Europe Pushes for Chemical Testing, But U.S. Backs Voluntary Approach

While the European Commission voted last week to require new safety testing of chemicals (though not nearly as strict of testing as environmentalists would have liked), the U.S. is making no such strides. Rather, an average of two new chemicals are approved for use in the U.S. every day, most of which have undergone little or no lab testing to determine safety. A number of potentially dangerous chemicals are increasingly showing up in human blood and breast milk. “We’re treating [people] worse than lab rats,” said Karen Florini, a lawyer with Environmental Defense. “At least with lab rats, somebody bothers to collect the data.” Chemical manufacturers in the U.S. aren’t responsible for demonstrating that their products are safe; rather, the burden is on the U.S. EPA to demonstrate that a chemical poses a risk to human health or the environment — a process so difficult and expensive that the agency rarely undertakes it. The Bush administration is siding with the chemical industry in supporting a voluntary system of chemical testing.