Sometimes I feel like an idiot for trusting the American government to protect our children. I mean really, I should know better by now. I had just assumed any new chemical introduced into the US market would be tested for toxicity: NOT TRUE!
The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) does not require chemical companies to test the 700 new chemicals introduced into the US market annually for their toxicity. This law is so bad the EPA has not even been able to ban the known carcinogen asbestos under TSCA after 10 years of trying!
Enacted in 1976, the TSCA gave the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the authority to regulate chemicals; however, experts agree the law has too many legal hurdles that make it virtually impossible for the federal government to limit or ban toxic chemicals. Yesterday, the House of Representatives had a hearing on the issue. Representative Bobby Rush, Illinois Democrat and chair of the House Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection Subcommittee, describes the struggle to get asbestos banned:
I think most Americans would be surprised to know that asbestos, a known carcinogen, that kills 8,000 Americans each and every year has not been banned by EPA under TSCA.
Formaldehyde is another toxic substance that the EPA has been impotent to regulate under TSCA (remember the toxic FEMA trailers?). Richard Denison, a senior scientist with the Environmental Defense Fund, explains:
…available information on formaldehyde – one of the most studied toxic chemicals in all of commerce – was insufficient for EPA to meet its burden of proof under TSCA. As bad as this sounds, what’s worse is that EPA is likely right about its inability to act under TSCA.
Of course, the chemical industry is nervous that the law will be overhauled. They caution against creating a system like the European Union that shifts to industry the burden of proving chemicals are safe. Chemical companies warn this would hurt the US economy, but what about our children’s health?