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GHASP Takes On Toxic Chemicals In…Well, Just About Everything

May 7, 2010

Houston Press
Chris Vogel

Standing in front of an 20-foot-tall pseudo-rubber ducky, local public health advocates on Friday morning threw their support behind recently proposed federal legislation to update and upgrade the laws governing toxic chemicals used in consumer products.

“The Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 regulates every chemical not found in food or medicine,” said Matthew Tejada, executive director of the Galveston-Houston Association for Smog Prevention. “That means construction materials, chemicals found in clothes, and even rubber duckies for kids. We effectively have no regulation of these chemicals, we don’t know what they are or what their effect on human health is.”

In April, legislators on Capitol Hill introduced reforms that would require companies to provide information about the chemicals they use to manufacture consumer products. It is the first attempt to revise the law since it was enacted in 1976. Tejada says the proposal would turn the current system on its head, no longer operating under the assumption that chemicals are safe until proven otherwise. On the flip side, chemicals in Europe are considered unsafe until the manufacturer proves that they are suitable for human contact.

“We want research and transparency on which chemicals are used and what the health effects are,” Tejada said. “Right now, almost none of them are researched and we don’t know what chemicals are used in which products. Companies are not required now to report this information.”

Said Zac Trahan of Texas Campaign for the Environment, “Babies are being born with chemicals in their blood that have never been tested. Chemicals from furniture and other household items are turning up in breast milk. The current system is broken.”

Nurse and mother Mary Hintikka agrees. “It’s very concerning when mothers don’t know what raising havoc with their children. This absolutely needs to change.”

Tejada said he hopes U.S. Congressman from Houston, Democrat Gene Green, whose district is full of chemical manufacturing plants, will support the proposed reforms.

“His district has the lowest percentage of people without health care coverage in the country,” said Tejada, “so we believe he and his district have the most to gain by safer products.”


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