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Welcome to PSR's Environmental Health Policy Institute, where we ask questions -- then we ask the experts to answer them. Join us as physicians, health professionals, and environmental health experts share their ideas, inspiration, and analysis about toxic chemicals and environmental health policy.

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The Need for TSCA Reform: The Perspective of the American Public Health Association

By Georges C. Benjamin, MD

This essay is in response to: Public Health and the Safe Chemicals Act

Reforming chemical policy is essential to ensuring the health and safety of our workers and communities. Chemical manufacture, use, and exposures have enormous implications for human health. Tens of billions of pounds of chemical substances are produced in the U.S. or imported every day. While many of these substances are important in industrial processes and commercial product development, some are also known to be hazardous to human biology and ecological systems. With more than 80,000 chemicals in use today, less than 2 percent have been evaluated by the Environmental Protection Agency for health impacts.

Environmental factors contribute to more than 25 percent of all diseases worldwide and carry a significant financial burden. The yearly cost of just four childhood health problems linked to chemical exposures in the U.S. — lead poisoning, asthma, cancer, and developmental disabilities — is more than $54 billion.

Americans are exposed everyday at home, schools, workplaces, and throughout communities through consumer products, accidental releases, or industrial sites. Workers are often the first to suffer harm from chemical exposures.

The Toxic Substances Control Act, also known as TSCA, was intended to regulate chemicals both before and after they enter commerce. Yet research has shown that TSCA has fallen short of its objectives and has not served as an effective vehicle for the public, industry or government to assess the hazards of chemicals in commerce or control those of greatest concern. Consequently, the statute has not served to motivate industry investment in cleaner, safer technologies.

Changes to TSCA should include requirements for greater disclosure by chemical producers of use, hazard, and exposure information; hazard-based assessment of all chemicals by the EPA; phasing out the use of persistent, bioactive toxins; and stronger protections for workers exposed to chemicals.

APHA also calls on state legislatures to address chemicals policy at the state level for similar purposes and with similar goals.

Comments

RihanaMax said ..

The potential for chemical reform is quite exciting, but it should be done in a way that doesn’t sacrifice millions of animals (for toxicity testing) in the name of better protection for human health and the environment. The revised bill should mandate and create market incentives to use nonanimal methods. We need to ensure that chemical testing is in line with the 21st century and relies on modern, human cell and computer-based methods that provide accurate data on how a chemical acts and what the impact on human health may be.

January 9, 2012
Thomas Chisholm said ..

Frack sand and chemical additives? The attempts of the mining industry to change the laws in Wisconsin before returning to low grade mining 1000 feet deep? And advice?

January 6, 2012

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