As society has developed, we’ve learned how to utilize the smallest particles – chemicals and elements – in ways that are beneficial to humans. Although these chemicals can help us achieve great industrial and technological, many of them are toxic to humans. In order to protect the greater population from these harmful compounds, the government has set into place a series of laws and initiatives that strive to regulate the use and distribution of these chemicals and disclose products that may contain traces of them. These regulations exist at the state, federal, and international level and attempt to regulate the creation, distribution, use, and disposal of these toxic substances. At the federal level, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has authority over regulation, reporting, and keeping record of all chemical substances and mixtures.
These laws are critical to public health and safety, and keeping them up to date and accurate ensures that they are not misused. When unregulated chemicals impact human heath, they have the potential to cause serious, long lasting effects. In order to protect human health, these regulations must be up to date with scientific research. As we work towards building a more sustainable society, these laws must become stricter, and companies that utilize toxic chemicals must work towards finding greener alternatives. In the cases where alternatives cannot be utilized, full disclosure is a necessity in order to protect consumers.
Although regulations do exist at the federal level, they are out of date and do not encompass a wide range of potentially harmful chemicals. The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) is the main piece of legislation regulating toxic chemicals, but is ineffective at providing large-scale oversight. Since being signed into law in 1976, it has not been significantly updated; meanwhile 20,000+ new chemicals have entered American commerce. The act has only required testing for about 200 toxic chemicals, and has partial regulation for only five. The rest have not been fully evaluated as far as their impacts on human health and the environment. Additionally, children are much more likely to be exposed to toxic chemicals than adults, and with 10 to 15 percent of all children born in the U.S. having some type of neurobehavioral development disorder, the need for change is much larger. Toxic chemicals in the U.S. are regulated by the Toxic Substances Control Act, which both policy makers and public health experts agree has been largely ineffective. TSCA lacks mandatory safety requirements before a chemical can gain access to market. In addition, 62,000 chemicals that were in production before the act was passed were “grandfathered in” and did not have to comply with these safety requirements4. and grandfathered in 62,000 toxic chemicals when it was adopted4. Chemical reform is necessary if we want to protect humans and the environment in the future.
Writing to your local government representatives and urging them to support toxic chemical regulation reform can help raise awareness for this issue. Additionally, choosing to consume goods with a “Safer Choice” Label helps support products that are produced without these harmful chemicals.