the marketplace. I really had no idea this was the case!
Q: How did your research bring you to the infertility storyline and why do you want to include this in the film?
A: It wasn’t long after I began looking into the issue more deeply that I came across the work of Linda Giudice and Tracey Woodruff at UCSF. They have been studying the increasingly strong links between environmental exposures and reproductive health problems. They report that in certain areas in the U.S. sperm count in men is down by more than 50% and that the amount of women who are under 25 who report having trouble conceiving and maintaining a pregnancy has doubled since the 1980’s. The statistics go on and on. Another thing that has been on the rise in the same timeframe is our use and exposure to chemicals. We feel strongly that this potential connection needs to be exposed.
Q: I have to ask, how has working on this film changed what you do in your personal life?
A: It’s changed what I do in so many ways. I’m extremely mindful now of what I’m buying. I buy with a purpose. And this is across the board – from food, to cosmetics, to cleaning supplies. I want to spend my money on products that I know are not going to harm my family. I think the companies that have this sensibility should be rewarded with my money.
Q: What are the top 2-3 things you want people to take away from this film after they've seen it?
A: Well, I think #1 is that these products are not vetted and it’s up to all of us to pressure companies – through our voices and our wallets - to make products that are safe.
#2) Someone I talked to recently said that they think this is the next big woman’s issue. I love thinking of it in this way, that woman are standing up to industry saying, “We’ve had enough. And it’s time to give us products that are safe.”
#3) And the third thing is that we can influence politicians to create a climate where the government can do what it’s suppose to do and protect us from harm.
Q: Okay, so when can we see the film and what can we do now?
A: We just started shooting the film in December and will be shooting for the rest of 2011. We are still looking for some of the key characters who will make this film hit home for viewers. That’s why were coming to you at The American Fertility Association. We would like to profile someone who is affected by infertility who believes chemicals are at least partially to blame and who is trying to work towards educating others about toxic chemicals and the need for reform. If anyone is interested in letting us share their story in our film, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also follow The Human Experiment on Facebook and Twitter! Join our Facebook fan page at http://www.facebook.com/TheHumanExperiment. And follow us on Twitter @ktffilms. Our film’s website is also up and running now at www.thehumanexperimentmovie.com. Thanks for spreading the word. We are commited to raising awareness of this issue, and creating change around it.