Pediatricians Say U.S. Policy Fails Children on Chemical Safety

baby photo

Image: christina rutz via flickr

Pediatricians are, at least in theory, among the most trusted groups of professionals in the country, so it's notable when they come out with a position statement on the health of our children and the lack of proper policy to protect the most at-risk populations. That's exactly what has happened this week: the American Academy Of Pediatrics released a statement calling for reform of laws governing chemicals in the U.S.The director of the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families Coalition said in a press release: "The U.S. Senate has legislation before it, the Safe Chemicals Act, that tracks closely with the Academy's recommendations. The Senate should move quickly to enact it."

He also said: "AAP has joined the nation's leading health organizations, including the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, and the American Nurses Association, in calling for an overhaul of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which is widely understood to be ineffective at protecting the public from exposure to toxic chemicals."

The AAP makes recommendations that you'd think would already be built into policy, but unfortunately are not—including that any policy on chemicals should consider the consequences for children and their families. The group also calls for a public information document that explains any health concerns associated with each chemical in plain language. The other recommendations include:

  • The regulation of chemicals must be based on evidence, but decisions to ban chemicals should be based on reasonable levels of concern rather than demonstrated harm.

  • Any testing of chemicals should include the impact on women and children, including potential effects on reproduction and development.

  • Chemicals should meet safety standards similar to those met by pharmaceuticals or pesticide residues on food.

  • There should be post-marketing surveillance of chemicals, and the EPA must have the authority to remove a chemical if needed.

  • Federal funding should be provided for research to prevent, identify and evaluate the effects of chemicals on children's health.

Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families also highlights some interesting points of difference between AAP and the American Chemistry Council (ACC), an industry association that happened to also help block a ban on BPA in children's products last year:

1. The Academy explicitly says that old and new chemicals should have to meet the same safety requirements for evidence. The ACC has virulently opposed the provisions in both House and Senate legislation last year that did just that.

2. The Academy says that chemicals should be evaluated for both their aggregate and cumulative affects. (Aggregate is the combined exposure to one chemical from several sources. Cumulative is the combined exposure to different chemicals that have similar effects.) The ACC ridiculed both concepts in House testimony last August.

3. The Academy endorses the safety standard in the new Safe Chemicals Act (also present in last year's legislation) pointing to its success in the area of pesticides. The ACC has strenuously opposed the standard - again, with a tone that could be described as ridicule- while refusing to propose a different one.

4. The Academy endorses minimum information and testing requirements for chemicals when they are proposed to be marketed, including, but not limited to, reproductive and developmental toxicity, neurotoxicity, and endocrine disruption. The ACC has opposed minimum information requirements for chemicals.

5. Perhaps most importantly, the Academy's first recommendation is that while the EPA base it's decisions about chemicals on evidence, those decisions should be based on "reasonable levels of concern and not depend on demonstrated negative health effects after release." This statement is a helpful reminder to policy makers to take a public health approach, rather than a criminal law approach to decisions about chemicals. At the point at which a chemical can be absolutely proven to have hurt people, it is too late.

More on kids and chemicals:
Children Exposed to Pesticides Before Birth Likely to Have Lower IQ
Keep Your Kids the Hell Away From Pesticides--They Could Cause Brain Cancer
Could the EPA's New Chemical Regulations Actually Be Worse For Kids?
In Utero Pesticide Exposure Increases Risk of ADHD

Related Content on