We know a lot about how toxic chemicals hurt kids. Babies are born with more than 200 chemicals in their bodies. Rates of childhood cancer keep rising, while other types of cancer are holding steady or declining. Every ecosystem, person and animal on the planet is contaminated with toxic chemicals. It's not just factories that harbor dangerous chemicals; our couches, lotions, household cleaners, toys, building materials, canned foods and more in our homes are made with chemicals known to harm human health.
We live in a stew of toxic chemicals. There are 80,000 chemicals in use in the United States, but only 200 of them have been tested.
How did this happen? One big reason is that the national law that is supposed to protect us from toxic chemicals is a total failure. Passed in 1976, the Toxic Substances Control Act has been rendered essentially toothless, with no authority to ensure the safety of chemicals before they are added to products. As a result, the chemical industry has added millions of pounds of chemicals linked to cancer, asthma, infertility, obesity, learning disabilities and other diseases and conditions to products we use everyday.
But big change finally may be coming.
On July 25, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed the Safe Chemicals Act. This is the first vote ever taken on updating TSCA since it passed 36 years ago!
A combination of factors has made this moment ripe for political change. Scientists and medical researchers continue to find damning evidence linking toxic chemicals to diseases that plague our society. Informed consumers have demanded safer products and some manufacturers have stepped up to deliver, proving progress can be made without turning back the clock.
But it is the transformation of passive consumers into active citizens for safe chemicals that created this political moment.
Congress is listening. Polls show voters overwhelmingly support stricter regulations on toxic chemicals. Tens of thousands of people have written letters, called their Senators, marched, educated friends and family, and called for a new way to make chemicals safer.