FOCUS: Regulating Chemicals

The link between human health and our environment may be obvious, but the devil is in the details.

In January, new or forthcoming reports about common industrial chemicals provoked the usual disputes between public health activists and the business community over the need for regulation.

-The solvent trichloroethylene has been linked with lymphoma and other diseases. It was dumped “indiscriminately” in the past, and a doctor with Boston University called the EPA “cowardly” for not controlling the substance. If a cancer link is established, the environmental cleanup costs — including groundwater — could run to the billions of dollars.

-PFOA, a chemical used to make the non-stick coating Teflon, has been tentatively linked to liver and testicular cancer in animals. No human link has yet been established. DuPont, the owner of the Teflon brand, released its own report finding no cancer evidence, but problems with cholesterol increases.

-The National Academy of Science issued a report on perchlorate, used in rocket fuel and fireworks, that found the chemical was over-regulated, and that safe human exposures run much higher than are currently permitted. Perchlorate lingers in the environment and is found in water tables around the country. It can cause development problems in infants and children. Activists criticized the report, saying a rollback of regulations was too risky.

Check back with as we track these issues over time.

Keyword search (trichloroethylene): Google News, Yahoo News
Keyword search (teflon): Google News, Yahoo News
Keyword search (perchlorate): Google News, Yahoo News

“Widely used chemical might have cancer link”
Boston Globe, January 11, 2005

“U.S. accuses DuPont of hiding data on exposure to Teflon”
Chicago Tribune, January 18, 2005

“EPA draft cites ‘important’ Teflon issues”
The News Journal (Delaware), January 13, 2005

“Chemical used in Teflon production linked to developmental problems in lab animals”
News Target, January 28, 2005

“Stiff perchlorate limits in drinking water urged”
San Bernardino County Sun, January 22, 2005

“Perchlorate: Out of hot water?”
Business Week, January 14, 2005

“‘Rocket fuel’ controversy deepens”, October 13, 2003

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