Docs Want Chemical Law Overhauled
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is calling for chemicals to be tested for safety before they are released to the market. In seeking an overhaul of the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, the nation's pediatricians said the law “is widely recognized to have been ineffective in protecting children, pregnant women and the general population from hazardous chemicals in the marketplace.”
Under the current law, chemical companies have no responsibility to perform market testing or research product safety. “Manufacturers must be responsible for developing information about chemicals before marketing,” said an AAP statement published in the journal Pediatrics.
The study’s author, Jerome A. Paulson, MD of the Council on Environmental Health, says even with stronger chemical regulation, “It’s going to take years to get the information we’d like to have about not just new chemicals, but chemicals that have been on the market.”
The study emphasized the potential effects of toxins on children. “As children grow and mature, their bodies may be especially vulnerable to certain chemical exposures during critical windows of development. Neurologic and endocrine systems have demonstrated particular sensitivity to environmental toxicants at certain stages of growth,” said the AAP.
Speaking about chemicals that disrupt the endocrine system, Carla Campbell, MD, of Drexel University’s School of Public Health in Philadelphia, notes, “We don’t know much about how these chemicals affect people.” She believes more research needs to be done to see what exposure levels cause harmful effects. “Exposure is a concern, but we don’t know how much of a concern,” she says.
As a result, Dr. Campbell supports the AAP's call for testing before chemicals are released to the public. Her colleague, Dr. Igor Burstyn, PhD, agrees. “We need to adapt a more proactive approach to chemicals and get more information about them.”
The AAP statement noted that because the U.S. lacks strong chemical regulation, parents and pediatricians have been subjected to multiple high-profile media blitzes about specific chemicals, such as phthalates in toys and bisphenol A (BPA) in infant bottles, that create anxiety without solving the problems of risky chemical exposures."