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The Safety of Chemicals

The New York Times
April 25, 2013

To the Editor:

Re “Think Those Chemicals Have Been Tested?” (news analysis, Sunday Review, April 14) and “A Toothless Law on Toxic Chemicals” (editorial, April 19):

There has been misinformation and negative publicity about high-profile chemicals, resulting in public anxiety and calls to overhaul existing laws. We agree that it is past time to reform our chemical control law, but scare stories don’t serve the cause.

To liken the Toxic Substances Control Act to statutes that regulate pesticides, drugs and food additives would be misguided and economically foolish. If chemicals were treated as such, many everyday products would no longer be available.

Most chemicals can be and are used safely; however, any could cause harm if not used properly. This is why the Environmental Protection Agency does not typically ban chemicals outright; rather, it restricts use based on exposure.

The E.P.A. doesn’t require upfront data on new chemicals; the agency uses precautionary models to generate worst-case scenarios. It also looks at similar substances for comparison.

More chemicals are detected via biomonitoring — measuring chemicals in human tissues. Technology allows us to determine concentrations at parts per trillion. This detection does not equate to harm, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regularly notes.

Washington, April 23, 2013

The writer is vice president for government and public relations at the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates.

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