Federal regulations on chemicals in environment need overhaul

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Federal policies regulating the sea of industrial chemicals we encounter in everyday life—and new ones being formulated in laboratories—are “broken” and in need of urgent overhaul to better protect our brains from harmful toxins, a Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researcher said in a March 18, 2014 online article in The Atlantic.

The primary U.S. law regulating these chemicals is the Toxic Substances Control Act. Since the passage of the law about 40 years ago, more than 20,000 new chemicals have entered the market. Only five have been removed, according to the article.

“We don’t have the luxury to sit back and wait until science figures out what’s really going on, what the mechanisms are, what the doses are, and that sort of thing. We’ve seen with lead and mercury and other poisons that it takes decades (to discover their damaging effects). And during that time we are essentially exposing the next generation to exactly the kind of chemicals that we want to protect them from,” Philippe Grandjean, adjunct professor of environmental health at HSPH, told The Atlantic.

In the article Grandjean discussed a report he co-authored with Philip Landrigan, dean for global health at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, published in February 2014 in Lancet Neurology that raised concerns about a “silent pandemic” of chemical exposure on developing brains in children.