EPA to Assess Safety of Six Widely Used Chemicals

Big changes may be coming to how chemicals are approved and monitored in the United States. Presently, Lisa Jackson, administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is promoting the formation of a new chemical law that would force additional responsibility onto chemical manufacturers in proving the safety of their components.

The new bill is in intended to alter the present methods, which were established under a 1976 toxics law that Jackson refers to as “inordinately cumbersome and time-consuming.”

As that bill is being pushed towards the Congress floor, Jackson has called for scrutiny of six widely used chemicals that have come under attack for causing potential health concerns. The highest profile chemicals to be targeted include:

  • Bisphenol A (BPA): used in clear polycarbonate bottles
  • Phthalates: chemicals used for cosmetics and vinyl products
  • Brominated flame retardants: used in electronics
  • Perfluorinated compounds: present in numerous products, including food packaging, paraffins, lubricants, benzidine dyes and non-stick coating

Early research into all of these chemicals suggests a possible link to reproductive complications and cancer. Additionally, these chemicals may mimic the effects of naturally occurring hormones and hinder development of fetuses and children.

To further assess the potential dangers of these products, the EPA is assembling data from the chemical industry. Once gathered, the data will be used to determine safety level of the chemicals and institute action plans that will limit exposure.

The six chemicals under review are just the first in a long line of chemicals the EPA intends to review. The Agency stresses the fact that 80,000 chemicals are currently being used in products sold in the United States. Alarmingly, many of these chemicals have incomplete health and safety data. As Jackson suggests, the chemicals with the highest priority will be reviewed first.

The action-oriented process is seen as a dramatic shift since the days of the Bush administration. While EPA officials under Bush’s leadership testified before Congress that the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 adequately safeguards U.S. citizens from chemical health concerns, the Obama administration seems less convinced.

In an effort to spur change and guide an effective bill formation in Congress, the EPA has released a set of principles that would improve information released about a chemical’s heath and safety concerns.

Representatives of numerous environmental groups have praised the pro-active initiatives proposed by the EPA.