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US must strengthen efforts to restrict chemicals that threaten health, say researchers
Date:5/3/2011

Bethesda, MDWith growing evidence of the link between exposure to toxic chemicals and chronic diseases, especially in children, the United States needs to step up its efforts to protect the public from hazardous chemicals, say researchers writing in the May issue of Health Affairs. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), stymied by the outdated Toxic Substances Control Act, must seek partners in academia to help evaluate the risks of industrial chemicals on the market today, say Sarah A. Vogel of the Johnson Family Foundation and Jody Roberts of the Chemical Heritage Foundation.

Some 83,000 chemicals are on the market, and under the 1976 law, companies do not have to prove their chemicals are safe. Instead, the federal government must prove whether a chemical is dangerous. This provision keeps potentially harmful chemicals on the market, increasing the risk to human health. Furthermore, the process required by the law to identify and control hazardous chemicals requires an extensive process of collecting, analyzing and evaluating data. This process consumes considerable government time and resources and acts as a roadblock to efforts to manage chemical risks and protect the public's health, according to the authors.

"In the thirty-five years since the Toxic Substances Control Act was enacted, we've learned much more about the harms of everyday chemical exposure and its contribution to a growing number of chronic diseases such as reproductive disorders, learning and behavioral disabilities, and diabetes," says Vogel. "Yet the EPA has had a nearly impossible time regulating the use of hazardous chemicals, such as asbestos, because it is hindered by the very high burden of proof that falls on the agency," she adds.

With reforms to the Toxic Substances Control Act uncertain, given the current political and budgetary climate, the EPA must look beyond Washington to strengthen its oversight of chemicals and accelerate efforts to
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Contact: Jemma Weymouth
jweymouth@burnesscommunications.com
301-652-1558
Burness Communications
Source:Eurekalert

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