In a similar display of regulatory overreach, California s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) is revising the rules of a bill signed two years ago by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that allows the state to regulate toxic chemicals in consumer products. Not everyone agrees with the revisions, however environmentalists argue that the implementation of the plan is moving at a sluggish pace while manufacturers say the regulations are too inclusive, defining anything bought, sold or leased as a consumer product. The DTSC has maintained that it will initially only focus on personal care and cleaning products and products marketed to children under the age of 12.
Let s start with the basics: What exactly does the DTSC even consider a toxin? asks ACSH's Dr. Elizabeth Whelan. We know that everything can technically be called a toxin only the dose determines whether it poses any harm or not.
John Ulrich, executive director for the Chemical Industry Council of California, observes that the proposed list of hazardous chemical traits include everything from carcinogens to skin irritants.
But according to Joseph H. Guth, a scientist at the Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry and one of the proponents of the new bill, this is a big project for society.
Yes, a big project indeed that will have no beneficial public health effect, says Dr. Whelan.
The new regulations remind Dr. Ross of California s Proposition 65 Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, which requires the governor to publish, at least annually, a list of chemicals known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. ACSH has a publication on this topic that is 10 years old, but it could easily be updated by just simply changing the date since the conclusions it draws are as applicable today as they were back then, says ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross. While creating a whole new industry of bounty-hunter lawyers, Prop. 65 has added nothing to California s public health, nor to the environment.
Meantime, chemophobia continues to rear its ugly head in California as Gov. Schwarzenegger declared San Bernardino County to be in a state of emergency Saturday after higher levels of perchlorate were found in the drinking water supply for the city of Barstow.
Dr. Whelan points out that she s never read a news article that doesn t mention that perchlorate is a chemical used to make rocket fuel and explosives.
What perchlorate is used to manufacture is irrelevant, agrees ACSH s Dr. Josh Bloom. Such a descriptor is completely misleading and is only referenced to horrify the reader.
The amount of the chemical measured was three to four times higher than the state limit, but as Dr. Ross is quick to point out, the amount of perchlorate in the water supply cannot possibly be a health risk for anyone adults, mothers, children and fetuses included. Recalling his own clinical practice of internal medicine and his testimony on this subject twice in California in 2001 Dr. Ross says that while it is true that too much perchlorate can cause thyroid dysfunction and lead to cretinism in the infants of exposed pregnant women, what we re talking about is a level of exposure that is at least 10,000 times higher than the ones observed in Barstow.
Fearful residents have stocked up on bottled water, and local hospitals are draining their ice machines as an added precaution although the city s health department says that showering is still permitted.
As long as you keep your mouth closed, quips Dr. Whelan.