One would have thought that after all the lead weighing down our kids' toys last holiday season; the (attempted) state bills to limit plasticizers like hormone-bending phthalates and bisphenol A in toys, bottles and household products; and the new concern about a potential link between environmental hormones and breast cancer that the feds would be paying more attention to what our kids are exposed to. Maybe even testing a product for safety (gasp) now and again.
In fact, the Milkwaukee Journal Sentinel came out with a fantastic story last week on how even the weak oversight system we do have is basically defunct:
"The Environmental Protection Agency is supposed to evaluate compounds in products such as flame retardants in mattresses and car seats to see if they are especially harmful to children.
But it doesn't.
The EPA's Voluntary Children's Chemical Evaluation Program, which relies on companies to provide information about the dangers of the chemicals they produce, is all but dead. Funding ran out last August. Committees haven't met in nearly a year. Key members of the program can't even say if it is still alive.
The EPA's own advisory committee blasted the pilot program as severely flawed and has called for a total overhaul. Still, EPA administrators call the program a priority and routinely cite it as proof that the government is answering concerns about kids being exposed to potentially dangerous household chemicals."
Oh, and when it's actually up and running, the program still leaves oversight to the chemical companies. When they refuse to comply, the EPA can do...nothing.
Another interesting angle: While the EPA fiddles the rest of the world, including China and the EU, has moved to restrict substances they consider even potentially harmful. This means many American products still using these substances are unsellable duds overseas. Investigative journalist Mark Shapiro does a fine job documenting this in his book, pictured above: Exposed: The toxic chemistry of everyday products and what's at stake for American power.