The more we learn about toxic chemicals, the more we realize that they are everywhere. Toxic chemicals are in our air, water and soil, and in our bodies. Some toxic chemicals pose an immediate health threat. Others gradually build up in the environment and in our bodies, causing disease long after we are first exposed.
The risk from toxic chemicals doesn't begin with a leaking drum of hazardous waste. It begins when we make products that contain toxic chemicals. Much of the pollution that enters our environment comes from the small but steady releases of toxic chemicals contained in everyday products such as the brakes on our cars, flame retardants in our furniture, softeners in plastics, and metals in roofing materials.
Copper is toxic to fish, including salmon. Most of the copper entering Puget Sound, however, does not come from permitted wastewater discharges. Instead, it comes from everyday products like pesticides, plumbing pipes and brake pads. Much of the toxic pollution affecting our health and our environment also comes from ordinary products each of us use every day.
In Washington, hundreds of businesses and facilities are required to follow regulations to safely manage their used toxic chemicals. However, the toxic chemicals found in the everyday products used by Washington's 6.7 million residents are largely unregulated, yet make up the largest source of toxic pollution.
Some toxic chemicals impair development, some affect reproduction, some disrupt our body chemistry, and some cause cancer (Washington State Department of Health). Of the tens of thousands of chemicals in use today, few have been tested for their effects on human health. And we know even less about the combined effects of all these chemicals. This lack of knowledge makes it hard for us to protect ourselves, and especially our children, who are at greatest risk.
The Governor's Plan
In 2015, Governor Jay Inslee is proposing a comprehensive toxics reduction initiative to deal with toxics entering the environment from everyday sources. As part of his plan to update Washington's water quality standards to comply with the federal Clean Water Act, Gov. Inslee is proposing new legislation and additional funding for existing efforts to tackle these widespread toxics.
The toxics reduction initiative will allow Washington to address the most problematic chemicals, find safer alternatives when possible, and devote more resources to preventing pollution and monitoring the health of our environment.
This approach builds on Washington's well-established system for developing chemical action plans, and will bring together stakeholders to recommend actions to reduce or eliminate use of priority toxic chemicals.
Image courtesy of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
What Ecology Is Doing About It
Ecology’s Reducing Toxic Threats initiative is focused on identifying priority toxic chemicals and developing plans to reduce or eliminate their use, or to mitigate their impacts on people and the environment.
Children are especially vulnerable to the effects of toxic chemicals.
Inadequate protections at the federal level also pose a challenge. Ecology supports strong policy at all levels to protect people and the environment from toxic chemicals.
HOMES, CONSUMERS, COMMUNITIES
What You Can Do | Environmental Chemicals and Children | Toxic Free Tips | Fish Advisories | Recycling | E-Cycle Washington | LightRecycle Washington | Outdoor burning | Integrated Pest Management | Dirt Alert! | Clean cars
TEACHERS, STUDENTS, SCHOOLS
CHEMICALS & SUBSTANCES
Chemicals and Hazards A-Z | Chemicals of Concern | Arsenic and lead | Asbestos | Bisphenol A (BPA) | Diesel exhaust | Dioxins | Lead | Mercury | Flame Retardants | Persistent, Bioaccumulative Toxics (PBTs) | Phosphates/Phosphorus | Medicinal and Pharmaceutical Waste | Sediment Phthalates
PROJECTS, INITIATIVES, PROGRAMS AT ECOLOGY
Beyond Waste | Children's Safe Product Act | Local Source Control Program | Chemical Action Plans | Stormwater and Runoff | Reducing Toxic Chemicals in Fish, Sediments, and Water | Sustainability | Green Chemistry | Toxics in Packaging | Urban Waters Initiative
Copyright © Washington State Department of Ecology. See http://www.ecy.wa.gov/copyright.html.