Reducing Toxic Threats photo identifier

Reducing Toxic Threats

Reducing Toxic Threats photo banner, photo courtesy of Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition / Technical Advisory Group

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.

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.

We have good scientific evidence linking environmental exposures to effects on our health and the health of our children. Cancer, asthma, learning disabilities, and other illnesses have been linked to these exposures, and the incidence of many other health problems is also on the rise. We spend billions of dollars annually on the treatment of illnesses caused by environmental pollutants. The best way to prevent these problems is a preventive framework that requires reasonable measures to show that chemicals are safe before they are allowed into widespread commerce.

What Ecology Is Doing About It

Ecology has three ways to reduce toxic threats. We can:

  • Prevent toxic chemicals from being used in the first place. Averting toxic exposures and avoiding future costs is the smartest, cheapest and healthiest approach.
  • Assist businesses to reduce or manage the amount of toxic chemicals that enter the environment.
  • Clean up after toxics have polluted air, land or water. These are needed but costly solutions to avoidable contamination.

Ecology’s initiative to Reduce Toxic Threats is focusing more and more on prevention strategies.

  • Reducing use of toxic substances in products: Manufacturers usually do not include cleanup or disposal costs when they make product design decisions. As a result, costs for cleanup and disposal often fall upon the taxpayer. The use of fewer toxic chemicals in products is the surest way to avoid these problems. But in many cases, it is cheaper in the short term for producers to keep using these chemicals.
  • Preventing toxic substances from entering stormwater: Stormwater is rain and snow melt that runs off surfaces such as rooftops, paved streets, highways, and parking lots. As water runs off these surfaces, it can pick up pollution such as: oil, fertilizers, pesticides, soil, trash, and animal waste. From here, the water might flow directly into a local stream, bay, or lake. Or, it may go into a storm drain and continue through storm pipes until it is released untreated into a local waterway.

A lack of data can be a challenge in reducing toxic threats. Ecology is working to strengthen our ability to gather data on the presence of toxic chemicals in products and the environment.

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.


What You Can Do | Environmental Chemicals and Children | Toxic Free Tips | Fish Advisories | Recycling | E-Cycle Washington | Outdoor burning | Integrated Pest Management | Dirt Alert! | Clean cars


Managing Toxics & Assisting Business | Dangerous Waste | Pollution Prevention | Environmental Permit Assistance | Stormwater: Permits and Assistance | Environmentally Preferable Purchasing


Kid’s Recycling Page | Just for Kids | Safer Schools and Children | Soil Safety Program | Environmentally Preferable Purchasing | Sustainable School Awards | Hazards on the Homefront


Chemicals and Hazards A-Z | Chemicals of Concern | Arsenic and lead | Asbestos | Bisphenol A (BPA) | Diesel exhaust | Dioxins | Lead | Mercury | Flame Retardants (PBDEs) | Persistent, Bioaccumulative Toxics (PBTs) | Phosphates/Phosphorus | Medicinal and Pharmaceutical Waste | Sediment Phthalates


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

Reducing Toxic Threats photo banner, photo courtesy of Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition / Technical Advisory Group


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