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Jennifer Lee: New laws needed to rid marketplace, workplace of toxins

To the editor:

The Safe Chemicals Act of 2013 is a landmark bill that strengthens federal chemical regulation by requiring manufacturers to prove their chemicals are safe in order to put them on the consumer’s shelf. What we have now is the broken chemical law known as the Toxic Substances Control Act.

Under this current law, even if a chemical is toxic and known to cause cancer, we can’t avoid it because companies are not required to disclose their products’ ingredients. Styrene, for example, is found in fiberglass, food containers and paint. The scientific community has long agreed that styrene causes cancer in mice and increases the risk of leukemia and lymphoma in workers.

The Department of Health and Human Services lists styrene as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.”

But under the present law if the chemical industry can find one study to say otherwise, among hundreds of studies saying “human carcinogen,” it can keep products on the market. It doesn’t even matter if that one study is inconclusive or biased.

Consumers are stuck with chemicals as cancerous as dioxins and asbestos. Consumers can’t avoid carcinogens because the American Chemistry Council has succeeded in keeping health and safety information out of the public eye.

The American Chemistry Council spent $10 million to lobby against issues like chemical regulation reform.

The Department of Health and Human Services produces a biannual Report On Carcinogens. The American Chemistry Council is proposing a bill to cut funding for this report entirely.

What kind of society profits by allowing carcinogens in baby bottles and infant clothes? The Safe Chemicals Act is backed by a growing list of consumers, health professionals, small business owners, the Government Accountability Office and United Steelworkers styrene-exposed workers.

Jennifer Lee


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