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Fact and Fiction


Fiction #4: 'These are the best-tested chemicals in the world'

Why are the world's "best-tested" chemicals:

Not tested for effects on fetuses?
Not tested for effects on infants and children?
Not tested in mixtures?
Not tested for effects on the immune system?
Not tested for effects on the endocrine system?
Not tested in animals for cancer?
Not tested in animals for birth defects?
Not tested in animals for nervous system toxicity?
Not studied in the human population?
Not monitored in soil, water, air, or food?
Not monitored in wildlife?
Not monitored in humans?

Aside from chemicals directly added to food, there are no mandatory health and safety studies required to put a chemical into commercial use in the United States (Toxics Substances Control Act, 15 USCA 2601-2692).

For the overwhelming majority of chemicals in commerce today, industry has no idea what the potential for human harm really is. Every day, hundreds of millions of people are exposed to a soup of chemicals through thousands of consumer products. None have been thoroughly studied individually, and none have been studied at all in combination.

Companies usually perform crude toxicity screening tests to ensure that their products present no immediate hazard to users. They don't explode, they don't burn the users, and they don't cause acute illness. But standard tests for cancer, birth defects, reproductive toxicity, genetic toxicity, immune system toxicity, endocrine toxicity and other long-term health problems are not required under law and are almost never preformed.

This information void is the deliberate result of a well-orchestrated chemical industry plan that goes back at least 50 years. The centerpiece of the plan was to escape regulation by making sure that Congress passed no laws that would ever require the chemical industry to perform health and safety testing for the compounds it produces. This campaign was a complete success. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), and the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), only the tiniest sliver of preliminary toxicity screening tests are required before major new high volume chemicals are manufactured, sold or used in commercial or retail products. The situation is perhaps worse under the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act, where there are no pre-market studies required for cosmetic products or the chemicals in them. (There are testing requirements for drugs and chemicals added directly to food.)

In 1998, the chemical industry agreed to a voluntary testing program where in theory it would perform 6 screening tests for 2,863 chemicals produced in volumes greater than 1,000,000 pounds per year. Bear in mind that the tests are screening tests, not sufficient for conclusive determination that a chemical causes a particular health effect in animals. As of March 2001, not a single test had been submitted to EPA under the program.

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last updated: march.27.2009

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