Safe Chemicals Act

Posted on 20. Jul, 2012 by in Environmental Health, Healthcare Consulting, Toxic Exposure

It has been my experience that Americans can be a forgiving lot when it comes to transgressions made from a place of honest mistakes or general good intention.  Bonus points are given when folks admit their mistakes and accept responsibility for the consequences of their actions – we are all human after all.  But when deliberate action is taken that exploits, inflicts harm and untold suffering on their fellow human beings without their knowledge; and actions and non-actions are taken that allow adverse impact and injury to continue, Americans can be an angry bunch of which you would not want to be an enemy.   Especially Moms.  Why anyone would want to invoke that kind of wrath is beyond me, but alas, it seems in some cases that free enterprise without regulation operates just fine right up until moral ineptitude and criminal conduct are exposed.

For the last 35+ years, Americans have been unknowingly subjected to and living in a toxic soup of chemical exposure in our homes and in our daily lives through the use of our everyday products and furnishings.  A three decade-long campaign of distortion, deception and disinformation by the Chemical Industry was revealed in the fine and courageous work by investigative journalists Patricia Callahan, Sam Roe and Michael Hawthorne of the Chicago Tribune (available at   These dedicated journalists have exposed yet another bankruptcy of integrity that has put profit before people.  But this one is a doozy, and one that the American public will be paying for with their health and well-being for generations to come.

The general public is under the impression that the everyday products we buy off the shelves in our grocery stores (think any food, beverage or product contained in a plastic bottle, container or can), department stores (cleaning solutions, beach balls, shower curtains, nursing pillows, strollers) and furniture stores (sofas, easy chairs, baby cribs, cabinetry) has met some safety standard and been given a stamp of approval by some department in the federal government, or it wouldn’t be on the shelf.  Wrong.

The Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA pronounced “tosca”) of 1976 grandfathered 62,000 chemicals already on the market and in our everyday products without any information related to the environmental health and safety of the substances.  So ineffective was this legislation in terms of giving the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the authority, oversight and regulation of now-and then-known toxic materials, the agency could not even ban asbestos in 1996, despite 40 other countries having done so.  The only reason asbestos is no longer in use is because of the direct link to mesothelioma, a fatal lung cancer.  Only after the subsequent and successful lawsuits and litigation, and not any harsh words from the EPA, did the manufacturers of this carcinogen cease its production.

TSCA also put the burden of proof on the inadequately funded and under-resourced EPA to prove that any chemical is unsafe.  Unlike the Food and Drug Administration, which requires manufacturers to prove product safety, the unrevised TSCA is based on the principle of “good for you until proven unsafe”.  Didn’t we hear that about smoking?

The icing on the TSCA cake is the proprietary status given to the ingredients of any chemical compound.  Currently, chemical manufacturers are protected from disclosing the combination and amounts of their products, let alone furnish any environmental health and safety data.

To date, over 84,000 largely untested chemicals are in the commerce of our everyday life: products, furnishings, buildings, food, water and air. The result?  A baby born in the United States today comes with over 280 industrial pollutants and chemicals already in their bodies without having drawn their first breath[1].

Public health data over the last 40 years, and more recently in the past 10 years are showing alarming trends (Figure 1) in the areas of childhood cancers such as brain tumors and leukemia, reproductive birth defects, asthma, infertility, learning disabilities, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, all of which have been linked to chemical and environmental exposure (see Endnotes for references to further scientific studies).

We can’t undo the last 40 years in terms of our exposure, and are already committed to passing our chemical bio burden (which the Centers for Disease Control is now measuring) on to the next 3 generations, at least.  While the health care system struggles with cost-containment of ever increasing disease diagnosis and treatment, it makes financial sense to consider the sources of our ills, and begin to address those.  Healthcare now consumes 17% of our GDP, and is projected to impact our economy to the tune of over $1 trillion/yr in healthcare costs and lost productivity by 2020. [15]

That’s how environmental health is connected to human health.  What we put into our environment we put into ourselves.   Part of the honor of my profession as a nurse is to advocate for the health and well-being of patients – you, me, your children, your grandchildren and your great grandchildren in the hopes of avoiding the heartbreak of childhood disease and a lifetime of illness.

We have been down this road before.  We collectively, as a globe, closed the ozone hole back in the 70’s, and have won battles on other known hazards such as cigarette smoke, lead (via paint and gasoline), and mercury.  Mitigating chemical and environmental exposure is the challenge of our current era, and also creates economic opportunity for those “green chemistry” companies who see the writing on the wall, and position themselves to develop safe alternatives.  Many states have already passed legislation banning the use of certain chemicals, and federal action is imminent.  The Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 (S. 0847) is before the US Senate for a decision in September, and if passed, would begin to correct this course.  There are those interests that would like to defer this decision, and are in positions of power to do so.  However, the legislation receives overwhelming bipartisan support, and will pass inevitably.  It’s just a matter of when.

