In a word no, we are not protected in the way you think. Many people think the EPA, the government, and in general our laws protect us from toxic chemicals. I have spoken to countless parents who say “they would not be able to sell it if was dangerous.” Here are the facts and story behind why that statement is false.
What laws protect us? One of the major laws that protects us from toxic chemicals is the Toxic Substances Reform Act (TSCA) was written and passed in 1976. When the law was passed there were about 60,000 chemicals used in the country. Only 200 of the original 60,000 chemicals were tested for safety as result of TSCA. The fact you may find shocking is that only 5 of those chemicals had restrictions placed on them.
80,000 chemicals have come on the market since TSCA was passed and have not been tested for human and environmental safety.
Under the law now, the EPA must prove a chemical poses an “unreasonable risk” to public health or the environment before it can be regulated. The definition of “unreasonable risk” is so widely debated and hard to enforce most people consider it an outright failure. The law has allowed 62,000 chemicals to remain on the market without testing when it first passed. In more than 30 years, the EPA has only required testing for about 200 of those chemicals, and has partially regulated just five. The rest have never been fully accessed for toxic impacts on human health and the environment.
For the 22,000 chemicals introduced since 1976, the companies that manufacturers chemical have given the EPA very little and in some cases no information regarding their potential impacts on the environmental and our health.
So where are these chemical? Many people think we are talking about industrial chemicals that never make into our homes and definitely not in contact with our children. On the contrary these chemicals are found in toys and other children’s products, cleaning and personal care items, furniture, electronics, food and beverage containers, building materials, fabrics, and car interiors (i.e. new car smell).
Are these chemicals making me and my family sick? Since 1976 scientists have linked exposure to toxic chemicals to many health risks. There is growing recognition in the scientific community that exposure to even low doses of certain chemicals, particularly to children in utero or during early childhood, can disturb our hormonal, reproductive, and immune systems. The very scary part is that multiple chemicals can work together to harm human health. Some toxic chemicals can stay in the environment, for decades, building up in the food chain and in our bodies. Cancer, learning disabilities, asthma, birth defects, and other reproductive problems are all associated, to some degree, with exposure to toxic chemicals in animals or humans.
What do other countries do? Many countries have much stricter laws than the US. Some follow the opposite philosophy of the US, where you must prove it is safe to be approved for use. Here are some examples of items banned in other countries but are allowed in the US:
- Soda drinks, like Mt. Dew, Squirt or Fresca have brominated vegetable oil, which is banned in more than 100 countries because it has been linked to thyroid diseases from cancer to autoimmune diseases. The FDA’s stance on brominated vegetable oil : approved ‘for flavoring oils used in fruit-flavored beverages, for which any applicable standards of identity do not preclude such use, in an amount not to exceed 15 parts per million in the finished beverage.’
- Azodicarbonamide is ‘approved (by the FDA) to be a bleaching agent in cereal flour’ and is ‘permitted for direct addition to food for human consumption.’ Azodicarbonamide is used in frozen bread and potato products (like french fries) and is banned in England, Australia, and many European countries. Here is a scary fact: If you were to use it as a food ingredient in Singapore, you could face up to 15 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
- Popular American cereals, nuts, and gum companies use butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) – in their products. Both BHA and BHT are waxy solids made from petroleum and are known to cause cancer in rats. It’s banned in Japan, England and several other European countries.
What can we do? One of the things we can do is tell our congress that we care about this issue and we want to see real reform that can help protect us. I am personally delivering this petition to my Senator and meeting with other Senators on April 30th to tell them that American’s care and we want to be safe with the products we buy. You can sign this petition and I will delivery your name to them OR you can send them a message yourself telling them why you personally care about chemical reform.
What would you tell your congressman? How have chemicals affected you?
See what some other writers are saying about Toxins and How To Avoid Them:
Almost All The Truth
The Greening Of Westford
Jen and Joey goes Green
The Soft Landing
Eco-Novice: Going Green Gradually
Photo from morguefile.com user cohdra, EPA, and Seventh Generation