Readers Respond

Protect children from toxic chemicals

While delighted to learn from Michael Hawthorne's article ("Pediatricians Seek Change in Lax Toxic Chemicals Law," April 25) that the American Academy of Pediatrics has joined a national campaign to revise the 1976 Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA), such reform is long overdue. The current TSCA regulatory system especially fails to protect our children, who face higher risks of exposure to toxic chemicals.

Because of TSCA, the "innocent until proven guilty" status quo of assessing chemical safety implies that some level of bodily damage, if not an outright tragedy, must occur before chemicals are declared unsafe. Until strict regulation prior to chemicals' introduction in the market is in place, consumers are at the mercy of manufacturers who face little incentive to regulate what they produce. Parents can only do so much to minimize their children's exposure to toxic chemicals, especially when safety data are unavailable for over 80,000 chemicals currently on the market.

Too often, history tells of how tragedy serves as the main catalyst for long-awaited reform. On Feb. 25, 2007, 12-year-old Deamonte Driver from Prince George's County died from a treatable tooth infection that spread to his brain. His death fueled statewide expansions of dental coverage for low-income families.

Congress should not wait around and allow our vulnerable children to become victims of a flawed, outdated chemical regulatory system before any major reform is undertaken. Congress should welcome reform so as to not fail our children the way Maryland failed Deamonte Driver.

Tina H. Park, Baltimore

The writer is a master's degree candidate at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.