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Pediatricians Seek Stiffer Regulation of Chemicals

Pediatrician Group Says Current Legislation Does Not Adequately Protect Children, Pregnant Women
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

April 25, 2011 -- The U.S. chemical management policy known as the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) does not adequately protect children and pregnant women from hazardous chemicals in the environment and needs to be overhauled, according to a new policy statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

The group is concerned about the potential health risks associated with a laundry list of environmental pollutants, including heavy metals; phthalates found in toys, personal care products, nail polish, adhesives, and other products; the plastics chemical bisphenol A (BPA); perfluorinated compounds found in nonstick cookware; and flame retardants.

Passed in 1976, the TSCA requires companies that manufacture chemicals to notify the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of intent to market a new chemical. The chemical manufacturers are not required to perform any safety testing before notifying the EPA. As part of the overhaul, the AAP suggests that the EPA be able to demand safety data from companies and limit or stop the marketing of chemicals that may be harmful. The AAP also urges that any testing of chemicals include women and children to see if there are any effects on fertility and childhood growth and development.

TSCA Reform: Will It Pass?

This issue of TSCA reform seems to be reaching a critical mass. A growing number of studies have linked some of these chemicals to several diseases and conditions, and some groups, including the AAP, the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, and the American Nurses Association, have endorsed a need to make changes to the TSCA.

“TSCA reform proposals have been introduced in Congress in each of the last three sessions, and the AAP has now joined several other health organizations as well as the American Chemistry Council in calling for comprehensive reform of TSCA,” policy author Jerome A. Paulsen, MD, a pediatrician at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., says in an email. “Hopefully our weight will push the process toward completion."

The new policy statement appears in the May issue of Pediatrics.

What the AAP Wants

“The U.S. needs a system that requires companies to screen chemicals for toxicity before they market those chemicals,” Paulsen says. “The companies must submit their data to EPA for analysis and for approval to market [and] this must be coupled with post-market surveillance to identify issues missed in the screen process and with the capability for EPA to remove chemicals from the market based on a reasonable level of concern of danger to human health.”

As it stands now, the TSCA does neither, he says.

Current and future parents do not have to wait for Congress to act, he says.

“There is sufficient information for parents to make decisions about certain chemicals like Bisphenol-A,” Paulsen says. Many manufacturers have already taken steps to eliminate the BPA found in baby bottles and cups because of health risks.

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