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November 2007 From Child Environment.org

Medicines are the only chemicals that have to be proven safe. Why?

Before a chemical can be marketed as a drug, it must go through extensive testing, on animals and humans. It must pass a series of safety tests before it can be sold. There’s a well-established FDA process in place if a drug manufacturer wants to sell a hormonal medication like a birth control pill, or post-menopausal hormone replacement therapy. But if a company wants to sell an industrial chemical that may bind to the same cells as these hormonal medications and acts identically or very similarly – there is no regulatory agency or governmental oversight to ensure the product is safe. Unlike chemicals sold as medicine, industrial and commercial chemicals are presumed safe until proven hazardous.

What We Know

Hundreds of synthetic chemicals that affect human biology, including known carcinogens, chemicals that cause birth defects, and chemicals that can disrupt the endocrine system are being sold and widely dispersed today. These toxics can be found in everything from pesticides, paints and paint thinners, to industrial detergents and hair dyes. You know them as PCBs and phthalates and dioxin. Many accumulate over time. These chemicals now permeate our water, soil and food. You can find them in the tissue of humans in every area of the world. And you will likely find them in your body and in your children’s bodies. Some endocrine disrupting chemicals mimic the female sex hormone estrogen; others block testosterone; some interfere with the thyroid function. In the animal world, scientists have linked exposure to these chemicals with reproductive abnormalities including feminization of males, hermaphroditism, birth defects, and high infant death rates. Toxic chemicals are threatening the future effectiveness of human breast milk. Breast milk now contains small but biologically active amounts of scores of industrial chemicals. Some of these chemicals are known to cause neurological impairment in the very young. Some exposure to certain chemicals is now associated with an increase in the incidence of some cancers among children and of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and multiple myeloma in adults.

What We Can Do

There is much that parents can do to protect their children against endocrine distrupting chemicals, beginning with the elimination of many pesticides both outside and in the home. Organic foods should be purchased wherever possible. There are more suggestions on our website. But more needs to be done. Like medicines, industrial chemicals that affect human biology must be tested and regulated. We have good experience when we do regulate chemicals. Removing lead from gasoline resulted in a 90% reduction in lead poisoning. But most of the chemicals being sold today have never been fully tested for safety. We need to phase out those that are unsafe. And we must move to a regulatory system that fully tests all chemicals, no matter how they are to be used, before they are sold.

A summary of the supporting scientific evidence, and a list of scientific endorsers, can be found at www.childenvironment.org.

A double standard threatens our health.

Box 1043, One Gustave Levy Place, New York, NY 10029 •www.childenvironment.org


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