20 September 1999 00:00 [Source: ICB Americas]The Chemical Manufacturers Association last week unanimously approved a statement of principles on children's health, reflecting the board of director's view that "protecting the health and well-being of children is a fundamental value the chemical industry shares with society."
The trade group says the principles represent an affirmation of commitments and activities by CMA and its member companies and are designed to guide participation in discussions on children's health with government agencies and other stakeholders.
"The principles reflect both a broader awareness of children's health issues within the industry and a deeper commitment to protecting children--through research, continuous performance improvements achieved as part of the industry's Responsible Care initiative, and industry and government decision-making," says CMA chairman William S. Stavropoulos, who is president and CEO of the Dow Chemical Company.
In April 1998, the Clinton Administration announced plans to establish a program to test chemicals that may pose special risks to children. The chemical industry asked for an opportunity to provide the data voluntarily, rather than being subject to a formal test rule under the Toxic Substances Control Act. In response, the Environmental Protection Agency agreed to design a voluntary testing program "to obtain toxicity data needed to assess the risk of childhood exposure to commercial chemicals."
At a meeting in Washington last week, EPA and a variety of stakeholders began discussing issues related to the design of the program, such as criteria that could be used to select chemicals for testing and the test battery.
Mr. Stavropoulos says the industry will continue to work with domestic and international governments and interested parties to help ensure that future research and other children's health initiatives:
Rely on a scientific foundation for risk-based decision-making by government, industry and other stakeholders;
Focus resources on those issues of greatest concern to children; provide relevant information in a context that policy makers, parents and concerned citizens can understand; and
Build on existing government and industry research and testing programs to ensure global harmonization and mutual acceptance of data to improve corporate and regulatory decision-making.
"Great strides have been made in protecting children's health, but real risks remain," says CMA president Fred Webber. "These risks include accidents, violence, alcohol and drug abuse, tobacco use, nutritional deficiencies, infectious diseases and potential environmental risks."
The chemical industry is currently working with the scientific community, environmental groups and regulatory agencies in the US and abroad on a variety of research and testing initiatives aimed at helping scientists, policy makers and the public better understand the relationship between chemicals and public health.
These initiatives include a multi-year health and environmental effects research program, an investigation into the theory of endocrine disruption, and the testing of high production volume (HPV) chemicals.
Launched earlier this year, the health and environmental effects testing program is designed to "stretch the bounds of current scientific knowledge and aid in the development of improved health and environmental safeguards," says CMA.
The effort targets the following ten areas: exposure assessment, chemical carcinogenesis, risk assessment methodologies, endocrine mechanisms, respiratory toxicology, atmospheric chemistry, immunotoxicity and allergy, neurotoxicity, epidemiology and ecosystem dynamics.
CMA is also working with government and academic scientists in the US, Canada and Europe to help determine whether exposure to small amounts of natural or synthetic chemical compounds can interfere with the endocrine system.
In the US, the industry is working with the EPA on the development of a testing and screening program which should help provide the basis for determining whether certain substances alter endocrine systems and cause adverse health effects.
Outside the US, the chemical industry is working with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on the development of research protocols for screens and tests to identify potential adverse endocrine effects.
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