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Blog/Opinion: How many "chemical substances" are in legal use, and doesn't the government protect us from harmful ones?

By HHI Staff

According to the USEPA, there are more than 80,000 "chemical substances " in legal use, and, according to the book - Smart Mama's Green Guide by Jennifer Taggart: "less than 10 percent have been reviewed for toxic effects."


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Why doesn't the government protect us?


In her book, Taggart explains:

"The independent federal U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is vested with the power to regulate air and water pollution, solid wastes, pesticides, radiation, and toxic substances. It is primarily responsible for enforcing environmental laws. You may be most familiar with the EPA's work under the Superfund (otherwise known as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, or CERCLA). CERCLA was enacted to address hazardous substance release sites, which are known as Superfund sites. The EPA is also responsible for a number of other important federal environmental laws, including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-toKnow Act.
The EPA is also responsible for implementing and enforcing the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1979 (TSCA). TSCA is the primary federal law for regulating chemicals used in the United States. TSCA authorizes the EPA to gather information on chemicals. The current TSCA inventory, a list of the chemicals in use in the United States, has over 82,000 chemical substances. Each year, around 1,000 new chemicals are introduced.

"When the EPA started to review chemicals under TSCA in 1979, all chemicals in use at the time, around 62,000 chemicals, were grandfathered in under this program and exempted from review under TSCA. For those grandfathered chemicals—those that were already in use in 1979—the EPA cannot request information about the chemical's safety unless it can establish that the chemical poses an unreasonable risk or a high exposure. This has significant implications for determining the safety of the products we use. Of the "high volume" chemicals produced today—those chemicals produced in the U.S. in amounts of more than a million pounds per year - 92 percent were grandfathered in under TSCA."


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How many "chemical substances" are in legal use, and doesn't the government protect us from harmful ones?:  Created on March 11th, 2012.  Last Modified on March 11th, 2012


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