Researchers have found 55 new chemicals in people’s bodies, adding to existing concerns about the connection between chemicals and chronic disease. Action Alert!
The chemicals were discovered in a study of pregnant women and their newborns. Of the 55 chemicals never before detected in people’s bodies, 37 were substances researchers had little or no information on; two were PFAS (“forever chemicals”); ten were phthalates; two were chemicals used in cosmetics; and one was a pesticide ingredient. Given what we know about the impact of environmental exposures on chronic disease and overall health, this development is extremely discouraging.
We of course don’t know the health effects of the 37 chemicals about which researchers knew almost nothing. What we know about the other chemicals that were detected isn’t good:
- PFAS, known as “forever chemicals,” because they don’t break down in the environment, accumulate in the blood and organs. They are linked to a wide range of health concerns such as cancer, thyroid disorders, kidney disease, autoimmune problems, liver disease, high cholesterol, developmental problems in fetuses, Parkinson’s disease, bone disease, and more.
- Phthalates are endocrine disruptors and come with a similarly long list of risks: they’ve been linked with asthma, ADHD, breast cancer, obesity, type II diabetes, low IQ, neurodevelopmental issues, behavioral issues, and altered reproductive development. A recent study found that children exposed to phthalates before birth and shortly after had reduced lung function at 6 and 12 years old.
This study is an example of the much wider problem of chemical exposures in our society. There is evidence that exposure to chemicals is one of the main drivers, if not the main driver, of the uptick in chronic disease. Who knows what diseases these new chemicals found in the study will contribute to?
Let’s not forget that many of these chemicals, like phthalates and PFAS, are endocrine disruptors that experts believe are causing a fertility crisis in which sperm counts are plummeting and penis size is shrinking.
Given this alarming evidence, it is time to take meaningful steps to protect Americans from these exposures. There are an estimated 84,000 chemicals on the market, and before 2016 the EPA had tested only 250. Then in 2016, the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA) was updated, but by legislation that was seriously influenced by the chemical industry. That legislation required the EPA to institute pre-market review of new chemicals and set up a tiered approach for reviewing existing chemicals (high and low priority). Those chemicals considered “low priority” are not likely to be reviewed at all. The law also pre-empts states from restricting chemicals the EPA has determined are safe.
Currently, the EPA is reviewing 33 existing chemicals for safety; there are 275 active cases under review for new chemicals, and 1,708 completed reviews of new chemicals since 2016. This is an improvement from the pathetic record prior to 2016 but is far from sufficient to protect Americans from the dangers these chemicals are wreaking on human health.
There are not efforts underway in Congress to further strengthen EPA review of chemicals. In 2016, there was another, stronger bill to update the TSCA that would have required immediate action on chemicals that accumulate in the body and would have ensured that all chemicals in the market are reviewed by the EPA. We must push for these additional reforms.
Action Alert! Write to the EPA, with a copy to Congress, telling them we need better scrutiny of these dangerous chemicals and stronger safety limits in light of recent research. Please send your message immediately.