Maddening

The more I read, the angrier I get.

I’ve written before about our government’s lack of knowledge about the thousands of chemicals we consume, and the harm those chemicals could be causing. But a couple of articles from the last week really leave me shaking my head.

First, last week we learned that paper receipts are coated in bisphenol A (BPA), a suspected endocrine disruptor. You know, the receipts that pile up in your wallet, around the house, in the car. Right now I think the bottom of each of my reusable shopping bags is littered with receipts.

And then today comes the news that the Kellogg’s recall of earlier this summer was due to elevated levels of an untested chemical in the cereals’ packaging. The story I’ve linked here from the Washington Post describes in detail some of the reasons why we don’t know more about the chemical in question. Oh, the EPA has been asking the chemical industry for information on it for 16 years. It just lacks any teeth–or strong gums, for that matter–to demand it.

It is unconscionable that we know little or nothing about most of the 80,000 chemicals we come into contact with–that kids come into contact with–and on a more regular basis than probably any of us know. There’s a fight going on right now in Washington over reforming the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act. That’s the one that exempted more than 60,000 chemicals from testing; any chemical developed since its passage hasn’t had to be tested, either.

It’s possible that many of those chemicals are harmless. If that’s the case, why not get the information out there? Yes, the testing will be expensive. It might even drive up the prices of things we enjoy. But peace of mind? That’s priceless.

(I’m not trying to be a shill for the Environmental Working Group, but it is following the debate over TSCA reform closely. You can also get more information on the effects of chemicals (also pro-reform) from the Pew Health Group.)

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