What is the key obstacle to implementing an effective, health-protective, chemicals management system?
Molly Rauch, MPH
September 1, 2010
Americans face widespread exposure to industrial chemicals. Indeed, human exposure to industrial chemicals including flame retardants, BPA, and Teflon-like chemicals, is ubiquitous. We come into contact with these chemicals in a wide range of ways, among them: handling consumer products such as toys and furniture; drinking and eating food with traces of pesticides and other contaminants; living downwind of a factory producing or storing chemicals, with relatively low chronic exposure as well as the threat of a catastrophic leak or spill; working in a workplace involving routine chemical exposure; and using shampoo or sunscreen, thereby applying chemicals directly to the skin.
Along with widespread chemical exposure come uncertain health consequences. Many industrial chemicals are suspected contributors to a wide range of serious health problems. These potential health effects include such chronic diseases and disorders as cancer, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, asthma, infertility, reproductive disorders, developmental disabilities, and behavioral disorders
Industrial chemicals and toxic substances are managed in the US by a complex network of statutes and government agencies, reflecting the disparate routes of exposure. Several agencies regulate chemicals at the federal level, primarily the EPA, the FDA, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Different statutes regulate chemicals in commerce, chemicals in consumer products, chemicals in cosmetics, and pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and food additives. At the same time, there is concern among healthcare professionals that this complex system is not adequately health-protective. For example, the vast majority of chemicals used in commercial products have never been evaluated for potential toxicity (beyond acute toxicity) to developing fetuses, infants, children, or adults.
What is the key obstacle to implementing a health-protective chemicals management system?
The views expressed in these essays are those of their respective authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Physicians for Social Responsibility.
Responses: Laura Anderko
, Devra Davis
, Steven G. Gilbert
, Maye Thompson
, Kristen Welker-Hood