Smart discussion about toxics policy reform

EPA Chief’s Call for Toxics Reform: Three Times in Two Months

The topic of human exposures to chemical contaminants and the need to overhaul the federal government’s approach to toxics regulation was again on the mind of the nation’s top environmental official in remarks she made last weekend in Philadelphia.

EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson has now delivered three speeches in less than two months calling for reform of the failed Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), each time singling out kids’ health as her driving force. That’s three more than the last two administrators combined, according to my quick dig:

…both EPA and industry must include special consideration for exposures and effects on groups with higher vulnerabilities – particularly children. As you know, children ingest chemicals at a higher ratio to their body weight than adults. They are more susceptible to long-term damage and developmental problems.

Jackson also cited EWG’s landmark cord blood study from 2005, which identified over 200 chemical pollutants in the blood of newborns. It was the first study of its kind in the U.S.:

The Environmental Working Group has provided some startling research showing that our kids are getting steady infusions of industrial chemicals before we even give them solid food. Now, we know some chemicals may be risk-free at the levels we are seeing. But as more and more chemicals are found in our bodies and the environment, the public is understandably anxious and confused.

Her entire speech before the American Public Health Association meeting in Philadelphia can be found here.

Administrator Jackson cited her own son’s struggle with asthma as an example of why it is so important to tackle the issue of industrial pollution — in the air we breathe, the water we drink and the consumer products we use every day:

Across the US, almost 1 in every 10 kids has asthma – making this a critical children’s health issue.

One of those children is my 12-year-old son Brian. Brian has fought with asthma his entire life. His first Christmas was spent in the hospital, unable to breathe. All his life we have had to be careful when it gets too hot outside, and the ozone levels rise, or when other environmental triggers are present. My family can’t take for granted that Brian’s going to be able to breathe easy. I still pop up at night when I hear him stirring, and expect to hear the cough.

Along with asthma, other serious health problems linked to chemical contamination are on the rise in this country, including diabetes, childhood brain cancer and attention deficit disorder.

For all those reasons, those of us in the environmental movement who have spent considerable resources and countless hours on research and advocacy fighting for reform of toxics regulation were heartened to learn last week that the Kid-Safe Chemicals Act could soon be introduced in both the House and Senate.


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2 Responses to “EPA Chief’s Call for Toxics Reform: Three Times in Two Months”

  1. Charli says:

    Thanks EWG, for posting something about keeping our kids safe. I think making chemicals safe for infants and children is something we can all get behind. Problem is: mandating more chemical testing, the kind being advocated by the Safer Chemicals coalition, will kill millions of animals, cost lots of money, and give use questionable results.

    Many people and scientists agree that current legislation which regulates chemicals must be reformed. However, we should also be sure to reform the science that underlies these regulations—namely, the way in which toxicity testing is conducted.

    Currently, toxicity testing is largely based on experiments in animals and uses methods that were developed as long ago as the 1930’s and 40’s; they and are slow, inaccurate, open to uncertainty and manipulation, and do not adequately protect human health. These tests take anywhere from months to years, and tens of thousands to millions of dollars to perform. More importantly, the current testing paradigm has a poor record in predicting effects in humans and an even poorer record in leading to actual regulation of dangerous chemicals.

    Fortunately, many scientists have worked, and are working, on addressing these problems — and alternatives to animal testing exist in a powerful way. Chemical reform should not only modernize policy, but modernize the science that supports that policy. Let’s ensure Kids-Safe uses all the necessary tools to truly make our children, our environment, and animals safe.

    • Alex Formuzis, EWG says:

      Charli, thanks for your post. Yes, EWG agrees with you that chemical reform efforts should include steps to help reduce animal testing and modernize outdated protocols. We’d like to see additional support for the development of non-animal testing methods.

      We also believe that companies should be required to make public all available safety testing for industrial chemicals. As you know, without that requirement, companies can keep studies in private files, creating data gaps that force unnecessary, duplicative testing by other companies or government agencies. We hope to see rapid progress in the next decade to address the concerns you’ve brought up.