Looking In: Toxic battle — Congress should choose kids

by Katherine McFate

SC-buttonDespite parents’ best efforts to buy organic and use natural products, toxic chemicals are still found in baby toys, the lining of food containers, cosmetics and other products we use daily. The situation is worse for families with limited budgets. A recent report by the Campaign for Healthier Solutions found more than 80 percent of products tested from discount retailers contained lead, phthalates or other chemicals linked to cancer, learning disabilities and birth defects. And as Richard Moore and Sofia Martinez noted in The Santa Fe New Mexican earlier this year (“A toxic shell game: State deserves better,” My View, March 29), communities in New Mexico and other places face a legacy of overexposure to toxins.

You might think that the federal government would have tested the 84,000 chemicals registered for commercial use today. You’d be wrong.

 Forty years ago, the federal government did pass a law meant to protect the American people from exposure to toxic chemicals. But opposition from the chemical industry made it a five-year fight, and the final law was deeply flawed. Instead of requiring manufacturers to prove new chemicals are safe before they are marketed, the Toxic Substances Control Act allows a chemical to continue to be used until or unless the Environmental Protection Agency can prove that it poses an “unreasonable risk to human health.” The burden is on government to prove a chemical is unsafe.

Thanks to lobbying from chemical manufacturers, the law allowed the 62,000 chemicals already in use in 1976 to remain on the market, with no safety testing required. Of the more than 20,000 new chemicals registered since then, EPA has ordered testing of only 250 of them, and just nine chemicals have been restricted.

You can read more here.

Katherine McFate is the president and CEO of the Washington-based, Center for Effective Government,  a member organization of the Safer Chemicals Healthy Family Coalition. This OpEd piece was originally published in the Santa Fe New Mexican. As  a Georgia partner in the Safer Chemicals Healthy Family Coalition, ECO-Action is involved in the state’s fight to keep toxic chemicals away from our children.  Look for more information about this vital issue soon.

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