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Chemical Reactions

There is considerable concern among our Readers Who Comment today about the possible health effects of chemicals that exist in darn near everything we use these days. These comments come on Lyndsey Layton's story reporting that the European Union now requires companies to demonstrate that a chemical is safe before it enters commerce -- the opposite of policies in the United States. Here regulators must prove that a chemical is harmful before it can be restricted or removed from the market.

Layton says that "The EPA has banned only five chemicals since 1976. The hurdles are so high for the agency that it has been unable to ban asbestos, which is widely acknowledged as a likely carcinogen and is barred in more than 30 countries. Instead, the EPA relies on industry to voluntarily cease production of suspect chemicals."

At the hour this is being written, almost all of our commenters are on the side of the EU approach and many of them criticize the current U.S. policy. Some of them cite the unexplained increases in autism or recall the effects of Agent Orange on some Vietnam vets. A few defend current U.S. policy. The chemicals around us are getting more and more attention in the media and from some politicians. The EU approach seems likely to increase that scrutiny.

We'll start with fishingriver, who wrote, "Dear EU, Thank you for leading the way."

And kackermann, with tongue firmly in cheek, said, "This is the last straw! How can a foreign country get away with policies designed to help prevent cancer?..."

SGlover910 wrote, "We invest in weapons, and the rest of the advanced world invests in better, safer products and public infrastructure. And then we wonder why we're following the same trajectory as the late USSR....."

Mnnngj said, "...They want to spray my county for a small moth. They have not tested the spray but they say it is fine for me to breathe. They say big agriculture wants to spray so who are tehy listening to, me or big Ag?..."

rwbiles1, one of the very few who supported the U.S. approach, said, "...Get real...this EU initiative... is just a major overreaction to chemical control that uses a sledgehammer to kill a fly. I prefer the system in the US, that is equally protective but allows my wallet to breathe easier."

corco02az seems to agree, writing, "If long-term exposure to tiny amounts of chemicals is such a problem, how come life expectancy in the US set another record last year?... This sounds like a jobs program for people who majored in environmental studies because they weren't smart enough to major in chemistry or biology."

cpwash asked, "Why do we have an up-spikes of autism and breast cancer in this country? The answer is easy: we let toxic and just plain dangerous chemicals into the environment... We should adopt European style regulations, but the Republicans block such moves..."

wgriff3245 asserted that "...many Vietnam Era Veterans...have been suffering from many deadly illnesses because of this US policy regarding Agent Orange. It has been the policies of each Republican Administration since the end of WWII to protect the chemical companies from legal liability. That is why the backlog at the VA is still so long. The VA routinely denies every claim..."

Mugwamp wrote, "The glaring exposure of corporate control, over Congress and all the US watchdog agencies, reveals a lack of leadership by our 'bought and paid for' politicians. All the while Americans are in a battle to maintain their health and amid soaring healthcare costs. Why be cynical with good news like that?"

matdewas, noting that the article said, "There's a strong sense in Europe and the world at large that America is letting the market have a free ride", said "I am from Brussels, Belgium and let me confirm that it is a widespread opinion here...Regulation is often a good thing, as long as it is founded and justified."

rlbowolick suggested that "The lackies in our Congress should take note of the EU decision and start growing a backbone."

stuck_in_Lodi said, "How ironic that the kind of consumer-first regulation developed in the Progressive Era and expanded from 1933-1968 in the U.S. is now,in effect, being reimposed from Europe. How sad that our government, and, indeed, the consumers themselves, abandoned such regulation under the propaganda and financial onslaught of greedy businesses."

tmurt wrote, "This is a fight the US should have led - instead we paid homage to big business and to Hell with the consumer! now we are going to have to follow the EU's lead or lose their business."

Last word goes to schumann-bonn, who said, "There is considerable evidence that the massive increase in allergies and other ailments has been caused by chemicals. It's about time that somebody is taking the lead in making products safer."

All comments on this article are here.

By Doug Feaver  |  June 12, 2008; 9:35 AM ET
Categories:  Chemicals , Health  
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Posted by: Nancy Barness | June 23, 2008 9:09 PM | Report abuse

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Posted by: Nancy Barness | June 23, 2008 9:03 PM | Report abuse

There was a time when the United States was the world leader (aka: the gold standard) in terms of ensuring that at least some substances entering the commercial market place were both safe and effective. That day is sadly over.

