Science is only beginning to understand how synthetic chemicals affect our health and the health of our planet, but we've learned even minute amounts of some of them may cause serious harm.
Many chemicals have harmful effects
Your home contains materials and products made with toxic chemicals. But chances are you couldn’t identify them. The decades-old Toxic Substances Chemicals Control Act (TSCA) keeps you in the dark about what health risks they may pose to you and your family.
Household products with chemicals linked to health risks
Flooring and windows, plastics, fragrances and food can linings
- Chemicals: Phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA)
- Health Hazard: Endocrine disrupters
- Potential Health Impacts: Infertility; breast and prostate cancer; metabolic disorders; altered thyroid function; low birth weight
Painting supplies, inks, fuels and adhesives
- Chemicals: Trichloroethylene (TCE) and toluene
- Health Hazards: Probable carcinogen; neurotoxins
- Potential Health Impacts: Alzheimer's; Parkinson's; kidney, breast, liver, brain and blood cancers; lymphoma; leukemia
Old paint, fish, batteries, lightbulbs, microwaves
- Chemicals: Mercury and lead
- Health Hazard: Neurotoxins
- Potential Health Impacts: Low birth weight; learning and developmental disabilities in children
Nonstick cookware, stain-resistant fabrics, carpeting, pizza boxes, fast food containers, cleaners, paints, roof treatment and floor protectant
- Chemicals: Perfluorinated compounds (PFCs)
- Health Hazard: Endocrine Disrupter
- Potential Health Impacts: Liver, pancreatic, testicular and breast cancers; reproductive and developmental disorders
Pavement for parking lots and driveways, pavement sealers
- Chemicals: Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)
- Health Hazard: Carcinogen
- Potential Health Impacts: Kidney and liver cancers; cataracts
Source: Health Case for Reforming the Toxic Substances Control Act, http://healthreport.saferchemicals.org
Most commercial chemicals have never been safety tested
The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was introduced almost 35 years ago in 1976. It was supposed to allow Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to obtain information from chemical companies, assess the safety of their products and regulate those found to be dangerous.
Unfortunately, about 62,000 chemicals were "grandfathered in," allowing companies to keep making and using them without any safety testing. Today, most chemicals on the market are among those original 62,000, and we have little information about their safety.
Many chemicals are kept secret from you
TSCA also allows chemical companies to label virtually any of the information they submit to EPA as "trade secrets." As a result, EPA cannot share these data with anyone.
Some protection is reasonable, but the chemical industry has used this loophole to claim that about 95% of the information regarding their new chemicals be kept secret. They even make the same claim about many chemicals for which they are required to submit health and safety data.
EPA was given weak tools to help the public
Under TSCA, EPA must contest the thousands of "trade secret" claims on a case-by-case basis. The agency can't keep up, and only manages to examine a small number of the claims made each year.
As a result, the identities of almost 20% of the tens of thousands of chemicals in commercial use in the U.S.—used in products from air fresheners to paints—are kept secret from the government and from you.