AAP calls for overhaul of nation's chemical-management policy

May 6, 2011

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is recommending a substantial overhaul of the nation?s chemical-management policy to better protect children and pregnant women.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is recommending a substantial overhaul of the nation’s chemical-management policy to better protect children and pregnant women.

The current policy, the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA), has been ineffective in protecting children, pregnant women, and the general population from the harmful effects of chemicals in the marketplace, according to the AAP statement. Since it was enacted in 1976, the TSCA has been used to regulate only 5 chemicals or chemical classes, and the law has not undergone any major revisions.

“Children are not little adults,” the statement notes, and the current policy does not take into account their unique physiologic, development, and behavior characteristics that make them particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of chemicals.

The statement outlines several limitations of the TSCA, including the fact that it does not require chemical manufacturers to do premarketing testing or postmarketing follow-up of their products. Also, under the current policy, the US Environmental Protection Agency has limited authority to enforce the regulations, and voluntary programs have not proved effective.

The AAP statement makes several recommendations to strengthen the nation’s chemical-management policy at the federal, state, and local levels and says that “the wide range of consequences of chemical use on children and their families should be a core component” of any changes in policy. Manufacturers who propose to market a chemical should be required to provide information relevant to the special needs of children and pregnant women, including data on its possible reproductive and developmental toxicity, it says.

The statement calls for pediatricians to advocate for chemical policies that take into account the unique vulnerabilities of children and pregnant women. It also states that they should be familiar with information on the effects of environmental chemicals on children; learn about the resources contained in the Environmental Health and Toxicology pages of the National Library of Medicine Web site (http://sis.nlm.nih.gov/enviro.html); and call the Poison Control Center (800-222-1222) if they have questions about chemical toxicities.

American Academy of Pediatrics. Council on Environmental Health. Policy statement-Chemical-management policy: prioritizing children’s health. Pediatrics. 2011. Epub ahead of print.