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Toxics Turn Up in Fresh Food

Phthalates are insidious chemicals that are seemingly turning up everywhere. Research increasingly shows they can interfere with the production or activity of hormones in the human endocrine system. New research from the University of Texas School of Public Health says chemicals the industry adds to many consumer products isn’t just getting into some of our food, it’s in most of our food.

A new study reported on in Chemical Watch this week found phthalates in 72 food products out of 72 that were tested. A dubious 100 percent that included grains, meats, produce, and drinks. The takeaway for consumers: avoiding chemicals may be trickier than we think and underscores the need for stronger laws on toxic chemicals.

Chemical companies add phthalates to many products, cosmetics and personal care products like perfume, hair spray, soap, shampoo, nail polish, and skin moisturizers. They also use them to in consumer products such as vinyl flooring, vinyl “PVC” plastic, shower curtains, wallpaper, food packaging and wrappers. For a long time, they were used in children’s toys, rattles and the like, until 2009 when the industry was required to remove them by federal law.

Clearly self-regulation by the chemical industry just isn’t working.

Back in college when I was took Political Science 101, my professor told me it’s times like this where government intervenes to fix things markets cannot or will not fix on their own. It seems in this case he was right. Our society seems pretty good at confronting visible threats. A bad part on an airplane, or a missing safety feature in a car for example. But because the toxics are often invisible, and not even on the label, the industry has been able to flex its lobby power and avoid accountability.

Within the next several weeks, Sen. Frank Lautenberg will reintroduce a bill called the Safe Chemicals Act, that will apply some long overdue fixes to our laws including: requiring that total exposures (called “aggregate” exposure) be accounted for in assessing the risk associated with a chemical.

Senator Lautenberg wisely adopted this concept from the National Academy of Sciences recommendations on how we can improve our assessments of chemical safety. The time has come for us to get tough on toxics.

The mounting research coupled with your calls for reform could make this year historic. Join us in this quest today. I’m ready, are you?

To follow Tony on Twitter: @tonyiallonardo