February 9, 2012
The Most Significant Reason So Many Toxic Chemicals Are Introduced Every Year
There are approximately 83,000 industrial and toxic chemicals presently in use and 700 new ones are introduced into commerce each year in the United States alone. Many of these chemicals induce cancer and other diseases in the human body, yet every year there are more disease-causing chemicals carelessly approved to further pollute our environment and each other. There is one group that is most responsible for these crimes to humanity and they outspend both General Electric Co, and Big Pharma in lobbying efforts to make sure their poisons are sold to the public.
According to a study, 50 chemicals capable of interfering with hormones is permitted in packaging in the United States and the European Union.
The American Chemistry Council significantly ramped up its lobbying efforts in the fourth quarter of last year, spending more than double its total for any quarter in recent history.
ACC, the chief lobbying arm of the chemical manufacturing industry, spent $5.37 million in the fourth quarter. The total represents the fifth most of any lobbying operation on Capitol Hill during that period, outspending the perennially deep-pocketed efforts of General Electric Co. and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, according to a Center for Responsive Politics analysis conducted for E&E Daily.
A review of ACC's lobbying disclosure report shows the group was involved in a host of issues, ranging from efforts to update chemical regulations, to U.S. EPA's air pollution rules for boilers and incinerators, to EPA's long-delayed health assessments of substances like bisphenol A (BPA) and formaldehyde. The group also successfully pushed for inserting language into the $1 trillion omnibus spending package passed at the end of the year and aired its first television ads of the election cycle.
The spending is significant because it shows ACC, which public health advocates view as public enemy No. 1, is having an ever-growing role on regulatory and legislative issues.
Anne Kolton, an ACC spokeswoman, said the lobbying shows the group has a renewed and sharper focus on Capitol Hill. The approach is applies constant pressure on decision makers to approve new chemicals. "The spending is a reflection of our increasingly aggressive approach to advocacy," Kolton said.
For all of 2011, ACC spent almost $10.3 million, significantly more than the $8.1 million it spent the year before. Last year's total trumps what was doled out by Dow Chemical Co., the industry's other major lobbying operation, which spent $7.3 million. The American Petroleum Institute, the largest trade association for the oil and gas industry, also spent far less than ACC in 2011 -- less than $6.3 million.
In some cases, the results of ACC's increased spending are crystal clear.
The group was most effective lobbying on the year-end omnibus spending package. Buried in the 1,200-page bill was language that requires EPA's Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) to implement changes to its scientific methodologies outlined in a National Academy of Sciences review of the agency's formaldehyde risk assessment. It also requires EPA to submit a progress report to Congress by March and stipulates that EPA send three IRIS assessments to NAS for review next year.
ACC has long pushed for IRIS reforms, though critics argue that the group's goal is to delay the agency from finalizing assessments because they are the foundation of new, often stricter, regulations.
With growing evidence of the link between exposure to toxic chemicals and chronic diseases, especially in children, the United States needs to step up its efforts to protect the public from hazardous chemicals, say researchers.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), stymied by the outdated Toxic Substances Control Act, must seek partners in academia to help evaluate the risks of industrial chemicals on the market today, say Sarah A. Vogel of the Johnson Family Foundation and Jody Roberts of the Chemical Heritage Foundation.
"It's time to stop regulating additional chemicals that are quickly becoming a burden to our health and environment," says public health consultant Lawrence Chow. "It's time to put our foot down and start banning chemicals outright, especially those we know are already harmful."
Toxic chemicals are invading every facet of our lives from our schools to our workplaces. They are gradually deteriorating every single system in our bodies and causing so many diseases, that it's now difficult to isolate exactly which chemicals are causing each disease. Here's a a small summary of major systems in the human body and the effect of common chemicals on each.
Some 83,000 chemicals are on the market, and under the 1976 law, companies do not have to prove their chemicals are safe. Instead, the federal government must prove whether a chemical is dangerous. This provision keeps potentially harmful chemicals on the market, increasing the risk to human health. Furthermore, the process required by the law to identify and control hazardous chemicals requires an extensive process of collecting, analyzing and evaluating data. This process consumes considerable government time and resources and acts as a roadblock to efforts to manage chemical risks and protect the public's health.
April McCarthy is a stay-at-home Mom and community journalist playing an active role reporting and analyzing world events to advance our health and eco-friendly initiatives.