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Chemical industry never developed methods to assess multiple chemical exposure health risks

Thursday, October 24, 2013 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
Tags: chemical industry, multiple exposure toxicity, safety testing

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(NaturalNews) According to the latest available statistics, there are more than 80,000 approved chemicals currently in commercial use. But believe it or not, only a few hundred of these chemicals have ever gone through proper safety testing by their manufacturers or by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) prior to hitting the market. And fewer still have been tested in variable combinations with other chemicals, even though this is how most people are exposed to them on a daily basis.

This major public health scandal made a cover story recently published in the American Chemical Society (ACS) journal Chemical & Engineering News (CEN), which discusses some of the strategies the EPA is employing to catch up with better regulating this runaway chemical insurgence. But missing from this important dialogue is any talk about how the EPA plans to test chemicals as they occur in real life -- in combination with other chemicals.

It is an undisputed fact that the EPA has never considered either the acute or chronic health implications of multiple chemical exposures, instead relying on empty promises from the industry concerning the safety of its chemicals. This means that the vast majority of pesticides, cleaning products, laundry detergents, hand soaps, fragrances and various other consumer products currently on the market are nothing more than large-scale science experiments being conducted on human test subjects.

"Many people assume that the chemicals in their detergents, floor cleaners, and other household products have undergone rigorous safety testing," writes Britt E. Erickson for CEN. "But little is known about the potential risks associated with most of the estimated 80,000 chemicals in commerce today."

EPA, not chemical companies, responsible for proving chemical dangers after approval

Just like NaturalNews has been saying for years, Erickson highlights that the burden of proof is on the EPA, and not the chemical industry, to show that a chemical is dangerous after it has already been approved. In other words, chemical companies are not actually required to provide safety data up front to government authorities in order to gain approval for a new chemical, or anytime for that matter. It is up to the EPA to later prove that a chemical poses some potential safety risk, in which case its manufacturer is then required to furnish safety data.

It is a backwards system controlled by the chemical industry and for the chemical industry, and the people have no say in the matter. Even if the EPA had all the time and resources necessary to examine all 80,000-plus currently approved chemicals, it is unlikely that any considerable number of them would be pulled from the market anytime soon, as the EPA is notoriously partial to chemical industry interests.

The EPA claims to be working towards improving its regulatory paradigm for untested chemicals via several new computational modeling systems, which are discussed in the CEN review. But these systems are incapable of evaluating the health effects of chemicals as they occur in the real world.

Revamped EPA safety testing protocols fail to evaluate combined chemical toxicity

According to CEN, a new EPA program known as ToxCast aims to screen thousands of untested chemicals for biological activity using the latest assay technologies, which to some might sound promising for reining in this runaway industry. But the assays the EPA plans to use have been largely developed for the pharmaceutical industry, not the chemical industry, which means they are inherently flawed.

Additionally, ToxCast is not being designed to assess how multiple chemical exposures affect human health, which is the most pertinent aspect of chemical toxicology. By assessing chemicals only in their isolated existence, the EPA may never fully uncover the true dangers of these ubiquitous substances when they combine in synthesis.

"Testing individual ingredients is important, but if that is as far as testing goes, that step is about as useful in determining product safety as is testing individual bomb ingredients to determine if a bomb is harmful," writes one ACS commenter about the dilemma. "Isolating variables is a good first step, but perhaps studying the existing combination of variables is what is actually required in determining the harmfulness of the chemical 'bombs' we use in our laundry, on our skin, and in cleaning our homes."

Toxic Substances Control Act must be reformed to safeguard public health against continued chemical onslaught

While such a suggestion is completely logical, the EPA has given no indication that it plans to test chemicals in this manner anytime soon. And unless existing federal law is reformed to not only require such testing but also provide funding and resources for it to actually take place, Americans will continue to face a toxic chemical onslaught.

"Perhaps an intermediate step would be to not care so much about giving [chemical] companies bad press, regardless of how much money they might throw into lobbying for secrecy," adds the same CEN commentator, referring to how chemical companies are still allowed to maintain public secrecy about ambiguous chemical blends like "fragrance," which are commonly listed on ingredient labels without details.

Another viable option to help move things along is to completely revamp the so-called Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA), which ironically does little to control toxic chemicals in its current form. In recent years, various members of Congress have attempted to pass legislation to revise and update this antiquated law, which exempts most new chemicals from EPA regulation. But such legislation has thus far failed to make it through the system.

"TSCA is badly broken and fails to ensure chemical safety in the U.S.," explains the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), a non-profit environmental and public health advocacy group. "Specifically, the statute has failed to deliver the information needed to identify unsafe -- as well as safer -- chemicals ... (and) imposes a nearly impossible burden on government to prove actual harm in order to control or replace a dangerous chemical."

To learn more about TSCA and lend your support to its reform, visit:

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