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HealthWatch: Children And Chemicals

NEW YORK (CBS 2) -- Pediatricians are worried children are being exposed to potentially dangerous chemicals, Dr. Max Gomez reports.

First, chemical is not necessarily a dirty word. Everything around us is made of chemicals. The problem is that thousands of new chemicals are synthesized each year and according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, they're not being tested to see if they're harmful to children and pregnant women.

Since her daughter was just a baby, Laura Smith has tried to keep chemicals out of her home and away from now three-year-old Cecily.

"I actually read the labels to see what's in it and go to various websites that are known to compare different products and actually try to give you an accurate idea of what's in them," she said.

"Right now anybody can manufacture and market a chemical without any testing that relate to health or environmental impacts," said Dr. Jerome Paulson of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

That's because the current law regulating chemicals called the Toxic Substances Control Act does not require chemical manufacturers to prove their products are safe. They need only report potentially damaging information if it exists.

"We have a law that makes it nearly impossible for the EPA to gather enough evidence to ban a chemical," said Dr. Paulson.

More than 80,000 synthetic chemicals are used in the U.S. in products ranging from flame retardant clothing to skateboards to furniture fabric.

Recently manufacturers have removed a compound called BPA from plastic products including baby bottles.

Children are more vulnerable to chemicals as their bodies develop.  Laura has been mindful of that all along.

"It's a conscientious decision when I have a choice, to use things that I don't think will harm her," she said.

Until the government does a better job of assessing the potential dangers of chemicals, that's a job left up to her.

Chemicals used in pesticides and cosmetics are not regulated under the Toxic Substances Control Act. The EPA regulates pesticides, the FDA regulates cosmetics and medications, but the way the law is worded makes it very difficult for the EPA to gather enough evidence to ban a chemical.

Chemicals aren't like drugs that have to be tested to make sure they're safe before they're put on the market. Only if the chemicals are shown to actually cause harm can the EPA take action to restrict or remove it.

The Academy of Pediatrics wants companies be required to screen new chemicals for toxicity, including on women and kids, before they're allowed to market them.

Are you mindful of chemicals in your home? Let us know below…

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