The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has joined the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association and the American Nurses Association in endorsing a revision of the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA). The TSCA was introduced in 1976 as a means of regulating chemicals used in everyday products. Since it’s introduction, thousands of chemicals have been used in the United States that have not been tested for safety prior to being introduced into the market. In fact, only five chemicals/chemical classes are currently banned by the TSCA: polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs); fully halogenated chlorofluoroalkanes; dioxin; asbestos; and hexavalent chromium.
Under the current TCSA law, companies do not have to prove that the chemicals used in their products are safe before they are introduced into commerce. The current system actually discourages manufacturers to test product safety since any health and/or safety risks found must be reported. Not only that, but companies can also hide and avoid releasing information about their chemicals by stating the information is “confidential business information.” The Environmental Protection Agency reports that approximately 20% of the 80,000 chemicals are secret…that’s 16,000 chemicals! Without regulation of the chemicals used in commerce today, the health of our children is in jeopardy.
In 2005, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) conducted a study, which analyzed 10 samples of umbilical cord blood. The study found 287 chemicals in the blood tested, 180 of which have been shown to cause cancer in humans or animals, 217 are toxic to the brain and 208 cause birth defects or abnormal developments in animal testing (EWG 2005). Why are these findings so important? According to the study, developing fetuses and children are more vulnerable to the harmful effects of these chemicals due to:
• A developing child's chemical exposures are greater pound-for-pound than those of adults. Children breathe more air, drink more water and eat more food per unit of body weight than adults
• An immature, porous blood-brain barrier allows greater chemical exposures to the developing brain.
• Children have lower levels of some chemical-binding proteins, allowing more of a chemical to reach "target organs."
• A baby's organs and systems are rapidly developing, and thus are often more vulnerable to damage from chemical exposure.
• Systems that detoxify and excrete industrial chemicals are not fully developed.
• The longer future life span of a child compared to an adult allows more time for adverse effects to arise.
Many chemicals can affect the brain, endocrine and reproductive systems of children. The National Academy of Sciences suggests that environmental factors contribute to at least 28% of childhood developmental disabilities (EWG 2005). In the past 30 years, there has been a sharp rise in autism, childhood cancers, infertility, birth defects and premature births. The suspected culprit?...Environmental pollutants.
Other nations, including the European Union, Canada and United Nations, have already developed provisions to regulate chemicals. It’s time for the U.S. to employ stricter regulation on potentially hazardous chemicals. You can help by asking your senator to support the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011. It’s fast and easy to make your voice heard. Take Action Now.
Tip to reduce you and your family’s exposure to environmental toxins:
• Get knowledgeable: Start educating yourself on common worrisome chemicals (here is a list). Take a look at the personal care products you and your family use and utilize the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database to find out the safety rating of your products. To learn more on toxins, visit the following websites: Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, Healthy Child Healthy World, Environmental Working Group, Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, HealthyStuff.org, Environmental Protection Agency, Physicians for Social Responsibility and Center for Health, Environment & Justice.
• Eat organic. Eating organic reduces exposure to pesticides, hormones and antibiotics. Is eating organic too expensive for your budget? Visit your local farmer’s market for a healthier alternative that won’t break the bank. Find a local market at www.localharvest.org. Another great resource is the EWG’s Shopper’s Guide. Download this guide and buy produce listed on the Dirty Dozen list organically.
• Clean with green cleaners or make your own cleaning products. You can find many great tips in our “Green Cleaning Twitter Party” recap.
• Phase out toxins. It can become overwhelming in the beginning when you have just learned of the vast amount of chemicals your family is exposed to everyday and you will be tempted to trash everything and start anew. Instead, start by eliminating those toxins which affect your family the most. Begin with those that are absorbed through the skin, ingested and those that are inhaled.
• Buy green. As you purchase new products, cosmetics, toys and food, look for those items which state they are free of toxins and be sure to read the label when available.
The burden of avoiding hazardous chemicals should not be placed on the consumer. Instead, manufacturers must take responsibility for the products that they develop and ensure their safety. Through legislation such as the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 and the support of large influential organizations like the AAP, hopefully change will be upon us soon.
AAP (2011). Policy Statement: Chemical-Management Policy: Prioritizing Children's Health
EWG. Body Burden — The Pollution in Newborns
Safer Chemicals Healthy Families. What is TSCA?
Author : Diba Tillery RN, BSN, IBCLC, CPST