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New law could regulate toxic substances

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A hearing was held last week by The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee to evaluate The Toxic Chemicals Safety Act, H.R. 5820, which seeks to amend the federal Toxic Substances Control Act which was enacted in 1976.

The proposed law, sponsored by Rep. Bobby Rush (D., Ill.) and Rep. Henry Waxman (D., Calif.), would require a company to prove a chemical is safe to use in the environment, to be kept on the market. While also giving the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) more authority and tools to better protect our society from unregulated toxicants.

Most people are under the belief that the chemicals we use today would not be on the market if they were unsafe. But, unfortunately, that isn’t so. Chemicals have been regulated under a lax an ineffective system that puts the burden of proof on consumers and those harmed by the chemicals, not the chemical industry itself, said Gary Cohen, President of Health Care Without Harm.

The EPA describes a toxic substance as any chemical or mixture that may be harmful to the environment and to human health if inhaled, swallowed or absorbed through the skin. And as such toxic substances take many forms in our chemical laden world.

Pesticides, building materials, cleaning products and hundreds of other products can have damaging effects on the body. Illness brought on by a toxic substance is difficult as the illness may not manifest for years after exposure. Asbestos, a common building material, is a prime example of this problem. However, many personal injury lawsuits have been successful in recovering compensation.

Those involved in the rescue, recovery and cleanup of the site at of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City are another group at risk of developing an asbestos-related disease.

Asbestos exposure has led to numerous patients being diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer, which in turn has led to hundreds of lawsuits when the public became aware of the serious health hazards associated with asbestos exposure.

These types of lawsuits, typically class action (a collective group of people), are filed against companies that knew the dangers of asbestos exposure but failed to inform employees of the risks.

The Toxic Chemicals Safety would help to establish framework to ensure that all chemical substances, to which American’s are exposed, will be reviewed for safety and restricted when necessary. It will also require the chemical industry to develop and provide the EPA with essential data to compel testing when necessary to avoid the harm that has been caused by asbestos and other known chemicals for decades.