We Need a Rational Policy on Chemical Safety

To commemorate World Environmental Health Day this year and its focus on children’s environment and health, CHE is publishing a series of short essays from partners who are leaders in children’s environmental health.

written by Philip J. Landrigan, MD, MSc, FAAP
CHE Partner and Chair of CHE’s Science Advisory Committee

Children’s health and the environment is a most fitting topic for World Environmental Health Day 2015. Children are the most vulnerable among us to degradation of the environment. Any actions that we take to protect infants and children against health threats in the environment will protect not only children, but will also safeguard all of us and preserve the health and well-being of future generations.

Toxic chemicals are a particularly serious threat to children’s health. More than 80,000 new synthetic chemicals have been invented in the past 50 years. These chemicals are found in thousands of products that we use every day. They have become widespread in the earth’s environment. They are routinely detected in the bodies of all Americans in annual surveys conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And time and time again synthetic chemicals that we carelessly incorporated into consumer products with no premarket safety testing have been found to cause disease in children—cancer, birth defects, learning disabilities, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and impairment of the reproductive organs.

Our government’s failure to mandate rigorous safety testing of chemicals before they come to market is a national and international scandal and a grave threat to the health of children. We as a society need urgently to develop a rational policy on chemical safety, a policy that is founded on a strictly enforced requirement that all chemicals in commerce be tested for safety before they come to market.

On this World Environmental Health Day of 2015 let us reaffirm our commitment to preserve the health of our children and the well-being of future generations by protecting them against toxic chemicals in our environment.


Dr. Landrigan has been a member of the faculty of Mount Sinai School of Medicine since 1985 and served as Chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine from 1990 until July 2015. He is also professor of Pediatrics at Mount Sinai. He was named Dean for Global Health in 2010.

CHE will be hosting a telephone conversation with Dr. Landrigan on September 29th. The call is open to the public.

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