WHAT IT MEANS: We have safety data on just a fraction of chemicals, and some of those that wind up in products we use every day have been linked to a number of chronic diseases. Flame retardants used in furniture and electronics have been linked to thyroid problems in adults and learning disorders in children. Bisphenol A, used in plastics and the linings of canned food and soda, has been linked to obesity, diabetes, certain types of cancer, and inflammation (a precursor to heart disease). And phthalates, chemicals used to keep plastics soft and fragrances from dissipating, have been connected to obesity, diabetes, asthma, and genital abnormalities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found many of these chemicals in the bodies of nearly all Americans tested for them.
Igrejas' group, which will be one of the advocacy groups represented at the hearing today, recently conducted a survey finding that 84 percent of people are concerned that EPA has required health and safety testing of only 200 chemicals on the market over the years that the TSCA has been in effect. Growing concern, combined with a barrage of studies on chemicals ranging from bisphenol A in baby bottles to formaldehyde in mobile homes, has led a number of state and county governments to enact their own chemical-regulation laws, and a number of retailers, such as WalMart and Staples, to include "green chemistry" requirements for their suppliers. "Staples has been very outspoken on this issue. They found that when they demanded to know what's in that toner, what's in that furniture, what kind of flame retardant is in that electronic gizmo, they couldn't get answers from their suppliers," Igrejas says. "This led to companies wanting to get in front of the problem and enacting policies that allowed them to identify and weed out the kinds of things that could be PR problems or health-and-safety headaches down the line."
All those efforts have led the American Chemistry Council, an industry group for chemical manufacturers, to finally come to the reform table, he says. Such "retail regulation" and the spattering of state and local laws can become a huge problem for chemical manufacturers, as the group noted in a release posted to its website, and the two combined have led the group to reverse its position, which six months ago, says Igrejas, was that TSCA was working as it was intended. "This industry is widely distrusted by the public," says Igrejas. "And they have no credible response to the science."
If you want to take action, call your congressmen and senators and tell them you want chemical regulation that protects citizens, and not chemical manufacturers. You can also take part in the "Million Baby Crawl" being sponsored by the green cleaning company Seventh Generation. The company is organizing marches around the country in support of more comprehensive laws to protect kids, the most sensitive population of all to the wanton use of harmful substances.