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Pediatricians Urge Better Protection From Chemicals
Date:4/25/2011

By Maureen Salamon
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, April 25 (HealthDay News) -- The U.S. chemical management policy needs an overhaul because it does not adequately protect children and pregnant women, who are most susceptible to hazardous substances, a new position paper from the American Academy of Pediatrics claims.

Since passage of the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) in 1976, tens of thousands of new chemicals have been developed for widespread use with little or no oversight or testing and the law itself has never been really updated, the pediatricians claim.

"The current policy . . . really is virtually useless," said Dr. Jerome Paulson, the paper's author and medical director of the Child Health Advocacy Institute at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

The recent outcry about substances such as Bisphenol A, a chemical used for decades in plastic drinking bottles that may trigger neurological problems in children, exemplifies the policy's inability to take vulnerable populations into consideration, Paulson noted.

"In the last couple of years we've had a 'toxicant of the month' situation," he said. "Why aren't these chemicals tested before they're in the market so we . . . can know if they're unlikely to do harm to the environment or to human beings?"

The position paper is published online April 25 ahead of print in the May issue of the journal Pediatrics.

Under the TSCA, companies must disclose any known hazards of chemicals used to make consumer products, but unlike drug companies, they are not required to perform pre-market testing, or even post-market followup. Paulson and others said the system works as a disincentive for companies to learn more about the chemicals because any problems found would need to be remedied at a company's expense.

"There's no minimum data requirement. It rewards ignorance, really," said Dr. Megan Schwarzman, a research
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