3 Laws Congress Needs to Pass to Reduce Toxic Chemicals

Toxic chemicals are abound in many of the most common products we use every day. From breast cancer and reproductive failure to attention deficit disorder and various birth defects, we know that toxic chemicals can harm our health and impact future generations.

Though some laws are already on the books to reduce our exposure to these dangerous compounds, much more is needed to keep us safe and healthy. Here are three laws Congress can and should pass that would reduce our toxic exposures.

Overhaul the Toxic Substances Control Act – “TSCA” (pronounced toss-ka) was passed in 1976 to regulate the chemicals used in everyday products. However, when TSCA was passed, we knew far less about the impact chemicals have on our bodies, and there were fewer chemicals in circulation. Today, there are over 80,000 chemicals on the market. Only 200 have been tested for safety, reports Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families. And current law allows chemical manufacturers to keep the ingredients in some compounds secret, so it’s hard for consumers to know what they’re actually exposed to. A broad coalition of health, environmental and consumer organizations is urging Congress to reform TSCA by:

* Clearly requiring the law to protect the public and the environment from unsafe chemicals

* Require the Environmental Protection Agency to assess various chemicals and empower EPA to order companies to test the toxicity of their chemicals.

* Expedite the regulation of particularly toxic chemicals which bioaccumulate in our bodies, with a particular focus on PFOA, the chemical in Teflon-type products and asbestos

* Give consumers the right to know what they’re exposed to.

You can read a complete description of the demands the public is making to strengthen TSCA here.

Pass a strong Personal Care Products Safety Act – Currently, the personal products we use, like shampoo, soap and cosmetics, are regulated by provisions of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, which was passed over 75 years ago in 1938. The law was engineered by the cosmetics and personal care products industry so thatthe US Food and Drug Administration was NOT given the authority to require ingredients used in these products to be tested for safety. “As a result,” says Jamie McConnell, Director of Programs & Policy at the non-profit research organization Women’s Voice for the Earth, “today it is perfectly legal for cosmetics to contain harmful ingredients like formaldehyde (a known carcinogen), toluene (linked to birth defects), phthalates (also linked to birth defects and reproductive harm), styrene (a carcinogen), and even lead (a potent neurotoxin).”

Women’s Voices and many other health advocacy groups are urging Congress to pass a strong Act that:

* Gives the FDA the authority to get unsafe products off the shelves

* Directs the FDA to assess the safety of a minimum of 5 cosmetic chemicals a year, including those that contain formaldehyde

* Requires full ingredient disclosure, as well as a domestic telephone number or email on product labels to make it easy for consumers to find out what’s in the products they buy.

You can see a complete rundown of the recommended strong provisions for the Act here.

Require GMO Labeling – Right now, companies are not required to let consumers know when the food they produce is made with ingredients tainted by genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Earlier this year, industry attempted to pass legislation dubbed the “DARK” act, because it would have explicitly “Denied Americans the Right-to-Know.” That legislation was defeated, but companies still don’t have to disclose the presence of GMOs in their products. Several states, including Vermont, Connecticut and Maine, and 65 countries around the world, including all of the European Union, Russia and even China, require labeling. Polls show that nearly 90 percent of Americans support labeling to indicate the presence of GMOs.

Legislation has been introduced in the Senate that would ensure that consumers can find GMO ingredient labeling on food packaging. The “Biotechnology Food Labeling Uniformity Act” would specifically:

* Enable Americans to see whether a food has been prepared with GMO ingredients

* Require manufacturers to disclose the presence of GMOs

You can learn more about the benefits of GMO labeling, and keep abreast of the status of legislative action, on the Just Label It website.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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3 Laws Congress Needs to Pass to Reduce Toxic Chemicals

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