Consumer Products Contain Far More Chemicals Than We Realize, EPA Official Warns

Federal environmental officials indicate that many common consumer products found in homes nationwide contain far more chemicals than many realize. 

At an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) webinar this week, research chemist Katherine Phillips, of the EPA’s National Exposure Research Laboratory announced additional chemical research for manufactured goods is underway, to identify chemicals that commonly go unrecorded in the manufacturing of common household and consumer products. The move is designed to better assess the dangers consistent with exposure to chemicals in consumer products.

Phillips indicated that research is currently underway by the agency that is designed to help regulatory officials and other decision-makers determine which chemicals should be prioritized for risk evaluations. Future restrictions or regulations could be based on those risk evaluations.

More than 80,000 chemicals are used in manufacturing processes, with more than 1,000 being included in everyday products that in some way or another have an impact on the environment and individuals. Exposure could occur from touching, breathing or ingesting chemicals from the products on a daily basis, according to the EPA.

Even manufacturers are not able to identify every chemical used in some of their products, making identification of those chemicals, plus all the chemicals they come into contact with, and their health and environmental effects, more difficult, Phillips noted.

Phillips also warned that chemicals may leach from or breakdown packaging, or be created later by chemical reactions, leaving manufactures and consumers unaware of a potential danger.

There are tens of thousands of chemicals used to manufacture products in today’s market, and determining which ones to focus on first is key to mitigate the waste of money in research, time, and resources for companies and taxpayers.

The research incentive to narrow down chemical use and their potential impacts is part of a large plan the EPA has initiated to prevent new harmful chemicals from entering the market. In January the agency proposed rules  which would establish the first-ever, comprehensive regulatory strategy for chemicals entering U.S. commerce.

The EPA indicates that the proposed rules will set into motion a process designed to quickly evaluate chemicals that have been entered into commerce over the last decade, by granting them the authority to identify chemicals made in, imported into or processed within the U.S. The EPA will decide which of those have potential health and environmental risks through the use of scientific data and assess those risks and pursue regulatory controls as needed.

As part of the new rules, the EPA will be required to systemically prioritize existing chemical substances that have entered the market within the past 10 years. The new process will be managed by the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention and Office of General Counsel.


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