A single father investigates the safety of chemicals found in household products after noticing a stink in clothes he bought for his daughters.
Here's the gist of this documentary.
We are all guinea pigs for the chemical industry. Because the industry has done such effective political lobbying and has effectively deregulated safety standards for their products, they can now use pretty much any untested chemical substance in their products. Skincare, clothing, cleaners, toys, plastics, and every other kind of product that we regularly encounter in our day-to-day life are chock-full of additives that haven't been properly vetted. The chemical companies will tell worried consumers and watchdog groups that these unknown compounds are in such small amounts that they're not really doing any harm, but when everything we consume has something potentially harmful in it then it all adds up. Cancer rates, reproductive damage rates, and obesity rates have gone up consistently since the deregulation has started.
The big question on a lot of people's minds is about disclosure. Other products, such as cigarettes and alcohol, have warning labels so informed consumers may be allowed to consider their purchasing choices, but many products don't publish their ingredient lists. They then claim that the information is "proprietary" and kept secrets so competitors can't rip off their products.
There's another loophole that chemical companies can exploit, which is the fragrence loophole. Perfumes are notoriously secretive about their chemical composition for fear of being knocked off, so a company can claim that their chemical compound is a fragrence. This makes mandatory disclosure much harder to enforce.
But that also means that many products give off gross chemical smells. That's how documentarian Jon J. Whelan got started on this film. He purchased clothing online for his daughters from a tween store called Justice, only to open the package and realize there was a distinctive stink to the clothing. He called the company to find out what could be causing the smell, but they refused to disclose to him.
Thus began his journey into the world of chemical products, industrial safety standards, and political lobbying. And the documentary "Stink" was born.
The subject matter is clearly very important to Whelan. He's a single father after losing his wife Heather to breast cancer, and he wants to continue his late wife's efforts to protect their kids from harmful additives in their environmnet. The movie itself will inevitably draw comparisons to Michael Moore's documentary work, but it's impossible to shake the impact. We've gotten so used to being surrounded by chemicals that people make jokes about how everything can give you cancer, but America is one of the most deregulated countries in the modern world. China would manufacture products to higher standards for European and their own markets because they have higher consumer safety standards but will send less safe versions to America. The chemical industry spends millions of dollars to buy politicians and pay lobbyists to derail any attempt at regulation. It's a horrifying problem and it's not going to go away any time soon.