U.S. Opposes EU Effort to Test Chemicals for Health Hazards

September 10th, 2003

To the Editor,

This story should have been called, “Industry Fiddles while the GNP Burns”. The rates of disability in America are soaring with the census bureau noting 20 percent of adults between 16 and 64 suffer chronic illness. The SSA tells us three in ten workers will be disabled prior to retirement. Add to that the huge numbers not accounted for in these statistics: injured military personnel; institutionalized adults; elderly infirm and disabled children and one sees why health care is the fastest growing industry.

This does not even account for millions with health problems who continue to struggle to remain in the workplace with ever-diminishing productivity and debt to cover medical bills and infertility treatments in lieu of spending income in a manner that would benefit the economy overall.

Thousands of chemicals surround us daily, mostly untested. Once cannot even trace ill health to many products since the government permits the hiding of toxic materials under innocuous labels such as “fragrance” and “inert ingredients”. We permit “approval” of pesticide products by the EPA and then allow industry to add synergists to the formulas, increasing toxicity a hundred-fold to chemicals that will be legally applied in the vicinity of vulnerable children, the elderly and the infirm.

Some EU countries are currently enjoying a reduction in cancers associated with toxic chemicals (e.g. non-Hodgkins lymphoma) banned for many years now. Europe shuns building materials filled with formaldehyde resins and requires fresh air to enter edifices while Americans are shut up in rooms with 2 to 5 times air pollution levels of outdoor areas (source, EPA).

How can we justify buying products from companies unwilling to disclose their ingredients, much less test them for safety? Is this capitalism in action or a form of gangsterism where we are forced to buy whatever is offered us? A tobacco company executive once wrote the president of the Czech Republic a letter telling him not to ban smoking. Apparently smokers die prematurely and will save the Republic monies on pensions, disability and health costs etc.

This frank proposal should have eroded naive consumer belief that industry in general fails to recognize the dangers to their consumers from ingredients like neurotoxic petrochemicals, respiratory irritants lie alcohol esters and hormone disrupting plastics. Americans need to defy our roles as guinea pigs for prematurely marketed products assessed only by paid industry scientists (“biostitutes”), and buy only those products offering full disclosure of a roster of reasonably safe materials.

Leave the benzene molecules for the gas tank, not your perfumes. Tell congress we deserve the same rights as consumers in the EU – full disclosure of ingredients and safety testing OR warning labels informing us ingredients have not been fully tested. Industry won’t pay our medical bills or mortgages when we can no longer work. Lets stop paying for their market research with our lives.

Categories: WSJ

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