Chemical safety reform expected to be on Congressional legislative to do list in 2011

America needs legislation to improve the safety of toxic chemicals, according to a coalition of advocates, scientists and health experts.

Chemicals and other environmental toxins have been implicated in diseases and disorders as varied as autism, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s, and asthma.

Two bills were introduced in Congress in 2010 to improve the safety of toxic chemicals and reform the 34-year old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  The outdated law only authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency to call for safety testing for chemicals that have already been shown to pose health risks.

The Toxic Chemicals Safety Act in the House and the Safe Chemicals Act in the Senate would not only empower EPA to take steps to minimize risks from chemicals proven to be dangerous, but would also require safety testing of all industrial chemicals, and require businesses to prove chemicals are safe before using them.  Currently, only 200 of the more than 80,000 chemicals in existence have been tested for safety.

Dr. Philip Landrigan of the Mount Sinai Medical Center has said environmental causes are strongly associated with autism.

“Over the last decade, we’ve developed very good scientific information that links three or four classes of chemicals to brain injury in babies if the exposure occurs during pregnancy,” Landrigan told Examiner.com in 2010. “We’ve found that phthalates, brominated flame retardants, and certain pesticides are linked to loss of intelligence, attention deficit disorder, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder in children.”

Dr. Sarah Janssen, a scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, told Examiner.com in 2010 that chemicals play a role in autism. “There are concerns that many chemicals in the environment are linked to autism, in particular, heavy metals and pesticides,” Janssen said. “The passage of this (Toxic Chemicals Safety) act would make a major impact not just on autism but all neurodevelopmental disorders in children and adults.”

And at a press conference sponsored by Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families last month, a panel of experts told reporters that toxic chemicals, already linked to autism, cancer and other health problems, have also been linked to an increase in reproductive health ailments such as infertility, early puberty, decreased sperm counts, breast cancer and prostate cancer.

Tracey Woodruff, a scientist with the Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment at the University of California, San Francisco, told reporters that chemicals such as phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA), which are pervasive in many plastic products, can interfere with reproductive health and normal hormone function.

When asked about the role of chemicals and other environmental toxicants in autism, Woodruff told Examiner.com that the developing brain is especially vulnerable to certain chemical substances.

“Chemical prenatal exposures can adversely affect the developing brain in some way whether affecting behavioral or cognitive function,” Woodruff said.

“Mercury is an identified neurodevelopmental toxicant, meaning that a number of studies show that exposures that occur prenatally can adversely impact neurodevelopment. Phthalates have been implicated in affecting brain development in terms of how the children behave when they’re older.”

To see the rest of my article on Examiner.com, click here.

 

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