Target: Gina McCarthy, Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency
Goal: Mandate testing for all chemicals to ensure they do not harm brain development
The potential to harm children’s brain development is among the most disturbing effects of some industrial chemicals. Exposure to these substances, known as neurotoxins, may be linked to autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and lowered intelligence. Some chemicals long used in common household products are just now being identified as neurotoxins, raising the question: why aren’t all chemicals tested for their toxic effects on the brain?
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does require testing for certain chemicals, but in many cases the testing and reporting are voluntary for manufacturers. A recent study by researchers at Mount Sinai and the Harvard School of Public Health identified fluoride–found in toothpaste and added to much of the nation’s drinking water–as a neurotoxin, as well as chemicals used as solvents and flame retardants.
According to the study’s authors, “The presumption that new chemicals and technologies are safe until proven otherwise is a fundamental problem.” They added that, “Voluntary controls seem to be of little value” in keeping the public safe from dangerous neurotoxins. If a chemical isn’t been identified as harmful, it can’t be regulated to protect consumers. Call on the EPA to require mandatory testing of all chemicals to determine if they are harmful to brain development.
Dear Ms. McCarthy,
Consumers concerned about their children’s brain development have new cause for worry. According to a recent study from Mount Sinai and the Harvard School of Public Health, some chemicals used in common household products may contribute to autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, poor academic performance, and other issues. Lost potential is the result, along with increased healthcare costs, and even incarceration in response to serious behavioral problems.
The study identified six chemicals only recently understood to be developmental neurotoxins. We know that similarly dangerous chemicals continue to escape this classification, and that consumers and their families remain at risk. Yet the EPA does not require mandatory testing of all chemicals to determine their potential to harm brain development.
The study’s authors argue that, “Untested chemicals should not be presumed to be safe to brain development.” I agree wholeheartedly. We cannot count on manufacturers to make public health a top priority. In order to protect the public, the EPA must require testing of all new chemicals to assess their neurotoxicity–and all chemicals currently on the market, as well.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Simon Strandgaard via Flickr