Pediatricians Say Government Doesn't Adequately Protect Children From Chemicals

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Here at The Atlantic's Life channel, we've devoted a number of recent stories to the threat of unsafe plastics and the chemicals associated with them (see this story by Elizabeth Grossman, for example, or this one by Brian Howard). Today, the American Academy of Pediatrics added new heft to these concerns by publishing a position paper arguing that the government's management of hazardous chemicals does not adequately protect children and pregnant women.

The organization says we need to change from a system in which chemicals are considered safe unless proven otherwise to one in which chemical manufacturers must proactively prove that their products are harmless. Here's HealthDay with the full story:

MONDAY, April 25 (HealthDay News) -- The U.S. chemical management policy needs an overhaul because it does not adequately protect children and pregnant women, who are most susceptible to hazardous substances, a new position paper from the American Academy of Pediatrics claims.

Click here to find out more! Since passage of the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) in 1976, tens of thousands of new chemicals have been developed for widespread use with little or no oversight or testing and the law itself has never been really updated, the pediatricians claim.

"The current policy . . . really is virtually useless," said Dr. Jerome Paulson, the paper's author and medical director of the Child Health Advocacy Institute at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

The recent outcry about substances such as Bisphenol A, a chemical used for decades in plastic drinking bottles that may trigger neurological problems in children, exemplifies the policy's inability to take vulnerable populations into consideration, Paulson noted.

"In the last couple of years we've had a 'toxicant of the month' situation," he said. "Why aren't these chemicals tested before they're in the market so we . . . can know if they're unlikely to do harm to the environment or to human beings?"

Read the full HealthDay story at US News & World Report.

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Daniel Fromson, a former associate editor at The Atlantic, is a writer based in Washington, D.C. He writes regularly for The Washington Post. His work has also appeared in Harper's Magazine, New York, and Slate.

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