According to Ian Urbina of The New York Times, while most people assume that the chemical ingredients found in shampoos, detergents and "other consumer products" are harmless, none of them have actually been thoroughly tested and "proved to be safe."
Currently this burden rests almost entirely on the federal government. Companies have to alert the Environmental Protection Agency before manufacturing or importing new chemicals. But then it is the E.P.A.s job to review academic or industry data, or use computer modeling, to determine whether a new chemical poses risks. Companies are not required to provide any safety data when they notify the agency about a new chemical, and they rarely do it voluntarily, although the E.P.A. can later request data if it can show there is a potential risk. If the E.P.A. does not take steps to block the new chemical within 90 days or suspend review until a company provides any requested data, the chemical is by default given a green light.
The law puts federal authorities in a bind. Its the worst kind of Catch-22, said Dr. Richard Denison, senior scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund. Under this law, the E.P.A. cant even require testing to determine whether a risk exists without first showing a risk is likely.
As a result, the overwhelming majority of chemicals in use today have never been independently tested for safety.
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