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EPA announces ten priority chemicals

We applaud the Environmental Protection Agency for taking first steps to implement the newly revised federal chemical safety law.  As promised, the agency announced the first ten toxic chemicals that they’ll evaluate in order to protect human health and the environment.

The list includes asbestos, several chemicals used in dry cleaning, a toxic flame retardant and other chemicals that already show high potential for raising the risk of cancer or other health harm as well as potential for both workers and consumers to be exposed.

By 2021, the agency will have completed their very thorough process to understand if these ten chemicals pose a risk to human health or the environment and require protective action.

It’s no joke: this timeline is far faster and more efficient than ever before. And the fact that EPA is delivering on the first mandate ahead of the deadline is a very good sign.

But it is also a wake-up call: if the EPA process is the one and only way we protect people from toxic threats, we’ll allow generations more to be born under the threat of life-long health consequences from toxic chemical exposure early in life. In addition to these ten chemicals, EPA has already identified 80 more that have the potential to pose serious risks.  States have also identified many more chemicals of concern including California with over 800 on their Proposition 65 list of chemicals known to cause cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm.

Fortunately, states still have the authority to act on any chemical that is not yet undergoing the EPA process. We are very likely to see states forwarding policies in 2017 to address toxic chemicals from the EPA back-log. States can also help gather the information that EPA will need to determine where, when and in what quantity people are exposed. And as long as consumers continue to demand safer products, we’ll see leading businesses with pro-active policies to eliminate hazards.

We don’t know the full extent of toxic chemicals in our lives today. Under the newly reformed federal law, the picture will become clearer. We must be prepared to respond to this new information, using all the power and innovation available to work together for a safer world.

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