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The Chemical Industry Playbook

IrisdelayLast week, the NRDC came out with a compelling new report that uncovers the delay tactics used by the chemical industry to force delay upon delay of EPA assessments on harmful chemicals.

What game do they think they're playing?

The authors of the report, Jennifer Sass and Daniel Rosenberg, call it The Delay Game and describe how the chemical industry uses a set of tactics, named the Four Dog Defense, to help harmful chemicals bob and weave through the EPA and avoid regulation.

What's a Four Dog Defense?

  1. Angry dogMy dog does not bite. The claim might sound something like this: "What, Bisphenol A? Harmful? Just look at these studies funded by the chemical industry that show no harm is caused by BPA!"
  2. My dog bites, but it doesn't bite you. This is where the industry admits that a chemical might be harmful but argues that no one is exposed to it. This works well if the industry isn't testing or monitoring for the chemical.
  3. My dog bit you, but it didn't hurt you. As in, "Sure, people end up with BPA in their bodies, but it is excreted quickly so it doesn't hurt you." (Ignoring that most people are exposed to BPA on an ongoing basis and from several different sources).
  4. My dog bit you, and hurt you, but it wasn't my fault. To be used when other dogs have failed. With this dog you deflect the blame and liability to someone or something else, like: improper use or poor health.

Game Time: The Four Dog Defense in Play

The NRDC report has reviewed the timeline for three different, hazardous, chemicals that have been slated for EPA review for several years. One of the three is formaldehyde which has also been named as a Priority Chemical in Minnesota, putting it on a short list for the worst of the worst toxins that are found in children's products.

The first assessment of formaldehyde was published in 1989. Then, in 1998 the agency initiated an update of the assesment. During that time, science regarding the links between formaldehyde and certain cancers became increasingly available.

The industry's response? Fund more studies specifically targeted to discredit science linking formaldehyde exposure to leukemia, and leverage poltical support to pressure for further delays.

Despite the fact that the National Toxicology Program in 2011 named formaldehyde as a known human carcinogen in its 12th Report on Carcinogens, the EPA assessment is still awaiting completion, 13 years after the initial re-assessment began and more than 20 years after the first assessment was published. All the while, chemical companies continue to manufacture formaldehyde and use it in consumer products, leading to untold cases of illness.

We need to tell the chemical industry that our health isn't a game, and that's why Healthy Legacy supports reforming the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)--the law that has failed to protect us from exposure to toxic chemicals. Visit the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families website to learn more about how the Safe Chemicals Act will fix our broken system.

In the meantime, you can use these tips to reduce your exposure to formaldehyde:

Formaldehyde pictureFormaldehyde is commonly found in textiles, cleaning products, composite wood products and as a chemical byproduct in personal care products. Exposure is linked to cancer and respiratory problems.

  1. Wash new clothes and linens before wearing or using to reduce formaldehyde levels.
  2. When purchasing composite wood products, look for those made for outdoor use which use phenol-formaldehyde (PF), a lower emitting resin than those with urea-formaldehyde (UF).
  3. Avoid personal care products with Quaternium-15; it can release formaldehyde over time.
  4. Purchase cleaning products without formaldehyde or its variants: formalin, methanal, oxymethyline, urea, 1,3-Dioxetane, Quanterium 15, methylaldehyde, methylene oxide, formic aldehyde, oxomethane formalin or phenol formaldehyde.

Download the Healthy Legacy guide Quick Tips to Avoid Toxins: Reducing Exposure to Priority Chemicals in Children’s Products.


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