EDF seeks to safeguard human health by reducing exposure to environmental threats, including toxic chemicals and pollution.
Many serious health conditions have increased over the past several decades, including asthma and other respiratory diseases, diabetes, heart disease, childhood cancers, neurological problems, and reproductive disorders. Research indicates that exposure to toxic chemicals through products, in our food and water, and in the air we breathe contributes to these health risks.
For too long, a badly broken law allowed chemicals into everyday products without being shown to be safe. Finally, in 2016, President Barack Obama signed a new chemical safety law (The Lautenberg Act) into law. Yet, years of inaction mean there's much more work to do to ensure the safety of the tens of thousands of chemicals in use today.
And while the Lautenberg Act covers chemicals in thousands of everyday products, it doesn't address chemicals that you put on or in your body, or certain sources of chemicals in air and water pollution.
There are thousands of manufactured chemicals and chemical pollutants. EDF Health prioritizes our efforts by focusing on those uses of chemicals that, due to weak laws and in some cases weak enforcement, have been largely neglected and, as a result, offer significant opportunity to improve health and safety.
Currently, these priorities include four categories of chemicals:
- Chemicals that fall under the new Lautenberg Act, including those used in many products found where we live, learn, work, and play including everything from household cleaners to computers to furniture to clothing;
- Chemicals allowed in food for preserving, processing, packaging and transporting;
- Chemicals used in personal care products;
- Chemicals in air pollution from mobile and stationary sources, including particulate matter, ozone, and mercury.
EDF also initiated a special project to address lead in drinking water in response to the public health crisis in Flint, Michigan. We do not currently work on pesticides.
Through strengthening our laws and encouraging responsible corporate leadership, EDF works to replace harmful substances and practices with safer alternatives. EDF fought successfully to reform the badly broken federal Toxic Substances Control Act, which had not been updated for 40 years. EDF is working to ensure strong implementation of that new law, as well as to strengthen regulation of chemicals used in food.
EDF also works with corporate partners, like Walmart and other industry leaders, to remove or replace hazardous ingredients with safer alternatives — promoting safer chemical leadership action defined in the Behind the Label initiative.
Reducing lead exposure
In the wake of the Flint, MI water crisis, EDF has renewed its efforts to reduce public, and especially children's, exposure to lead. Despite decades of progress in reducing children's exposure to lead, America continues to have a toxic legacy of lead. EDF is working to promote polices to reduce lead exposure from drinking water and paint, and to accelerate the replacement of aging lead service lines by water utilities and other private and public actors.
EDF is working to ensure that people are protected from exposure to air pollution, which costs Americans tens of thousands of lives and hundreds of thousands of asthma attacks every year. Our work promotes and defends policies, standards, and practices to protect public health from pollution coming from sectors including transportation (ports, cars, and trucks) and energy (including power plants and oil and gas).