Chemical Hazards and the TSCA
How safe are the man-made chemicals that surround us?
Chemical Hazards are a concern for everyone. The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was passed in 1976 and is the country’s main chemical safety law. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for enforcing TSCA, but significant weaknesses in TSCA have left the EPA unable to carry out its mission to protect the public. There are over 85,000 chemicals in widespread use today in toys, children’s products, building materials, car interiors, fabrics, etc. When TSCA became law, it allowed 62,000 of these chemicals to remain on the market without testing due to the overwhelming amount of work that would otherwise have been required to conduct the tests. Of the chemicals that have been introduced since, EPA has required testing for only about 200 of them. The lack of testing leaves many TSCA Chemical Hazards unknown to the public.
EPA attempts to focus its efforts on the 3000 to 4000 “high production volume” chemicals, i.e. those produced or imported in excess of 1,000,000 lbs. How successful are they? Here is an excerpt from the EPA website about TSCA chemical hazards:
Most Americans would assume that basic toxicity testing is available and that all chemicals in commerce today are safe. A recent EPA study has found that this is not a prudent assumption.
EPA has reviewed the publicly available data on these chemicals and has learned that most of them may never have been tested to determine how toxic they are to humans or the environment.
International authorities agree that six basic tests are necessary for a minimum understanding of a chemical’s toxicity. These tests, called the Screening Information Data Set (or SIDS), and cover the spectrum of TSCA Chemical Hazards including: acute toxicity; chronic toxicity; developmental and reproductive toxicity; mutagenicity; ecotoxicity; and evironmental fate.
93% of these 3,000 high production volume chemicals are missing one or more of these basic tests.
43% of these chemicals are missing ALL of these tests.
Only 7% of these chemicals have all six of the most basic screening tests.
Since 1976 scientists have linked exposure to toxic chemicals to many health risks. There is growing recognition in the scientific community that exposure to even low doses of certain chemicals, particularly in the womb or during early childhood, can disturb our hormonal, reproductive, and immune systems, and that multiple chemicals can act together to harm human health. Cancer, learning disabilities, asthma, birth defects, and other reproductive problems are all associated, to some degree, with our exposure to toxic chemicals.