The true potential impact of harmful chemical, biological, mineral and radiological agents on human health and the environment, often unknown or poorly enumerated, should be reflected in all decisions regarding the approval of such potentially harmful agents as accurately as possible. The general tenets of the "precautionary principle" should be reflected in our decisions about the potential risks from new and existing technologies. This reordering of priorities and reassignment of the burden of proof should include an emphasis on "green chemistry", harm prevention, a universal review of all potentially harmful agents now in use, and an emphasis on developing materials and products to produce less hazard from their inception and through the total lifecycle of that material.
An important mechanism for a more rational and evenhanded review of all risk from chemical agents, in particular, is the ongoing effort to amend and strengthen the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976. This reform needs to be pursued, applied to all chemicals in use (not just new chemicals seeking EPA approval). sheltered from political manipulation by parties with conflicting interests (corporations), and properly funded on a stable and long-term basis. Furthermore, it should be a goal of any TSCA reform effort to establish a framework for risk characterization of new and existing chemicals that is consistent with the European Union (EU) [standards] and the protective regulatory policies established by the EU should represent maximum allowable exposure standards within the US. It is also critical that state and federal governments fund research into environmental health effects in order to determine whether the estimated risks currently used to determine regulatory status are, indeed, accurate.