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December 16th, 2009

Why are Toxic Chemicals Innocent Until Proven Guilty?

This week, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released findings from the Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals.” The report identifies 212 environmental chemicals found in people’s blood and urine. Many of the chemicals, like mercury and atrazine, have been monitored since the reporting started in the late 1990‚. But, the CDC identified 75 new chemicals that have never before been monitored in the US population. These include arsenic, bisphenol A, triclosan, and perchlorate.

Sounds scary, right? The CDC apparently doesnt think so.

What‚ most troubling about the report is the continued failure of our public health agencies to protect us from potential harm. Every report identifies more chemicals accumulating in our bodies. And, there are dozens of reliable studies detailing the human health consequences of exposure to chemicals like mercury, lead, atrazine, BPA, triclosan and perchlorate. If we know a chemical is dangerous at high levels, why does CDC assume it‚ just fine in small doses‚Äîespecially given the potential cumulative effect of the toxic soup brewing in our bodies.

In my mind, the most protective action would be to err on the side of caution‚Äîeven precaution. Instead, the CDC maintains that, ‚the presence of an environmental chemical in people‚ blood or urine does not mean that it will cause effects or disease.” They add almost as a footnote that, ‚for most of the environmental chemicals included in the Fourth Report, more research is needed to determine whether exposure at the levels reported is a cause for health concern.” Why do our federal agencies allow chemicals on the market before theyve been proven safe or effective? This isnt what public health should be.

-Kathy Dolan

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