Star-Tekegram (Fort Worth, Tex.), December 3, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: Many studies now confirm that the average human has been invaded by hundreds of industrial poisons, without anyone's informed consent. This is a major human rights violation, but the chemical industry tries to frame it as a health issue, then declare it insignificant.]

By Scott Streater, Star-Telegram Staff Writer

Below are excerpts from interviews with two senior directors of the American Chemistry Council, an industry trade group: Sarah Brozena and Steve Russell.

Studies have found traces of man-made toxic chemicals in the bodies of pretty much everyone tested. So what?

Sarah Brozena: As you pointed out, these are trace levels. These are tiny levels of compounds which now suddenly we can detect. Until the last five or so years, we were only able to detect a few chemicals. Now we can measure more. Does that mean these chemicals were never there before? No. That's not what it means at all. It means our ability to detect has frankly now exceeded our ability to understand what it means.... And the CDC reports every two years have been very careful to point out that just because you have a chemical in your body doesn't mean it's causing disease. It all relates to the dose or concentration of the chemical.... We think that these levels, for the most part, are very small and not of concern. But we certainly support the science needed to interpret it in a risk context.

Some say we lack good health data on many toxic chemicals used today. Does the Environmental Protection Agency need more money for research?

Brozena: Well, EPA is already... looking at the risk assessment on PFOA [perfluorooctanoic acid]. They're trying to figure out what the levels are that might cause a problem. The EPA has already been working with some of the manufacturers of that compound to make sure that the compound is controlled more, because it was showing up in more places than they thought it ought to. So EPA has the tools they need if they determine that some compounds are at levels that are worrisome. And those tools in the U.S. are all found in the Toxic Substances Control Act.

Chemicals such as flame retardants have improved our quality of life. Is that worth the risk of having low doses of those chemicals in our bodies?

Steve Russell: Unfortunately, folks with an interest in this debate tend to make it black or white or all or nothing. Individuals have different risk tolerances and different abilities to see both sides of the story. Many people are fiercely anti-chemical and therefore view any presence of a chemical negatively and would prefer to not have chemicals there. Others take a more pragmatic approach.... Society is all about making risk trade-offs in every aspect of our lives. Hopefully, this debate can begin to move to a place where risks and the benefits are both portrayed honestly and dispassionately, so that we can make good public policy decisions.

Brozena: Right now we're sort of at a period in time in this "chemicals in our body" issue where it's new information to a lot of people. It's not new to scientists. It's not new, I don't think, to the EPA.... But I think why this issue is getting attention now is that it's a surprise to some people and it's personal. For the first time they're thinking, "I have these in me?" And some people have a very low tolerance for that. We want to find out and make sure that the levels that are in our air, in our water, in our environment, in us, are safe levels. I think we and others are doing what we can to make sure that that's right. We want to make sure that our environment and humans are protected. That's what we're all about.