Safer chem­i­cals, healthy fam­i­lies

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - ECOWATCH -

So many chem­i­cals in ev­ery­day prod­ucts are harm­ful to our health and the environment. Why aren’t we de­vel­op­ing safer al­ter­na­tives? Re­searchers to­day are be­gin­ning to ques­tion the safety of many chem­i­cals used in consumer prod­ucts.

Stud­ies have linked Bisphe­nol A (BPA), flame re­tar­dants, ph­tha­lates and many other chem­i­cals found in ev­ery­day prod­ucts to a wide range of health prob­lems, in­clud­ing can­cer, learn­ing and be­havioural prob­lems, and re­pro­duc­tive ill­nesses.

De­spite the US govern­ment’s slow­ness in call­ing for it, non-profit labs and for-profit com­pa­nies alike have been busy de­vel­op­ing safer al­ter­na­tives to some of these harsher chem­i­cals.

The brave new world of “green chem­istry”, in which re­duc­ing or elim­i­nat­ing the use or gen­er­a­tion of haz­ardous sub­stances is top pri­or­ity in the de­sign, use and dis­posal of prod­ucts, is lead­ing to a rash of new, safer ingredients.

Com­pa­nies look­ing to put a “BPA-free” sticker on their bot­tles, for in­stance, can make them in­stead with east­man Tri­tan copolyester, a plas­tic al­ter­na­tive that doesn’t dis­rupt hor­mones as Nal­gene and Camel­Bak do.

Ph­tha­lates – used to soften plas­tic toys – can be re­placed with a prod­uct called Grind­sted SoftN-Safe, made from acetic acid and castor oil from the castor plant.

Formalde­hyde ad­he­sives used to make ply­wood and other wood prod­ucts can be re­placed with soy-based resins, wood fi­bres and plas­tic­wood fi­bres.

But while the US en­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency (ePA) has the power to spur green chem­istry, it is pow­er­less to ban many dan­ger­ous chem­i­cals in wide­spread use.

The 1976 law that still gov­erns use of many chem­i­cals, the Toxic Sub­stances Con­trol Act (TSCA), pre­sumes that chem­i­cals are in­no­cent un­til proven guilty. TSCA has failed to re­quire ba­sic test­ing for the tox­i­c­ity of some 62,000 chem­i­cals grand­fa­thered in when the law was first passed.

“Once thought to pose lit­tle like­li­hood of ex­po­sure, we now know many chem­i­cals mi­grate from the ma­te­ri­als and prod­ucts in which they’re used – in­clud­ing fur­ni­ture, plas­tics and food cans – into our bod­ies,” re­ports the Safer Chem­i­cals, healthy Fam­i­lies cam­paign.

The cam­paign warns that just about ev­ery Amer­i­can car­ries hundreds of these chem­i­cals in their blood­streams.

Se­na­tor Frank Laut­en­berg re­cently in­tro­duced a bill, the Safe Chem­i­cals Act, aimed at over­haul­ing the out­dated TSCA. It would re­quire safety test­ing of all ex­ist­ing chem­i­cals and would pro­mote so-called green chem­istry and the de­vel­op­ment of safe al­ter­na­tives to un­safe chem­i­cals.

The Act would pro­vide the ePA with the au­thor­ity it needs to pro­tect pub­lic health, while en­abling the mar­ket­place to in­no­vate safe prod­ucts.

The bill’s spon­sors say it ex­pects to have wide­spread sup­port on both sides of the par­ti­san di­vide. – e -The en­vi­ron­men­tal Mag­a­zine. n Sub­mit ques­tions to Earthtalk at earthtalk@ emagazine.com.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.