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After reading a lot of confusing product descriptions on the Internet and on product labels, I thought that it would be a good idea to create a list of available regulations governing toxic chemicals in consumer products. One of the reasons my blog became very popular so quickly is that the US has lenient toxic chemicals regulations that often protect corporate profits as opposed to protecting the health of consumers. Thus, it is up to consumers to protect themselves by reading product descriptions, products labels, and asking tough questions. A lot of times manufacturers boast that their products are compliant with CARB, ASTM, CPSIA, CFR, etc. But what does that all mean? I designed this guide to be helpful in understanding what manufacturers are talking about and, ultimately, in making the best purchasing decisions for your family. This post is part I of a series of posts on toxic chemical regulations. In this post, I will discuss the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA).
The Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA)
This is our nation’s main law that regulates chemicals in products that we use every day. I think it is important to know about the TSCA because the TSCA determines the overall US philosophy toward the chemicals in consumer products. Unfortunately, the TSCA is not effective.
In 1976, the Congress passed the TSCA. The TSCA accepted 62,000 chemicals that were on the market then as safe – just because they were already on the market. Since then, the US chemical industry has added 20,000 more chemicals.
The TSCA left the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) powerless to regulate toxic chemicals. In the pharmaceutical industry, a manufacturer is required to prove the safety of a new drug before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will approve it. However, under the TSCA, a new chemical is considered safe unless the EPA proves that it is not. The real problem is that the EPA has not been provided the resources to investigate the new chemicals that keep coming to the market. In the meantime, we as consumers assume that products we buy every day have been tested for safety by someone, which this just isn’t true in many cases (and probably in most cases).
Luckily, people have started realizing that we can’t go on like this. There are organizations that have been fighting to improve the current state of affairs. For example, The Safer Chemicals Healthy Families coalition has been working really hard to reform the TSCA. For more information about the Safer Chemicals Healthy Families coalition and updates on TSCA reform, go to their website at http://www.saferchemicals.org.
While the Federal law is not working to protect us from the harm of chemicals, some states have adopted green laws. Specifically California has implemented a few laws that we will talk about in my next post of this series. Because California is the eighth largest economy in the world, it has considerable influence. Many manufacturers manufacture their products to California’s standards, because it does not make economic sense for companies to produce two sets of products – one set compliant with California state law and another set not compliant.
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