A conference on autism is taking place in Pennsylvania with the aim to help teachers and parents deal with challenges faced by children with autism. The disease affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact but symptoms vary. New studies are challenging formerly held beliefs that autism is passed down genetically. Now some experts say a child’s environment has to be taken into account. More from VOA’s Vidushi Sinha:
(This article was first posted on Jan. 25, 2010, by the Natural Resources Defense Council on its Simple Steps website. It is a Q & A with NRDC Senior Attorney Daniel Rosenberg exploring why the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition, of which the NRDC is a member, wants tighter controls on toxic substances.)
By Paul McRandle
Q: Quickly, what is TSCA and why does it need to be reformed?
Daniel Rosenberg: TSCA is an environmental law first enacted in 1976 and never updated since, that was intended to regulate the safety of industrial chemicals—that is most chemicals that find their way into the stream of commerce. It is generally regarded to be the greatest failure of all the major environmental laws passed in the early 1970s. This is because there were 62,000 chemicals in use when it was enacted and all of those chemicals were grandfathered in, meaning they didn’t have to be tested or required to meet a safety standard. On top of that, the law makes it extremely difficult for EPA to take action even when they know a chemical is unsafe, like asbestos. The way the law is written, the burden is on the agency to prove a chemical is unsafe rather than the companies who make chemicals having to prove they are safe.
That’s according to a survey of 937 members of the Society of Toxicology in early 2009. The survey, released Thursday, was administered by Harris Interactive and conducted by the nonprofit Statistical Assessment Service (STATS) and Center for Health and Risk Communication at George Mason University.
“This survey suggests that the public doesn’t get a full and balanced picture of chemical risk,” said Dr. Robert Lichter, the survey director.
We hear every day about dangerous chemicals in household products that are linked to cancer, infertility, autism and other diseases – yet many Americans may not realize just how many of these harmful substances they’ve actually ingested in the course of everyday living.
The answer? About 48. That’s according a study by the Environmental Working Group and Rachel’s Network, in which five leading minority women environmentalists from different parts of the country volunteered to have their blood tested for toxins. The results, say EWG experts, show that regulation of chemicals in the U.S. is weak and “antiquated” and needs a major overhaul.
So you need to replace your mattress, and you want to do the green right thing, for your health and for the environment. You may be trying to reduce your overall carbon footprint, or perhaps to choose a product that’s better for your health. Ideally, you can do both.
Unfortunately, there is a plethora of “natural,” “green,” “eco-friendly” mattress solutions out there, some with a hefty price tag. How’s a consumer to know what’s worth springing for – and what’s not?
Conventional mattresses are very likely to contain chemicals, some potentially toxic to humans and/or harmful to the environment. One way to go green is to choose a mattress with fewer chemicals or no chemicals.
My husband and I went the less-toxic, rather than 100 percent chemical-free, route.