Children are most at risk when it comes to exposure to common household chemicals

We are exposed to chemicals virtually everywhere, and doctors urge authorities to provide better protection.

Earlier this week, the American Academy of Pediatrics called for an overhaul of the 35-year-old federal law governing toxic chemicals in the environment, saying it fails to safeguard children and pregnant women.

“It is widely recognized to have been ineffective in protecting children, pregnant women and the general population from hazardous chemicals in the marketplace,” the academy said in a policy statement that will be published in the May issue of the journal Pediatrics.

They are not the only ones sounding the alarm bells. The American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association and the American Nurses Association have previously called for changes in the Toxic Substance Control Act.

Among the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations:

  • The consequences of chemical use on children and their families should be “a core component” of the new chemical policy.
  • Chemicals should meet standards similar to those required for new drugs or pesticides.
  • Decisions to ban chemicals should be based on reasonable levels of concern, rather than demonstrated harm.
  • The health effects of chemicals should be monitored after they are on the market, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should have the authority to remove a chemical from the market if it’s deemed dangerous.

Since the Toxic Substances Control Act took effect in 1976, the EPA has tested only 200 of the 80,000 chemicals in commerce and regulated just five.

“Right now, a company manufactures a chemical and puts it out on the market and reaps the economic reward,” said Dr. Jerome Paulson, lead author of the policy statement. “And then the public is responsible for trying to figure out if there is any harm associated with the use of that chemical. And then it’s almost a criminal procedure, requiring proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey this month introduced the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011. The law would require chemical manufacturers to demonstrate the safety of industrial chemicals used in everyday household products.

Experts agree that swift action is required to protect the most vulnerable members of our society – our children.

Children face special risks because they eat, drink and breathe more pound for pound than adults, and they spend more time on the floor or the ground than adults, a possible source of exposure, the American Academy of Pediatrics pointed out in its policy statement.

As part of its policy statement, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended its 60,000 member pediatricians familiarize themselves with the potential adverse health effects of chemicals in the environment.

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The American chemical industry is a $674 billion enterprise, employing 800,000 people, according to the industry group. Chemical manufacturers reported annual production volume of 27 trillion pounds, according to the most recent EPA data available.

Source: CNN

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