America forgives, but it does not forget.  Our future generations will be the judge.

 Julie Moyle
Julie is the founder of 1×1 Consulting, whose mission is to help healthcare facilities decrease their environmental impact.  Chemical reform is only one initiative of sustainability program.  

Photo:  JMoyle.
Flame retardants, present in everyday items, have been linked to increased risks to cancers such as childhood leukemia and brain tumors, infertility and reproductive disorders.

Figure 1

Data accumulated by Practice Greenhealth and Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families
Public Health Trends in the United States, 1970-2010

Chronic disease & disability
Affects almost 1/3 of the US population [2]

Lifetime risk of cancer
is 1 in 2 for men and 1 in 3 for women. The risk of breast cancer has gone from 1 in 20 to 1 in 8 over the last forty years. [3,4]  Testicular cancer has increased 60% between 1973-2003. [5]

Childhood cancers
Leukemia, brain cancer, and other childhood cancers have increased 20% since 1975.[6]

 Asthma rates
doubled between 1980 and 1995[7] and now affects one in 10 children.

Birth Defects
Resulting in undescended testes has increased 200% between 1970 and 1993.[8]

Diabetes incidence
increased 45% among 18-44 year olds. [9]

More than 60 million Americans are now considered obese, including an increasing number of children. [10]

Autistic spectrum disorders & learning disabilities
Diagnosis has increased more than 10 times in the last 15 years. [11]    In 2007, the CDC increased its rate for autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) to 1 in 150 children in the U.S. [11], and more than 4.6 million children in the U.S. have been diagnosed with a learning disability. [12]

Infertility rates
keep climbing and affect at least 12% of couples of reproductive age in the U.S. [13]

Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease
4.5 million Americans (5% of men/women between 65-74) have Alzheimer’s disease.[14]  50,000 new cases of Parkinson’s disease are reported every year.[15]


[1] Body Burden — The Pollution in Newborns. Environmental Working Group. July 14, 2005. Available at:

[2] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  “Chronic Disease Overview.” 2005. Available at http:///

[3] American Cancer Society (ACS).”Probability of Developing Invasive Cancers over Selected Age Intervals, by Sex, US 1999-2001.” 2005. Available at:

[4] American Cancer Society (ACS). “Detailed Guide: Breast Cancer. What are the Key Statistics for Breast Cancer?” 2005. Available at:

[5] Mona Shah, et al., “Trends in Testicular Germ Cell Tumours by Ethnic Group in the United States,” International Journal of Andrology, 30 (2007): 206-13

[6] Tracey J. Woodruff, et al., American Children and the Environment, (Washington, DC:  U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2008).

[7] Tracy J. Woodruff, Daniel A. Axelrad DA, Amy D. Kyle, Onyemaechi Nweke, Gregory G. Miller, and Bradford J. Hurley, “Trends in Environmentally Related Childood Illnesses,” Pediatrics, 113, no. 4 (April 2004); 1133-1140.

[8]Leonard J. Paulozzi, “International Trends in Rates of Hypospadias and Cryptorchidism,” Environmental Health Perspecitves, 107, no. 4, (1999): 297-302.

[9] American Obesity Association (AOA). “AOA Fact Sheets: Obesity in the U.S.” Available at:

[10] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “National Health Interview Survey. Incidence of Diagnosed Diabetes per 1000 Population Aged 18-79 Years, by Sex and Age, United States, 1997-2004.” National Center for Health Statistics, Division of Health Interview Statistics. November 2, 2005.

 [11] and Weiss, Richard. “1 in 150 Children in U.S. Has Autism, New Survey Finds”. The Washington Post. Friday, February 9, 2007; Page A06. Available at:

[12] NHIS-97 From:

[13] Anjani Chandra and Elizabeth Hervey Stephen, “Impaired Fecundity in the United States:  1982-1995,” Family Planning Perspectives, 30, no 1, (1998):  34-42.

 [14] Safer Chemicals, Health Families Coalition, “The Health Case for Reforming the Toxic Substances Control Act,” January, 2010: 10-11.

[15] Goldman, L. “Testimony before the 107th Congress: Environmental Contamination and Chronic Diseases/Disease Clusters—Hearing Before the Senate Committee on Environmental and Public Works.” Session 1. June 11, 2001.

