Our Approach to Toxic Chemicals

There are over 80,000 chemicals in use in US markets, less than 10% of which have undergone even minimal screening by the EPA for the risks they may pose to human health and the environment. These chemicals are widespread in America’s consumer products, in the foods we eat, and in our schools, workplaces and homes. Many industrial and agricultural chemicals are present in our soil, air, and water. As a result, nearly everyone experiences regular exposure to toxics in their daily environment, and our bodies are home to numerous toxic chemical compounds that pose a wide range of short and long-term risks to our health, including cancers, reproductive harm, and neurological and developmental damage.

PSR-LA approaches toxic chemicals through an environmental and reproductive justice lens, working alongside community organizations and within coalitions to protect the health of the populations most vulnerable to the effects of toxics in our daily lives, including women, low-income communities of color, and children.

Significant changes must be made to protect communities from the adverse health impacts of environmental toxics. We must fundamentally change the way we manufacture consumer products, and we need a new regulatory framework that puts public health first in order to protect human health and the environment. Find out more about our programs and coalition work in these areas:

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Chemicals and Reproductive Health

Women in general serve as markers for environmental pollution through reduced fertility, irregular fetal development, and increased rates of cancers, among other illnesses. They also have additional biological factors to consider when exposed to hazardous chemicals – when pregnant, women transfer toxins accumulated over their lifetimes to their fetuses, as well as later on through breast milk. Shifting concentrations of hormones and changes in metabolic rates also increase a women’s susceptibility to exposure to chemical toxins.

Still, women are unknowingly exposed to hazardous chemicals on a daily basis. Many of these hazardous chemicals can be found in cosmetics, personal care products, and household cleaners. A report by the Environmental Working Group revealed that one in every 100 personal care products on the market contains known human carcinogens.

PSR-LA provides education and resources on the links between the environment and reproductive health to women’s health, reproductive justice, and reproductive rights groups. Our goal is create a better understanding of how environmental policies need to address reproductive environmental health hazards.

Children and Toxic Chemicals

Children are particularly vulnerable to all toxic chemical exposures because their organs, nervous systems, and immune systems are still developing, and their higher rates of cell division and lower body weight also increase their susceptibility to chemical exposure. Children tend to have greater contact with environmental contaminants because of personal behaviors such as crawling on floor surfaces and hand-to-mouth habits.

Lead continues to be a serious public health problem in some communities, and many children who have elevated blood lead levels go undetected, untreated and unmanaged. Studies demonstrate that even low blood-lead levels in children are harmful and have long-term health impacts, such as lowered IQ, shortened attention span, decreased coordination, learning disabilities, and neurological development problems. Furthermore, the effects of lead on health do not stop once a child’s brain and nervous system mature or the blood lead level falls. The loss of a few IQ points in the population of children has marked impacts on educational needs and lowered earning potential. Lost lifetime earnings due to lead poisoning in California are estimated at over $10 billion per year.

There is no safe level of lead in blood. The best approach to lead poisoning is to prevent exposure in the first place. Despite great advancements in reducing lead exposure, there continues to be unsafe levels of lead in our air and soil. PSR-LA is currently working to ensure proper cleanup of lead soil contamination in South Los Angeles.