Why You Should Care About Chemical Safety

capitol building with white clouds behind itAutism, ADHD, asthma and allergies — increasingly, they’re all being linked to chemicals in our environment. Babies are now born pre-polluted with more than 200 industrial chemicals in their blood, just from pre-natal exposure. How can that not have an effect?

Yet the manufacturing industry’s position remains firm, lobbying that regulating chemicals will hurt small businesses, leading to increased production costs and job losses.

As a result, there are still 84,000 chemicals used in commerce that have never been tested for children’s safety. They are supposed to be regulated by the Toxic Chemicals Control Act (TSCA) but it doesn’t have a lot to do with chemical safety.

Guess how many chemicals have been restricted since TSCA was passed in 1976? Five. Yes, you read that right. Five. But luckily, there are changes afoot.

Could 2013 be the year that we finally start getting serious about chemical safety?

This spring, the Safe Chemicals Act and the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act were both introduced in Congress. The goal of the bills are to force manufacturers to prove that the chemicals they use in their products are safe—before putting them on shelves.

Meanwhile, 27 states have introduced bills that protect their citizens from toxic chemical exposures. The measures will address BPA, flame retardants, cadmium, formaldehyde and more.

Could 2013 be the year that we finally start getting serious about chemical safety? I sure hope so.

Oh, and about those business owners fighting chemical reform because they’re concerned that it would hurt jobs: A national poll of 500 small-business owners found that 75 percent support stricter regulations of chemicals used in everyday products, and 91 percent support chemical manufacturers being held responsible for ensuring their chemicals are safe.

Maybe it’s not the small businesses these lobbyists are interested in, after all. Maybe it’s the corporations they work for, which benefit most from standing in the way of chemical safety reform.

Want to get involved? Join Women’s Voices for the Earth in their support of the Safe Chemicals Act, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics in their support of the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act, and follow Safer States to find out what’s happening at the state level.

Update 6.3.13: RIP Sen. Frank Lautenberg. You fought the good fight.

Update 5.22.13: Senators Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and David Vitter (R-LA) announced a bi-partisan agreement today to update TSCA with the “Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013,” co-sponsored by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Charles Schumer (D-NY), James Inhofe (R-OK), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and John Hoeven (R-ND). Go red and blue team!



  1. annette gano says

    Thanks for posting this Rachel. I have recently learned that stay-at-home (or work from home) moms have a 54% greater death rate from cancer due to chemical exposure. This prompted me to learn how to create a safer home for me and my family. I have now started teaching classes on how to make your own cleaning supplies by using all natural products and essential oils. I feel honored to help mom’s save money and keep their homes healthy. If you or anyone you know is interested in connecting with me, please let me know, I will be in Los Angeles for a couple of weeks in July.

    • Rachel Sarnoff says

      Wow, where is that statistic from Annette? I would be really interested in looking into that further! Thank you!

  2. DONNA FRENCH says


    • Rachel Sarnoff says

      Yes, agreed Donna! I like to think of it as returning to what our grandmothers and great-grandmothers did. Maybe in this case it’s not “mother knows best.” 🙂

  3. Thanks for this great post! Everyone should care about chemical reform. The time has come where people like myself are tired of routine exposure we have to toxic chemicals. Shopping my way out of the problem is both a burden and impossible. Thanks for spreading the good word! People can also take action for the Safe Chemicals Act here: http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/6639/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=13523


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