The new chemical safety law prompts EWG to list the highest-priority toxic chemicals that desperately need review.
When progress and technology meet consumerism and a love of convenience, we have the perfect storm for manufacturers to make oodles and oodles of consumer products riddled with hazardous chemicals. But with the recent passing of a new chemical safety law – the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act – the EPA now has the tools necessary to ensure the safety of chemicals and significantly strengthen health protections for consumers.
But of the tens of thousands of chemicals on the market, muses the consumer watchdog organization, Environmental Working Group (EWG), most of which were never tested for safety, which should the EPA tackle first?
With this in mind EWG poured over the mess of chemicals out there and came up with a list of high-priority chemicals that they think the EPA should act on quickly. It includes chemicals used on American household daily; from detergents and household cleaners to clothes, mattresses, furniture, and toys.
“After decades of stagnation, the EPA can now ban or restrict the use of toxic chemicals, and order companies to conduct safety testing when more information is needed,” said EWG Senior Scientist David Andrews. “It's important that the agency act promptly to eliminate or reduce Americans’ exposure to industrial compounds linked to cancer, birth defects, hormone disruption and other health problems.”
To start with, the EPA has 90 chemicals known to pose health risks on a list called the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Work Plan.
“The Work Plan list represents opportunities for assessment and regulation where EPA action is overdue,” said EWG Senior Scientist Johanna Congleton. “In some cases, such as with some kinds of flame retardants, the initial EPA review was hindered by the lack of safety and exposure data. The EPA must now use its expanded authority to fill in these critical information gaps.”
The scientists from EWG poured over the chemicals on the Work Plan, examining numerous U.S. and international studies and consulted with fellow experts in environmental health. They considered “each chemical’s health risks, how widely Americans are exposed to it and the likelihood of EPA action under the new law.”
The following 10 chemicals that EWG is recommending for high-priority review are like a who’s who of deleterious villains, most of which have been covered by TreeHugger before. Of course with so many chemicals out there any list is bound to be somewhat subjective and at the very least, incomplete – but a start is encouraging.
Asbestos: The cancer-causing substance is still found in automobile brake pads and clutches, vinyl tiles, and roofing materials. While some uses have been banned since 1989, no new risk assessment is scheduled.
PERC: This probable carcinogen appears in dry-cleaning fluid, spot removers and water repellents.
Phthalates: These chemicals are linked to early puberty in girls and other reproductive harms. They show up in PVC plastic, toys and plastic wrap.
BPA: This carcinogen is linked to infertility, developmental risks and diabetes. BPA is used in food cans and other food containers, as well as cash register receipts.
Chlorinated phosphate fire retardants: These chemicals turn up in upholstered furniture, foam cushions, baby car seats and insulation. They are linked to possible nerve and brain damage.
TBBPA and related chemicals: This potential carcinogen and endocrine disruptor is seen in electronics, auto parts and appliances.
Brominated phthalate fire retardants: These chemicals are linked to developmental toxicity, and appear in polyurethane foam for furniture and baby products.
1-Bromopropane: This probable carcinogen is used in aerosol cleaners and adhesives, and is linked to reproductive harm.
DEHA: This probable carcinogen is found in plastic wrap and PVC plastic. It is also linked to developmental toxicity.
P-dichlorobenzene: This probable carcinogen is detected in moth balls and deodorant blocks. It is linked to liver and nerve damage.
For more information, visit EWG.