Friday, March 20, 2015

Why Europe Rocks and the US is Lagging in Chemical Safety Reform

New research out of the European Union found that exposure to hormone disrupting chemicals (also called endocrine disrupting chemicals)  result in health problems that cost the EU more than $175 billion USD a year.  Yes:  BILLIONS a year.  

While researching the health and economic effects of 3 specific health issues linked to endocrine disrupting chemicals, the researchers conclude  that they are 99 percent certain that hormone-altering chemicals are linked to attention problems (ADD), diabetes, other health problems.

Of interest to parents and parents-to-be is that the biggest estimated cost (ie the biggest health hazard) were associated with these chemicals’ effects on children’s developing brains - a possible explanation for the large increase, in recent years,   in children with lower IQs, learning and/or behavioral disorders.

Roughly 5% of endocrine disrupting chemicals were included in the study.  Endocrine disrupting chemicals are chemicals that mimic or block estrogen or other hormones.
  •  Bisphenol-A (BPA):  used in hard plastics, linings of canned food containers and thermal store receipts.  These were examined for their links to obesity and diabetes.
  • 2 phthalates:  used as plasticizers in vinyl products.  These were also examined for their links to obesity and diabetes as well as male reproductive effects
  • DDE, which is what the infamous and now banned insecticide DDT breaks down into.  These, too, examined for their links to obesity and diabetes
  • Organophosphate pesticides, including one called chlorpyrifos used on grain, fruit, and other crops.  These pesticides were examined for neurological effects
  • Brominated flame retardants (PBDEs) commonly used in furniture foams until they were banned in Europe and the United States.  Although banned, they are still commonly found in many people’s older home furnishings.  Like the pesticides, PBDEs were also examined for their neurological effects
As I mentioned earlier, the scientists concluded that they are 99 percent certain that hormone-altering chemicals are linked to attention problems (ADD), diabetes, other health problems.

Evidence linking the pesticides and flame retardants to neurological effects  (ie:  lower IQ and increase in behavioral problems) was the strongest, showing "near certainty of causation".  The worse (and most costly) period to be exposed to these chemicals proved to be the prenatal period when a child’s brain is developing.

The study was conducted because the EU is debating whether and how to enact the world’s first regulation specifically targeting endocrine disruptors.  If this passes, European citizens would be protected like no where else on earth from chemicals which are so clearly creating havoc among society,  leading to serious (and expensive!) diseases.

Clearly, the evidence is mounting that people's health is being jeopardized by an array of commonly used chemicals- hopefully this new information coming out of Europe will be a wake up call for US policymakers.

- The last time a chemical safety reform bill became law in the US was 39 years ago.
- In the EU a chemical company must show proof that a chemical is not dangerous to human health before getting the go ahead to use said chemical in a consumer product.   In the US chemical companies have carte blanche to place any new chemical in any product they want without ever being tested for safety (many times without having to disclose thepresence of the chemical in the producT) .... in fact over 82,000 chemicals are currently being used in consumer products - and they have never been tested for safety.

Ironically, this latest resarch from Europe shows how costly this pro chemical policy in the US can be; if $175 billion usd in yearly health care costs have been attributed to endocrine  disruptors in the EU, the healthcare cost in the US for these same chemicals would, arguably,  be even higher than that.  What does this translate too?  According to National Georgraphic, “it is more than the combined proposed 2016 budgets for the U.S. Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services, National Park Service, and Environmental Protection Agency combined.”  Its a lot of money!  

What is the United States doing?  There was some promise coming out of Washington as a two year effort to update the 39 year old federal law that regulates (or doesnt regulate, as is the reality) toxic substances. 

However, according to the San Francisco GAte newspaper,  “The draft bill,  is in the form of a Microsoft Word document. Rudimentary digital forensics — going to “advanced properties” in Word — shows the “company” of origin to be the American Chemistry Council.”  

Who is the American Chemistry Council? It  is the leading trade organization and lobbyist for the chemical industry.  So basically, the law intended to protect the American people by regulating toxic chemicals was written by the chemical companies.  

I havent read the bill, and I understand how badly the US needs chemical reform, yet the new bill falls way short......  then again, what can you expect from a bill that was written by members of the chemical industry (introduced by Sens. Udall and Vitter).

If ever you feel the need to protest or take action - this is really the time.   TODAY.   Call your Senator and tell them this bill cannot pass since it is written to protect the chemical company interests and not the American people.

No time to call?  Click on EWG's link and send out a prewritten letter to President Obama and your local senators

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