- Copyright © 2011, The American Academy of Pediatrics
by Lori O’Keefe • Correspondent
Only five of the more than 80,000 chemicals used in the United States are regulated by federal legislation, leaving tens of thousands of unregulated chemicals that can pose a health risk to children, pregnant women and the general population.
A new AAP policy statement, Chemicals Management Policy: Prioritizing Children’s Health (Pediatrics. 2011;127:983-990; http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/peds.2011-0523v1), brings attention to the environmental dangers of chemicals and the ineffectiveness of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which was passed in 1976 to regulate chemicals.
The TSCA does not require companies to do pre-market testing or post-market follow-up of their chemicals for health and safety risks. Although voluntary testing programs are in place, companies can keep concerns about their chemical products from the public. The policy statement addresses these and many other issues with the TSCA.
In recent years, concerns were raised about the use of certain chemicals in children’s products, including bisphenol A in baby bottles, sippy cups and water bottles, according to Jerome A. Paulson, M.D., FAAP, lead author of the policy statement and a member of the AAP Council on Environmental Health.
Sometimes substitute chemicals are used, but these chemicals aren’t proven to be any safer because they haven’t been tested either, said. Dr. Paulson, who co-directs a Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit based at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, chemicals are found throughout the tissues and body fluids of children and adults, including blood, cord blood and human milk.
In addition, the policy statement points out that children may be at higher risk for health threats from chemical exposure because of a higher surface area-to-body mass ratio than adults, more consumption of food and water per unit of body weight, and vulnerability to development.
The statement calls for evidence-based regulation of chemicals, safety standards similar to those required for pharmaceuticals or pesticides, post-market surveillance, and federally funded research into the health hazards of chemicals, among other revisions to chemical management.
Many chemicals will be reviewed in the third edition of the AAP manual, Pediatric Environmental Health, which will be available this year.
Environmental Health & Toxicology site, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, http://sis.nlm.nih.gov/enviro.html).
Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units, a network of children’s environmental health experts, www.pehsu.net).