Children and pregnant women have special vulnerabilities to hazardous chemicals in the marketplace and the federal government should to do more to protect them, says the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
In a policy statement issued today in Pediatrics, the academy says that the primary federal law governing chemical management, the Toxic Substances Control Act, does not safeguard the health of children and pregnant women and has not undergone any meaningful revision since its passage in 1976. The AAP argues that the law has been used to regulate only 5 chemicals or chemical classes, namely polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), fully halogenated chlorofluoroalkanes, dioxin, asbestos, and hexavalent chromium. But tens of thousands of chemicals are in use and the law does not require chemical companies to conduct safety tests on their products before they go on the market or to perform follow-up studies after these chemicals are in the marketplace.
The AAP said there are more than 80 000 chemicals in commerce in the United States. More than 3000 of these are considered “high-production volume” chemicals, substances produced in or imported into the United States in quantities of a million pounds per year or more. An estimated 27 trillion pounds of chemicals were produced in or imported into the United States in 2005, the academy said.
In its recommendations, the AAP calls for a substantial revision of policies regulating the management of chemicals. Such revised policies, they said, should require that any testing of chemicals include an assessment of their effect on children and women, including potential effects on reproduction and development, and that chemicals should meet safety standards similar to those met by pharmaceutical drugs or pesticide residues on food.
In addition, the academy is calling for the monitoring of the health effects of chemicals that are on the market (with the US Environmental Protection Agency authorized to remove substances that pose health risks to the public); federal funding for research to prevent, identify, and evaluate the effects of chemicals on children’s health; and regulation of chemicals with decisions made to ban substances based on reasonable levels of concern rather than demonstrated harm.