The Push and Pull Over Toxic Chemicals

Congress is looking to make changes in the way that toxic chemicals are regulated. Environmental groups and the chemical industry have different ideas on how those changes should be implemented. A recent debate in Pittsburgh highlighted some of those differences, and where there might be common ground. The Allegheny Front's Kara Holsopple has more.

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OPEN: Congress is looking to make changes in the way that toxic chemicals are regulated. Environmental groups and the chemical industry have different ideas on how those changes should be implemented. A recent debate in Pittsburgh highlighted some of those differences, and where there might be common ground. The Allegheny Front's Kara Holsopple has more.

HOLSOPPLE: The Environmental Protection Agency uses the Toxic Substances Control Act -- or TSCA -- to control chemicals which may pose a threat to the public's health. Many agree the law is outdated, and some say it needs a major overhaul and reform. Michael Walls with the American Chemistry Council would rather use the term "modernization."

WALLS: I think that reform suggests that there has been some fundamental failure, but the fact is Americans have been living longer healthier lives in part because of the benefits chemistry brings to our society.

HOLSOPPLE: In a debate between Walls and an Environmental Working Group lobbyist sponsored by the Rachel Carson Homestead, Walls said the EPA already has more power than it's willing to use. He added that just because better technology allows us to detect smaller and smaller amounts of chemicals present in our bodies doesn't mean those chemicals are harmful.

Jason Rano with the Environmental Working Group disagrees. Rano says, for example, low doses of drugs actively affect our bodies, and very low doses of chemicals may be doing the same.

RANO: Low doses matter. Paxil, which is a common anti-depressant, one dose is active at 30 parts per billion. Nuva Ring, which is a birth control drug, is active at .035 parts per billion.

HOLSOPPLE: He thinks reform of TSCA is needed to make manufacturers take on more of the burden of proof of whether a chemical is safe.

For the Allegheny Front, I'm Kara Holsopple.