Reassessing the Chemical Industry

Letters to the Portland Phoenix editor, December 16, 2011
By PORTLAND PHOENIX LETTERS  |  December 14, 2011

Every time I pop some leftovers in the microwave, the thought runs through my mind that I might be eating an extra dosage of some 14-letter synthetic chemical, added to the plethora of components in the plastic container. The frightening thing is that, after reading your article "LePage's Secret Puppeteers" (by Colin Woodard, February 11), I just might be telling myself the truth! Once these molecules enter our bodies, there is little way of knowing how they will interact with our living cells.

Surely one might think the government would have some sort of legislation in place to check on chemicals used in such common household products. The Toxic Substances Control Act of 1974, however, does little to calm our worries. Only 200 of the over 80,000 industrial chemicals are tested by the EPA; five of those 200 have been partially restricted. I am appalled to think that it has taken our government nearly 40 years to realize the inefficiencies of this law.

However, there is hope. Recently in Congress, there has been a push for the passing of the Safe Chemicals Act. Our senators, Snowe and Collins, both publicly acknowledged that the outdated TSCA needs to change. Now they both have a unique opportunity to help move these important chemical safety reforms forward by co-sponsoring the Safe Chemicals Act.

Under this new legislation, chemical companies would be under similar regulations to pharmaceuticals. Chemicals would be tested and companies would have to present information on the health and environmental safety of their products. Another key benefit to the passing of this act is the usage of advanced science in assisting the EPA's risk assessment of chemicals. These techniques, developed by the National Academy of Sciences, will help alleviate the burden of assessing the ever-growing stockpile of molecules and compounds found in our markets.

All in all, progress is finally being made in a sector of industrial America that has largely been untouched. This comes as a relief to mothers, infants, elderly, and to my demographic — young, freshly graduated professionals who want to live in a world knowing that the food they're about to eat isn't dosed in some endocrine-disrupting chemical. It's a human right to know these facts, and it's a human right not to be poisoned!

Catharina Damrell
Portland

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