Descriptions of Data Appearing in Chemical Profiles
Human Health Hazards
Exposure to toxic chemicals can cause any of several negative effects on human health, such as cancer or birth defects. Scorecard highlights the specific health hazards that each particular chemical poses. Twelve separate categories of
are covered. Some chemicals are widely recognized to be hazardous, while others are only suspected, so Scorecard always distinguishes between "recognized" and "suspected" health threats.
Toxic chemicals can pose threats in many ways. How bad a particular chemical is depends on whether you are most concerned about its effects on humans, or its persistence in the environment, its damaging effects on ecosystems, or another factor. Scorecard shows how a chemical stacks up comparatively under different
. It then spotlights the chemicals that are most dangerous to human health and to the environment.
Chemical Use Profile
Why is industry using a toxic chemical in the first place? Scorecard uses official U.S. EPA information to tell you what each chemical is used for in various industries. If a chemical contributes to indoor air pollution, Scorecard points out the types of consumer products it may be found in. It also tells you if a chemical is one of the most widespread chemicals in commercial use (that is, an industrial chemical with annual U.S. production of more than one million pounds).
Profile of Releases and Waste Generation by Industrial Sector
What types of industries are responsible for releasing a particular chemical to the environment or for generating the greatest amount of chemical waste? Based on company reports to the EPA
Toxics Release Inventory
, Scorecard shows you the manufacturing sectors that release the largest quantities of a particular chemical or that generate the largest quantities as production-related waste.
Is government doing anything to control a toxic chemical? Scorecard tells you if a chemical is covered by federal environmental laws, or by California state laws (because California has unusually effective and innovative laws such as Proposition 65). It also tells you what chemicals are major environmental hazards because they damage the ozone layer, contribute to global warming, or persist in the environment.
Basic Testing to Identify Chemical Hazards
If an industrial chemical is allowed by law to be released into the environment, most people assume that it must have been tested and evaluated for its potential risks. Unfortunately, this is simply not true. Keeping chemical hazards under control requires information about what kinds of hazards each chemical poses. If the basic tests to check on a chemical's toxicity haven't been conducted, or if the results aren't publicly available, current laws tend to treat that chemical as if it were perfectly safe. For the chemicals being used in large quantities, Scorecard tells you whether or not eight basic types of tests for health and ecological effects have actually been conducted, based on the public record.
Information Needed for Safety Assessment
Could government assess a chemical's safety or risk?
For most of the important industrial chemicals in U.S. commerce, government lacks the information to draw any scientifically based conclusion about the degree of risk--or lack of risk--that a chemical may pose when used. For every chemical in the database, Scorecard tells you whether or not
the information needed to assess chemical risk
is available. If it isn't, no one can accurately claim the chemical is "safe."
The key information for assessing a chemical's risk.
To be able to assess the risk or safety of a chemical being released into the environment, two different kinds of information are needed: how toxic the chemical is, and how much people are actually being exposed to the chemical. For each chemical, Scorecard tells you whether or not there are
risk assessment values
(measuring its toxicity) available from the U.S. EPA or other authoritative scientific and regulatory agencies, and if so, what the values are. Scorecard also tells you whether information about human
to the chemical is being collected by national monitoring programs. Scorecard also directs you to sources of information about chemical contamination in your area.
To make it easier to get more information on the hazards posed by a particular chemical, Scorecard points you to other web sites that provide publicly accessible fact sheets and other detailed technical information on chemicals. If there is a major toxicological profile of a chemical available online, it is rarely more than a click away.
Scorecard tracks the classes that chemicals belong to and tells you which chemicals are members of which class. If you can't find something about one specific chemical, Scorecard can lead you to related chemicals for which more information may be available.
Other Web Sites
Scorecard provides links to other database-backed web sites for further online research into chemical hazards.
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