For decades, chemical company Dupont hid evidence of the serious health effects of PFOA (a key ingredient of Teflon until recently), while continuing to pollute a rural area with chemical waste. As the New York Times Magazine reports, one lawyer's epic 15-year-legal battle finally made Dupont accountable. And the industry has phased out PFOA, which can cause birth defects and cancerous tumors in lab animals.
But many similar chemicals are still perfectly legal and are used in products and present in our environment, because of a 1976 law which prevents the EPA from testing chemicals until it has already been provided evidence they're harmful. As the Times explains:
This arrangement, which largely allows chemical companies to regulate themselves, is the reason that the E.P.A. has restricted only five chemicals, out of tens of thousands on the market, in the last 40 years.
Now, the Senate and House have both passed similar bills that would make it much harder for companies to hide evidence of harmful effects of the chemicals they produce. A New York Times editorial calls for those bills to be combined and passed. See below for links to both pieces.