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Voluntary Program Evaluating Children’s Toxic Exposure Flawed

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–July 28, 2011.  A new report released last week finds that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) voluntary program to evaluate chemicals fails to protect children. According to the evaluation report by EPA’s Inspector General, the Voluntary Children’s Chemical Evaluation Program (VCCEP) was hampered by industry’s refusal to voluntarily collect and submit information and the agency’s failure to regulate under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to collect the data. The report states what environmental groups have known for years: “EPA has not demonstrated that it can achieve children’s health goals with a voluntary program.”

According to the Inspector General (IG), these failures led to only a fraction of the chemical assessments for the pilot being completed. IG found that VCCEP’s pilot was critically flawed and that the design of the program “did not allow for the desired outcomes to be produced.” It had a flawed chemical selection process and lacked an effective communication strategy.

VCCEP is no longer operational and EPA has no plans to revive, replace, or terminate the program. The program was set up as part of the Chemical Right-to-Know Initiative in 1998 to ensure that there are adequate publicly available data to assess the special impact that industrial chemicals may have on children. EPA is not meeting the goals outlined in this initiative given the failure of this program, along with a lack of any alternative program to fill the void. The report highlights that there is no readily understandable source of chemical exposure information that the general public can access to determine potential risks to children. According to the IG report:

“Children face significant and unique threats from environmental hazards and industrial chemicals. Children encounter their environments differently than adults. Physically, their neurological, immunological, respiratory, digestive, and other physical systems are still developing and can be more easily harmed by exposure to environmental factors. Children eat more, drink more, and breathe more than adults in proportion to their body weight. Children’s exposures to environmental pollutants are often different from those of adults because they engage in different activities, such as playing on floors and in soil and mouthing of their hands, toys, and other objects that can bring them into greater contact with environmental pollutants.”

The IG report recommends that EPA design and implement a process to assess the safety of chemicals to children that (1) identifies the chemicals with highest potential risk to children, (2) applies the Toxic Substances Control Act regulatory authorities as appropriate for data collection, (3) interprets results and disseminates information to the public, and (4) includes outcome measures that assure valid and timely results.

Many environmental groups and scientists, however, believe that we need to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act. Legislation was introduced back in April to update and modernize TSCA, which will give EPA more power to regulate the use of dangerous chemicals and require manufacturers to submit information proving the safety of every chemical in production and any new chemical seeking to enter the market.

Previous government reports document a systemic failure by EPA to adequately regulate chemicals due to a lack of data. According to the agency, since TSCA was passed in 1976, EPA has restricted or banned five and required testing for 200 existing chemicals. Currently there are approximately 84,000 chemicals on the market.

Beyond Pesticides has long called for alternatives assessment in environmental rulemaking that creates a regulatory trigger to adopt alternatives and drive the market to go green. The alternatives assessment approach differs most dramatically from risk assessment in rejecting uses and exposures deemed acceptable under risk assessment calculations, but unnecessary because of the availability of safer alternatives.

Increasing rates of chronic diseases linked to toxic chemical exposure, including cancer, asthma, and infertility have created an urgency to enact policies to get harmful chemicals off the market. To learn more about how pesticides are linked to serious health concerns, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide Induced Diseases database.

Sources: The Investigative Fund , beyondpesticides.org

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