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American Academy of Pediatrics Chair Demands Environmental Toxins Reform

Posted on Apr 26, 2:46pm

environmental health
bisphenol A
flame retardant
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Who enforces toxicity testing on household products for children and expectant moms?  The answer, it turns out, is no one.  Dr. Jerome Paulson, the incoming chair of the Council on Environmental Health for the American Academy of Pediatrics, recently co-authored a paper that blasted the ineffectual guidelines for safety testing plastics, solvents, and other household chemicals for toxicity.  According to Paulson, since the passage of the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) in 1976, tens of thousands of new chemicals have been developed for widespread use and only 5 (including asbestos and cancer-causing dioxins) have ever been regulated by the law.  He points out that the Bisphenol A controversy, where a chemical known to cause neurological problems in children had been allowed widespread production in plastic water bottles, is just one example of the policy's inability to take special populations into consideration.

Under the TSCA, companies must disclose any known hazards of chemicals used to make consumer products.  However, unlike drug companies, they are not required to perform pre-market testing or post-market followup.  "In the last couple of years we've had a 'toxicant of the month' situation," Paulson said. "Why aren't these chemicals tested before they're in the market so we . . . can know if they're unlikely to do harm to the environment or to human beings?"  Among his recommendations are EPA oversight to demand more testing if there are suspicions about the impact of a chemical on reproductive or developmental health.

"Many substances we identify as potentially harmful to children mainly because of their developmental effects," says Dr. Megan Schwarzman, a research scientist at UC-Berkeley. "There is increasing science on the childhood, and even potentially lifelong, effects during these critical windows of time and during pregnancy."  Recently, concerns have been raised about the effect of flame retardants in cribs and car seats that have been linked to fertility and hormone problems and VOC's (Volatile Organic Compounds) found in paint that may cause neurological damage in children.

Maureen Salamon (2011). "Pediatricians Urge Better Protection From Chemicals: Children, pregnant women inadequately safeguarded from hazardous compounds, experts say." HealthDay News, Published online April 25 2011.

American Academy of Pediatrics (2011). "Policy Statement—Chemical-Management Policy: Prioritizing Children's Health." Pediatrics, Published online April 25, 2011. doi:10.1542/peds.2011-0523.


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