In an article published on December 15, 2016 by the newspaper The Washington Post, Joseph Allan, assistant professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, U.S., discusses the replacement of hazardous chemicals and the phenomenon of “regrettable substitution.” Allan highlights how the “replacement of one harmful chemical by another equally or more harmful” has become common practice over the past forty years and is “a never-ending game being played with our health.” Prominent cases are the replacement of bisphenol A (BPA, CAS 80-05-7) with bisphenol S (BPS, CAS 80-09-1), dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT, CAS 50-29-3) with organophosphate pesticides, and polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs) with polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). “Some have compared the practice to a big game of whack-a-mole: Every time one chemical is knocked out, another takes its place,” Allan writes. In most cases, the unwanted chemicals and their replacements are structurally similar, but “just different enough that they are treated as distinct from a regulatory and market standpoint,” he further explains.
Allan sees the root of the problem in U.S. chemicals policy, where chemicals used in products are “innocent until proven guilty,” i.e. they are assumed to be safe and not tested for health safety before they are allowed on the market. He notes that even under the recently updated U.S. chemicals regulation, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) (FPF reported), “it could take decades to evaluate the 80,000 chemicals already in commerce that have yet to be tested.”
Joseph Allan (December 15, 2016). “Stop playing whack-a-mole with hazardous chemicals.” The Washington Post