The FDA has been gutted of resources, so that it must accept the "research" of Big Pharma as evidence of safety and efficacy, and cannot, because of lack of funding, conduct more than the most cursory after market reviews.

FDA lacks funding to inspect even US producers, much less those outside our borders. Hello, can you spell FAKE HEPARIN?

Essentially, a lot of people have to DIE, and class action lawsuits have to become public knowledge before FDA can be embarrassed into moving, which is only part of what Big Pharma wants. Since even that isn't good enough, now the administration proposes to deprive consumers of the only legal recourse available, which would be to sue the pants off of offending corporations, by declaring in law that ANYTHING approved by the FDA cannot be challenged in a court of law.

Tell me, where in this life can I sign up for such a sweet deal?

FDA is further hamstrung by the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, which essentially says that it cannot even LOOK at so-called dietary supplements, and defines these quite broadly.

As presently operating, the FDA can not keep us safe from phony meds, lets poisonous, tainted food products into the United States, and appears helpless to protect us even from contaminated food stuffs.

For those of you who are wondering just how, exactly, those tomatoes became contaminated with, well, it's a little unclear because the specific subtype of Salmonella may be a rather rare one, but one way is contamination from bovine fecal matter; another may be from human fecal matter.

I'll let your imaginations run wild on this latter.

Posted by: VA_Lady2008 | June 18, 2008 7:49 AM | Report abuse

Thank goodness we have the EU to look out for the US consumers' interests. (I look for a EU country of manufacture label when I shop.)

Posted by: Anonymous | June 16, 2008 9:30 PM | Report abuse

Just wait...the government will eventually come around. See, with the amount of hormones and contaminates in our environment, already the fauna is showing the effects. Frogs and fishes being born with ambiguous gender and/or without sex differentiation have become frighteningly common.

Consider it a warning sign from Mother Nature. We've allowed the situation to begin endangering the propagation of our OWN species.

Just wait 'til baby boys start being born with no danglers and THEN you'll see environmental clean-up take center stage.

Posted by: Shirley U. Geste | June 16, 2008 9:06 AM | Report abuse

The USA makes the consumers ginnie pigs. It ticks me off I can't even eat some of the fish in local waterways because of mercury. Just think about that. This is what we have allowed to happen because of irresponsible industry who think their only responsibility is profits. They have to know that that is not their only responsiblity or else close down their business and put them in jail, not just a slap on the wrist. These people will just pay a fine and continue what they are doing if a fine is cheaper than polluting the environment. That is such a criminal attitude to say their only responsibility is to make a profit and I am tired of hearing it, real tired.

Posted by: Jim | June 14, 2008 7:12 PM | Report abuse

Mercury permeates the environment.

Posted by: Jim | June 14, 2008 6:54 PM | Report abuse

Your readers are REALLY concerned about Congress's failure to seriously undertake Kucinich's articles of impeachment, and the Washington Post's failure to seriously cover the issues related to impeachment. Congress's failure to enact legislation to protect us from irresponsible chemical companies simply reflects another issue that would distract them from whatever it is they think IS important...

Posted by: lasinva | June 12, 2008 11:13 PM | Report abuse

Tom Delay ran a company dispensing substances of very high concern - those suspected of causing cancer or other health problems, to strengthen his Texas redistricting. I am very strong, he said flexing his muscles. The government has had little or no information about the health hazards or risks of most of those 80,000 chemicals. But the RNC does. In fact the RNC even erased millions of White House emails so they could keep their chemical databases running efficiently.

The changes come at a time when consumers are increasingly worried about the long-term consequences of chemical exposure and are agitating for more aggressive government oversight. The Tom Delay chemical distribution scheme extends from Texas to Florida, New York, California and across Canada. Those are some of the sites where attacks have been documented.

Mark believes that fixing the mechanics of elections will solve the problem. Not really. The Christofascists will continue to operate from the organized crime sector even if their Manchurian Moonie does not fill the tiny shoes of Neil, Jeb and George Junior.

Carcinogens, neurotoxins and other chemicals are delivered by the Bush-lovers via respiratory, cutaneous and other means.

Anthrax is used just for show of course, when the frightened American sheep are ready to give administration lawyers carte blanche to use Anthrax against America any way they choose.

Posted by: Singing Senator | June 12, 2008 11:17 AM | Report abuse

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