Toxics Action Center
Toxics Action Center


The Problem

We are dependent on tens of thousands of synthetic chemicals that are either known to be toxic to human health and the environment or whose effects on human health and the environment are unknown.

Over 80,000 chemicals are in use in the US — in everything from plastics to building materials, to pesticides, to electronics, and more. These chemicals are not only used in products we use at home but also heavily used at industrial sites, resulting in massive environmental releases and workplace exposure.

While many of these chemicals have long-term, or chronic, impacts, many also have acute toxicity, posing an immediate threat of poisoning, injury or death from high levels of these chemicals.

And this is just what we know. What we don’t know may be the bigger danger. The vast majority of the 80,000+ chemicals on the market are untested and unregulated.

We live in a world of practically universal contamination and exposure to these chemicals.

Products on the market contain a vast array of chemicals with few, if any, requirements to disclose which chemicals are contained in which products. These products may pose threats throughout their life cycle, from manufacture, to use, to disposal.

These chemicals then enter our air, water, and land — about 8 billion pounds of them annually.

Hazardous waste sites are places with high concentrations of this pollution. Among the worst are the 1,4000 sites on the Superfund national priority list. See more about that here.

This exposure leads to ‘body burdens’. The average American carries dozens of industrial chemicals in their body.


Real world effects on health and quality of life are evident and commonplace.

Disease clusters are notoriously controversial investigations because the science of epidemiology protects polluters — we are exposed to not only thousands of chemicals but to other disease causing agents every day so it is nearly impossible to conclusively prove that a given exposure caused a given health effect. Nevertheless, we know that these chemicals are contributing to chronic diseases and other health problems.

Read more about if and how to do a health study in your community here.

“Chemical America” is largely a result of a complete policy failure that assumes all chemicals are safe until proven otherwise. 


The Solution

Strictest Possible Cleanups and Toxic Use Reduction

In order to eliminate the threat that releases of petroleum products and hazardous chemicals pose to human health and the environment, all hazardous waste sites should be cleaned up to the strictest level possible. In order to prevent the creation of new hazardous waste sites, toxic chemicals need to be phased out in favor of safe alternatives.

Toxic Use Reduction Halting the manufacturing of bio-accumulative toxins decreases the amount of harmful chemicals used by industries and sold on store shelves today, thus reducing their impact on health and the environment. By adopting safer technologies companies can reduce hazardous waste to stop exposure at the source. An example is a closed loop system where industries recycle chemicals within their manufacturing process.

Cleaner and safer materials and ways of doing business should be promoted.

See more about the Cancer Free Economy campaign here.

Polluter Pays. Any and all responsible parties to pollution should pay for the cleanup of hazardous waste sites. Any companies that use or handle toxic chemicals should pay a tax to fund future cleanups.

See more about the PFAS regulations coming out of the Bennington contamination crisis here.

Strict Timelines And Precautionary Cleanup Standards. The cleanup of hazardous waste sites should be as quick and as strict as possible to reduce human exposure to toxic chemicals.

Citizen Involvement. Local residents, those most affected by toxic pollution, should be included in the cleanup process. Technical assistance grants should be made available to residents so they can have access to and interpret data and cleanup standards.

Prioritize The Worst Sites. States should prioritize sites that pose the largest risk to public health ensure that there is adequate funding and aggressive deadlines to ensure the worst sites are cleaned up without delay.

Permanent Cleanup Over Temporary Cleanup. When possible, toxic chemicals should be removed from our communities and permanently cleaned up rather than covered over or capped.