Endnotes:  (Referral to other scientific studies.  Source:  Kathleen A. Curtis, LPN, Executive Director, Clean and Healthy New York )

World Health Organization,1998:

From page 5 (the 24th page of the document):

The carcinogenicity of TDCPP has been investigated in a single 2-year feeding study. It was carcinogenic (increased occurrence of liver carcinomas) at all exposure levels that were tested (5–80 mg/kg body weight per day) in both male and female rats. Kidney, testicular and brain tumours were also found. In addition, there were nonneoplastic adverse effects in bone marrow, spleen, testis, liver and kidney. The effects in the kidney and testis occurred at all exposure levels. Only animals in the highest dose and control groups were evaluated for effects in the bone marrow and spleen. It was impossible, therefore, to determine whether there was a dose–response relationship for these effects in these organs.

Consumer Product Safety Commission:

From Page 20:

TDCP is acutely toxic, as defined in FHSA regulations, although it is not considered “highly”
toxic.* That is, the rat LD50 is less than or equal to 5,000 mgkg, but greater than 50 mgkg. TDCP exposure led to histopathological effects in rats exposed for up to two years (Biodynamics 1981). Organ sites affected include the liver, kidney, spleen, parathyroid, and male reproductive organs. Thus, TDCP may be considered probably toxic in humans, based on sufficient evidence of chronic toxicity in animals. TDCP exposure also induced tumors at multiple doses in the kidneys and liver of both male and female rats. Therefore, TDCP may be considered a probable human carcinogen based on sufficient evidence in animals (Ferrante 1999b; Bittner et al. 2001). This conclusion is further supported by structural similarity to another animal carcinogen, TRIS. TDCP and its metabolites were genotoxic in some assays, although the majority of tests were negative.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency:

From the charts on page 4-22 and 4-23:
Well absorbed through skin and ingestion
Cancer – moderate
Reproductive effects – moderate effects on males
Developmental effects – moderate

Additional scientific concerns, as published in peer-reviewed journals:

Dishaw LV, Powers CM, Ryde IT, Roberts SC, Seidler FJ, Slotkin TA, Stapleton HM. “ Is the PentaBDE replacement, tris (1,3-dichloro-2-propyl) phosphate (TDCPP), a developmental neurotoxicant? Studies in PC12 cells.”  Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2011 Nov 1;256(3):281-9. Epub 2011 Jan 19.  Available at:

Upshot: These data suggest that OPFRs may affect neurodevelopment with similar or greater potency compared to known and suspected neurotoxicants.

van der Veen I, de Boer J.  “Phosphorus flame retardants: Properties, production, environmental occurrence, toxicity and analysis.”  Chemosphere. 2012 Apr 24. [Epub ahead of print].  Available at:

Upshot from the Abstract: Concentrations found in dust were up to 67mgkg(-1), with TDCPP being the dominant PFR. PFR concentrations reported were often higher than polybrominated diphenylether (PBDE) concentrations, and the human exposure due to PFR concentrations in indoor air appears to be higher than exposure due to PBDE concentrations in indoor air. Only the Cl-containing PFRs are carcinogenic.

Liu X, Ji K, Choi K.  “Endocrine disruption potentials of organophosphate flame retardants and related mechanisms in H295R and MVLN cell lines and in zebrafish.”  Aquat Toxicol. 2012 Jun 15;114-115:173-81. Epub 2012 Feb 28.

Upshot from abstract: TDCPP, TPP, and TCP acted as antagonists inhibiting binding of E2 to estrogen receptor. After 14d of zebrafish exposure, TCP, TDCPP, or TPP significantly increased plasma T and E2 concentrations… The results of this study showed that OPFRs could alter sex hormone balance through several mechanisms including alterations of steroidogenesis or estrogen metabolism.

Crump D, Chiu S, Kennedy SW. “ Effects of tris(1,3-dichloro-2-propyl) phosphate and tris(1-chloropropyl) phosphate on cytotoxicity and mRNA expression in primary cultures of avian hepatocytes and neuronal cells.”  Toxicol Sci. 2012 Mar;126(1):140-8. Epub 2012 Jan 19.  Available at:

Conclusion:  TDCPP was toxic to hepatocytes (LC(50) = 60.3 ± 45.8μM) and neuronal cells…Taken together, our results indicate that genes associated with xenobiotic metabolism, the TH pathway, lipid regulation, and growth are vulnerable to TDCPP and TCPP administration in cultured avian hepatocytes.

Van den Eede N, Dirtu AC, Neels H, Covaci A. “Analytical developments and preliminary assessment of human exposure to organophosphate flame retardants from indoor dust.”  Environ Int. 2011 Feb;37(2):454-61. Epub 2010 Dec 21.  Available at:


The Health Case for Reforming the Toxic Substances Control Act.  An accumulation of five peer-reviewed studies and reviews of the scientific literature that collectively referenced more than 1200 published papers and reports.  Safer Chemicals Healthy Families.  Available at:

Make Sure your home is a healthy one.  Delaware Health and Social Services.  Available at:

Alliance of Nurses for a Healthy Environment.  Available at:

Health Care Without Harm.  Available at:

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