Pediatricians Call for Changes to Chemical Safety Law

A 35-year-old federal law that regulates <"">toxic chemicals needs an overhaul, says the American Academy of Pediatrics. The Academy feels that the law does not adequately protect pregnant women and children, said CNN.

“It is widely recognized to have been ineffective in protecting children, pregnant women, and the general population from hazardous chemicals in the marketplace,” the academy said in a policy statement to published in the May issue of the journal Pediatrics, quoted CNN.

In the past, the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, and the American Nurses Association have all urged for changes in the Toxic Substance Control Act, such as that, wrote CNN:

  • “A core component” of the new policy should be consequences of chemicals on children and their families.
  • The same standards in place for new drugs or pesticides should be in place for chemicals.
  • The decision to ban chemicals should not be put off until hazards are experienced, but should be based on “reasonable levels of concern.”
  • Chemicals’ health effects should be monitored once they are on the market and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should be given the authority to remove dangerous chemicals from the market.

Since the Act was made effective in 1976, the EPA has only tested a small fraction—200 of 80,000—of the chemicals on the market and, of those, only five are regulated, wrote CNN.

“Right now, a company manufactures a chemical and puts it out on the market and reaps the economic reward,” said Dr. Jerome Paulson, lead author of the policy statement, quoted CNN. “And then the public is responsible for trying to figure out if there is any harm associated with the use of that chemical. And then it’s almost a criminal procedure, requiring proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” Dr. Paulson added.

Even the industry trade group the American Chemical Council, agrees that the 1976 act requires a revamp. “We agree that the Toxic Substances Control Act needs to be modernized to further ensure the safe use of chemicals and the innovation of new products,” Scott Jensen of the American Chemical Council wrote to CNN. “Chemicals should be safe for their intended use and potential risks faced by children should be an important factor in safe use determinations,” he added.

Currently, the EPA, under the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, is not allowed to mandate that chemical companies to prove product safety unless the agency can prove the product poses health risks, a prohibitively expensive undertaken given the some 2,000 application approvals it receives yearly.

Recently, we wrote that an announcement made by the President’s Cancer Panel stated that the link between environmental carcinogens and cancers are much greater than ever realized. The panel said, quoted NBC News, that the “the true burden of environmentally induced cancer has been grossly underestimated. With nearly 80,000 chemicals on the market in the United States—many of which are used by millions of Americans in their daily lives and are un-studied or under-studied and largely unregulated—exposure to potential environmental carcinogens is widespread.”

Also, this month, Senator Frank Lautenberg (Democrat-New Jersey) introduced the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011, which—if passed—would mandate chemical manufacturers to prove that industrial chemicals used in household products are safe, said CNN.

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