Toxic chemicals

Cancer is a complex group of diseases with its causes falling into two main groups. In one group are external or environmental factors, accounting for more than 90% of all cancer cases. The other group includes hereditary or genetic factors which are responsible for the remainder. Cancer can usually be traced to DNA mutations that affect cell growth and metastasis. Substances and chemicals that cause DNA mutations are known as mutagens. Mutagens that cause cancers are known as carcinogens. It is known that children have a much lower tolerance to carcinogens than do adults. It is believed that many chemicals including garden pesticides, household cleaners, fireproofing materials, paints and automotive chemicals are carcinogens. Doctors warn that the incidence of cancer in American children has been increasing about 1% each year for the past 25 years. During this time, children’s exposure to toxic chemicals has also intensified.

Doctors say that we now know a lot more about the causes of childhood cancer than we did when the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was passed. TSCA doesn’t require chemicals to undergo safety testing before being released into the marketplace. The EPA has tested only about 250 of the 84,000 chemicals in use today and only 9 have been banned or restricted. This is because TSCA was written in a way that severely limits EPA’s ability to regulate chemicals. So, despite overwhelming evidence of the harm caused by asbestos, TSCA still doesn’t permit the EPA to ban this known carcinogen responsible for the deaths of at least 10,000 Americans every year. Critics say one reason for the increase in childhood cancer is their exposure to new chemicals which cause damage, or mutations, at the cellular level. They believe chemicals should be screened before people are exposed to them. They also point out that the Toxic Substances Control Act has not been updated in nearly 45 years.

Proposed Legislation: S.725 - Alan Reinstein and Trevor Schaefer Toxic Chemical Protection Act (114th Congress 2015-2016)
Prospective Sponsor: Sen. Edward Markey (MA)

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