Over 80,000 chemicals are used in manufacturing in the United States. Only 200 of these chemicals have ever been evaluated by the EPA for their effects on human health, and only five have been banned. The vast majority of chemicals we are exposed to in our daily lives – in everything from children's toys and plastic bottles to cosmetics and home cleaning products – have never been tested for safety.
For those chemicals that have been tested, a large body of peer-reviewed research shows that low-dose exposure over long periods can increase the risk of prostate and breast cancer. Infants and children are the most vulnerable: exposure to harmful chemicals has been linked to learning and developmental disabilities and the early onset of puberty.
Our current regulatory system has failed to protect the public's health. We need comprehensive chemical policy reform that requires chemicals to be evaluated for safety before they are released onto the market.
What MPIRG is doing statewide
Last spring, Minnesota became the first state in the nation to ban the use of Bisphenol-A (BPA) in children's products. BPA is a chemical that is widely used in plastic products. It is also a proven carcinogen and endocrine disruptor.
Over the course of a week, MPIRG students across the state got one thousand of their peers to call the offices of Governor Tim Pawlenty, urging him to sign the BPA ban. As a result of overwhelming public pressure, Governor Pawlenty reversed his earlier opposition to chemical policy reform, and the BPA ban became law.
This year, we are working to pass a bill that would mandate the use of green cleaning supplies in all state buildings in Minnesota. Many conventional cleaning products contain harmful chemicals that are linked to cancer and reproductive disorders. Green cleaning supplies protect the health of custodial workers and all building users.
Together with the Healthy Legacy Coalition, we are also working to set up a meeting with Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken to discuss reforms to the Toxic Substance Control Act. This law, passed in 1976, allows the introduction of new chemicals into consumer products without being adequately tested for safety. We are pushing for reforms that would require chemicals to be evaluated for their effects on human health and the environment before they are released onto the market, not after.
What we're doing on campus
This fall, we worked to build grassroots pressure for strong chemical policy reform. We collected over 175 postcards from Carleton students urging Senator Klobuchar to support reforms to the Toxic Substances Control Act that will protect the public from exposure to dangerous chemicals. These postcards will be delivered to Senator Klobuchar's office along with hundreds more collected by MPIRG students across the state and by other Healthy Legacy coalition partners.
For more information
Visit the Healthy Legacy Coalition to learn more about the toxins we are exposed to every day, and efforts to reform federal chemical policy.
Visit MPIRG's Detox Minnesota campaign website to read more about our position on chemical policy reform.