Legislation Will Reduce Risk of EDCs — Your Support is Needed

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The prevalence of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) is a serious public health concern.

EDCs have been linked to a wide range of health problems, including diabetes, obesity, reproductive disorders, and even cancer. These effects are exacerbated in children whose bodies are still developing and absorb chemicals at a higher rate than adults. And, these chemicals are present in thousands of items that we use every day including personal care products, canned food items, soda cans, and plastics.

With exposure so prevalent, we simply must do a better job overseeing the use of these chemicals in common products and ensuring consumers can make informed choices. As the United States continues to work to reduce healthcare costs, it’s critical that we look at environmental factors, such as increased chemical exposure, that may be contributing to health problems and increased rates of chronic disease.

I’m grateful to have the Endocrine Society’s support on two important pieces of legislation to help reduce the risk of EDCs — the Personal Care Products Safety Act and BPA in Food Packaging Right to Know Act.

More than 200 scientific studies have linked BPA exposure to breast and other cancers, reproductive disorders, cardiac disease, diabetes, early puberty, and other health issues.

The lack of safety rules for personal care products is particularly concerning. Our skin is our largest organ and it quickly absorbs the chemicals in these products — including endocrine disruptors. The law governing the safety of personal care products — the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act — has not been significantly updated since 1938. The products on the market today are much different than those on the market in 1938. Due to these outdated safety rules, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has prohibited or restricted only 11 substances, including mercury and chloroform, from use in personal care products. By contrast, the European Union has banned more than 1,300 chemicals from personal care products and restricted an additional 256. The FDA is also unable to set limits on the concentration levels of chemicals in products — limits are particularly important for children’s products.

The Personal Care Products Safety Act would finally address these glaring safety loopholes. A key component of the bill is an FDA review process for ingredients frequently used in personal care products. The FDA would review at least five chemicals per year, chosen based on input from consumers, medical professionals, scientists, and companies. An ingredient-review process is already in place in the European Union and companies are required to use only pre-approved colors and preservatives.

The ingredient-review process would address which chemicals can continue to be used in personal care products, and if so, what the concentration levels should be. The FDA may determine that EDCs are not appropriate in any products, or are only appropriate in small amounts. For example, after conducting a scientific review, the FDA may determine that a particular chemical is only safe at a concentration of one part per million. Going forward, all companies would need to reformulate their products so they contained no more than one part per million of that ingredient.

The chemical Bisphenol-A (BPA) is another cause for concern. BPA is most commonly found in the lining of metal cans and other food packaging. More than 200 scientific studies have linked BPA exposure to breast and other cancers, reproductive disorders, cardiac disease, diabetes, early puberty, and other health issues. In 2008, the FDA banned the use of BPA in many baby products, including bottles and formula cans. This decision came after significant pressure from members of Congress and the public. And in the years following this decision, some chemical companies and manufacturers have stopped using BPA altogether. Retailers have also stopped selling products containing the chemical. But despite mounting scientific evidence that BPA exposure is a risk to human health, many companies continue to use it.

I’m grateful to have the Endocrine Society’s support on two important pieces of legislation to help reduce the risk of EDCs — the Personal Care Products Safety Act and BPA in Food Packaging Right to Know Act.

The BPA in Food Packaging Right to Know Act would simply require labels on consumer food packaging that contain the chemical, and a revised safety assessment from the FDA that takes into account low-dose, long-term exposure. Consumers deserve the ability to make informed decisions about the products they purchase for themselves and their families.

The bottom line is: There is increasing urgency to address the health effects caused by endocrine-disrupting chemicals through updated federal safety oversight.

I look forward to continuing to work with the Endocrine Society to advance these important pieces of legislation.

Dianne Feinstein is the senior senator from California. She introduced both the Personal Care Products Safety Act and the BPA in Food Packaging Right to Know Act.

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