Common household products are great disinfectants and ways to keep your habitation germ free, but there is still a high risk for children in particular who have not yet built up a solid immune system to be affected by exposure to chemicals. As a result, The American Academy of Pediatrics is calling for stronger federal regulation of chemicals in consumer products. The law in place now dates back more than three decades.

Back in 1976, the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) came in to effect and empowered the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate companies in order to protect the public from harmful substances found in everyday products. Basically, TSCA mandated the EPA to protect the public from “unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment” by regulating the manufacture and sale of chemicals. This act does not address wastes produced as byproducts of manufacturing, as did the Clean Water and Air Acts of the era.

Existing chemicals were defined as “any chemical substance which is not included in the chemical substance list compiled and published under [TSCA] section 8(b).” This list included all of chemical substances manufactured or imported into the United States prior to December 1979. This still existing chemical list covered 99% of the EPA’s mandate in this bill, including some 8,800 chemicals imported or produced at quantities above 10,000 pounds. New chemicals include any chemical not currently listed under section 8(b). The distinction between existing and new chemicals is necessary as the act regulates each category of chemicals in different ways. (see link below for the full document)

Under current law, new chemicals used in consumer products are assumed to be safe until proved otherwise. Therefore, pediatricians have teamed with the American Medical Association and American Nurses Association in pushing for changes so that companies will be required to study the health effects of chemicals before marketing products that contain them.

Dr. Jerome Paulson with the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. stated:

“Under the current Toxic Substance Control Act, companies do not need to do research on the potential health impacts of the chemicals that they’re marketing before they put them out on the market.”

Dr. Kevin Osterhoudt, a board member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council on Environmental Health and the medical director of the poison control center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is a leader for change:

“If we want to market a drug or pharmaceutical, we have to do some studies to say that they’re safe. But companies can enter hundreds of thousands of tons of chemicals into the country and the burden isn’t on them to prove that that chemical’s safe.”

In a written statement, the AAP recommends any chemicals policy should consider the consequences on children and their families. Among the other recommendations:

  • 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.

Click HERE for a scan of the original 1976 document from the EPA.

Sources: The American Academy of Pediatrics and The Journal of the AAP

Written by Sy Kraft