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Autism Group Interested in Safe Chemicals Act

January 3, 2012

BALTIMORE - Just because they're commonly used, doesn't mean they're safe. A new push is expected this month for Congress to consider the Safe Chemicals Act, which would require that chemicals be safety-tested before they are used in products.

Donna Ferullo, director of research programs for the Autism Society of America, says research has shown some chemicals found in cleaning products and other consumer goods have links to cancer and infertility. While genetics are linked to many developmental disabilities, Ferullo points to the dramatic rise in the incidence of autism in the United States in recent decades as evidence that environmental influences need closer scrutiny.

"Because environmental toxins seem to be a theme in neuro-developmental injury, we're trying to limit those factors and give little brains a chance to grow in a healthy environment."

Ferullo says there is emerging science showing ways that toxic chemicals are possibly linked to harm beyond the developing brain.

"It's a factor in learning and intellectual disabilities and many other things like breast cancer, prostate cancer, fertility, earlier onset of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's and more chronic brain diseases. It's a concern throughout the lifespan."

She says 85,000 new chemicals have been introduced in the last 15 years, and only 200 have been tested for potential human harm. While some opponents acknowledge that current chemical standards need to be updated, they're expressing concerns over possible effects of the bill's provisions on the country's manufacturing base.

New Jersey's Senator Frank Lautenberg introduced the bill, with co-sponsors listed in Rhode Island, Vermont and Connecticut.

The Safe Chemicals Act:

Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MD