Are Chemicals Tested for Safety?

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A recent article in the New York Times will hopefully get people talking about the complete lack of safety testing of chemicals that are ubiquitous in today’s world. There are now 85,000 chemicals in use in the United States, yet only a very small percentage of these chemicals are tested for safety. I bring attention to this fact whenever I get the chance, and I’m glad the New York Times is helping to spread the word, too.

The article points out that the Toxic Substances Control Act, the country’s main chemical safety law, “is the only major environmental statute whose core provisions have not been reauthorized or substantively updated since its adoption in the 1970s.” The burden of safety testing is currently placed on the government.

Companies are required to alert the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) before manufacturing or importing new chemicals, and the EPA has 90 days to determine whether the chemical poses a safety risk. But here’s the kick—the chemical companies are not required to provide any safety data.

“It’s the worst kind of Catch-22,” stated Richard Denison, senior scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund. “Under this law, the EPA can’t even require testing to determine whether a risk exists without first showing a risk is likely.” The EPA has succeeded in banning or restricting only five substances: polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxin, hexavalent chromium, asbestos, and chlorofluorocarbons.

Hopefully, the Safe Chemical Act of 2013, introduced earlier this month, will help to change these outdated regulations. It would require the chemical industry to demonstrate safety before chemicals are sold. Here is a link that allows you to ask your Senators to co-sponsor the Safe Chemicals Act. Help spread the word. This is a change that has been a long time coming!