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."
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