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Danger -- Man-Made Chemicals Harming Our Children's Future

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By Phil Gutis

Three and a half years ago, the editors of NRDC's quarterly magazine OnEarth published a particularly arresting cover image of a chubby baby boy. The special report he illustrated was also particularly arresting: "Hundreds of man-made chemicals are interferring with our hormones and threatening our children's future."

Our cover story that quarter was about endocrine disruptors and the proven dangers they present to both humans and other species. Since then NRDC's scientists have blogged repeatedly about this threat; search endocrine on Switchboard and you get five pages worth of entries.

I write this not to tout NRDC's horn (although a bit of touting is certainly warranted!) but to note this morning's New York Times column by Nicholas Kristof regarding endocrine disruptors. In describing what he calls a "potential health catastrophe," he writes about "bizarre deformities in water animals, often in their sexual organs."

"Apprehension is growing among many scientists that the cause of all this may be a class of chemicals called endocrine disruptors. They are widely used in agriculture, industry and consumer products. Some also enter the water supply when estrogens in human urine -- compounded when a woman is on the pill -- pass through sewage treatment systems and then through water treatment plants."

While sobering, I'm glad to see Kristof pick up this theme and issue a call for action. NRDC is behind a legislative fix and you can learn more about our work in this legislative fact sheet: "The Time Has Come for Reforming the Toxic Substances Control Act."

"The U.S. law to control toxic chemicals is a failure. Essentially unchanged since 1976, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) has made it almost impossible for the EPA to get information on the health or environmental risks of industrial chemicals, or to restrict the use of dangerous substances. Chemical companies are rarely required to test the toxicity of their products, are allowed to shield critical information from the public, and are able to sell even dangerous products under an "innocent until proven guilty" approach to regulation. As a result, the TSCA has been ineffective-regardless of the administration in power. However, recent developments have created tremendous opportunity for chemical policy reform."

Stay tuned as we continue to push for reform of this legislation. As Kristof writes this morning, "deformed frogs and intersex fish -- not to mention the growing number of deformities in newborn boys -- should jolt us."


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