There’s a lot to love about the 21st Century. Wireless. Hybrids. Ipods. Hockey in June.
But modern life comes at the price of a body burden of pollutants. The stuff we like is amazingly light, pliable, tough, tiny, shatter-proof, stain-proof, waterproof, spongy, fire-resistant, explosive, clear, brilliant, fragrant, sleek, silky or some of the above because it’s made of complex mixtures of chemicals — that end up in us.
Environmental Working Group biomonitoring tests have found –
Government and academic biomonitoring surveys that have tested thousands more Americans show near-universal pollution in people. Virtually everyone alive can expect to test positive for a long list of chemicals whose implications for human health are uncertain at best, life-altering or deadly at worst.
Pharmaceuticals and pesticides are heavily regulated and must pass extensive government health and safety tests before being allowed on the market. Even so, major, sometimes fatal problems routinely arise from testing gaps, manufacturing errors or overexposures.
But highly toxic industrial chemicals–in factories, children’s toys and everything in between– bear no government pre-market testing requirements at all, even though they often end up in people, just as drugs and pesticides do. Small wonder that those chemicals, decades after entering commerce, suddenly turn up as front page controversies and in the umbilical cord blood of newborn babies.
The federal law governing this field is the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, hastily cobbled together in the fall of 1976 by a Congress staggering under the weight of Watergate and related scandals and a White House distracted by a bitter campaign that would cost Gerald Ford the Presidency. The result, an untidy bundle of political compromises that pleased no one, gave the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) responsibility but little authority to investigate possibly toxic chemicals and restrict their use. As a result, in three decades EPA has curtailed the use of just five chemicals.
We can do better. The most vibrant, creative, innovative society in history shouldn’t have to choose between new and safe.
But overhauling our toxic chemicals policy to make it effective, fair, workable and based on solid science won’t happen on its own.
That’s why we’ve launched this online science discussion and information forum – to host smart, provocative discussion about how to change the system so that it works for all of us – especially the young and other vulnerable people who depend on the rest of us to keep the environment free of poisons, swift or subtle.
We’ll cover movers and shakers on Capitol Hill, in the statehouses, in communities across America and abroad; cutting-edge research; regulatory agency actions and shifts in personnel, policy and practice; industry proposals for modernizing toxics policy – and so much more.
We hope to make this page a one-stop-shop for all you need to know – and a lot you’d like to know – on the toxic chemicals front. We’ll feature diverse voices – including those from industry, because chemical and plastics manufacturers are also promoting change.
The approach we favor focuses on keeping kids safe, because scientists now know that chemical exposures during development and early childhood can cause subtle changes in the brain and vital organs that will affect the course of a child’s life.
But we don’t have a corner on ideas. Change that matters, changes that lasts requires the best thinking of all of us. This forum is open for business. We welcome your contributions, your suggestions, your plans for making progress and your criticisms.
The only course we reject is inaction. This is the only planet we’ve got. Let’s figure out how to clean it up and keep it safe and healthy for the next generation and the ones after that.