U.S. law leaves consumers vulnerable to poisoning from thousands of unregulated chemicals in regular household products, warns Kathleen Schuler, a contributing author to the report “The Health Case for Reforming the Toxic Substances Control Act.”
“We must reform the outdated, ineffective Toxic Substances Control Act (TCSA) to protect the most vulnerable, especially children and pregnant women, phase out the worst chemicals, and require basic safety data for all chemicals before they are put into products,” Schuler writes on CommonDreams.org.
The TCSA was first passed in 1976 to prevent citizen exposure to dangerous chemicals. Yet in the intervening 34 years, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has only required safety testing of 200 chemicals. In contrast, the original law explicitly exempted 60,000 chemicals from any testing under a “grandfather clause.” Congress later added 20,000 more chemicals to that list.
The TCSA further requires that the government consider the positive effects of toxic chemicals as well as their drawbacks. This is why even though asbestos is a known carcinogen that has been banned in 40 countries, a federal court overturned the EPA’s attempt to ban the chemical in 1989.
A wide variety of recent health trends have been linked to increased exposure to toxic chemicals. For example, the rate of childhood cancer has increased 20 percent sine 1975; a woman’s lifetime breast cancer risk has increased from one in 10 in 1973 to one in eight today; cases of autism spectrum disorder have increased by 10 times since the early 1990s; and the rate of learning and developmental disabilities in children has risen to one in six.
All of these health conditions have been linked to exposure to chemicals, heavy metals and other toxins commonly found in consumer products. More than 100 chemicals have also been linked to other diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Congress is currently set to revise the TCSA. If the law is not heavily revised, Schuler warns, “our consumer products like household cleaners, cadmium-laden children’s toys, or electronics with toxic flame retardants will continue to be packed with harmful chemicals.”