In today’s world, toxic chemicals are everywhere—in the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, and the products we use. These chemicals pose an ever-increasing risk to human health and the environment—scientific evidence continues to link chemical exposure to increasing numbers of health problems, including asthma, certain types of cancer, infertility, learning disabilities, neurological diseases, obesity, and more. Chemicals that have received major attention in recent years include formaldehyde, toxic flame retardants, phthalates, parabens, and Bisphenol A (BPA), which are found in many of the products we use every day like household cleaners, baby products, furniture, and plastics. Many people assume the government is actively testing and protecting us from toxic chemicals, but that is far from the truth.
The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was enacted in 1976 to allow the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to protect us from the dangers of toxic chemicals in consumer products, but it has fallen woefully short of this goal and is in urgent need of modernization. One of the major problems with TSCA is that it does not require companies to prove that chemicals are safe before they are used in products. Rather, the EPA must prove that a chemical is unsafe before its use can be restricted. This situation creates a catch-22: to protect the public from harmful chemicals, the EPA must demonstrate that a chemical is unsafe, but it lacks the authority to require the necessary testing that would demonstrate whether or not a chemical is safe. Thus, to date, the EPA has only collected sufficient health and safety data for a small percentage of the more than 84,000 chemicals on the market, and has restricted certain uses of just 5 chemicals.
The growing number of health problems related to chemical exposures makes it increasingly clear that our system is broken. TSCA must be reformed, and the U.S. should fundamentally change its approach to assessing risks from chemicals in order to protect the public, particularly those most vulnerable, from toxic chemicals.
LCV is a member of the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families Coalition and is pushing for Congressional action to enact meaningful reform of our broken chemical policies. We are also committed to working with the administration to use its existing authority to take actions to restrict chemicals that pose health and environmental concerns. Many of our state league partners work to advance chemical policy reform in their state legislatures with the goals of gaining immediate health protections while keeping pressure on federal legislators and the industry to work towards national chemical policy reform.