I've written before (primarily in the posts entitled Who Regulates the Products We Use and Trying to Get a Product Off the Market) about the surprising lack of testing and regulation of the chemicals that fill our lives. A recent editorial in The New York Times, entitled A Toothless Law on Common Chemicals addresses the issue. The author makes the following points:
- The 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act is supposed to ensure the safety of chemicals used in manufacturing and household products. The author notes that "it would be hard to design a law more stacked against the regulators."
- Manufacturers do not need to prove that their chemicals are safe before they are sold and used.
- The government must prove chemicals are unsafe before they can be removed from the market, but it is difficult for the Environmental Protection Agency to get the information needed to conduct the required tests. The author notes that "the agency can only ask the company for data or require testing if it first proves there is a potential risk, which is hard to do without the company’s data."
- There are about 85,000 chemicals in use. Since 1976, the EPA has issued regulations to control five of them.
The good news is that there is potential for change. Recently, two senators introduced the Safe Chemicals Act of 2013. If enacted, it would require manufacturers to prove the safety of products before they are sold. More information on the bill can be found at the legislative update page of Safer Chemicals: Healthy Families.
You can make a difference in this important effort by contacting your senators. The Center for Environmental Health has provided an easy way to do so at their Urge Your Senator page. Contacting your senators through the site is quick and easy and can make a difference. Please take a moment to take a stand.