The Need for Toxic Chemical Reform
Despite its pristine reputation, Vermont is not immune from the toxic hazards that threaten public health in all parts of this country and the world. Thousands of children still suffer the effects of lead each year in this state; autism and learning disabilities among children are becoming more common; and reproductive disorders and some forms of cancer are on the rise.
While it is not possible to point to a single cause as the trigger for all of these health maladies, our growing exposure to toxic chemicals cannot be overlooked. From cleaners to shampoos to clothing to children’s toys, we use chemicals each day that could be potentially harming our health.
There is an assumption among Americans that the products we buy must be safe if they are on store shelves, but unfortunately this is not the case. Products aren’t tested for safety before they are sold to consumers, and of the more than 80,000 synthetic chemicals used in commerce in the U.S., few have been adequately tested for their potential impacts on our health.
This “wait and see” approach to chemical regulation dangerously gambles with the public’s health. Instead, we need a precautionary approach where health and the environment are paramount and the safety of every chemical is ensured before it is used in the production of consumer products.
Unfortunately, our national government is lagging behind other countries in this respect. As millions of recalls of lead-tainted children’s products have made the absence of federal protections all the more glaring, the need for state action has never been clearer.
Vermont has a responsibility and opportunity to protect its children and families from unnecessary exposure to toxic chemicals. We can set an example for the nation by identifying chemicals of high concern, requiring companies to tell us which products contain those chemicals, and creating a process for phasing these chemicals out of consumer products, wherever feasible.