Toxics Across America

Tracking billions of pounds of toxic chemicals in the U.S. economy

A 2014 report by EDF, Toxics Across America [PDF], tallies billions of pounds of chemicals in the American marketplace that are known or strongly suspected to cause increasingly common disorders, including certain cancers, developmental disabilities, and infertility.

Our report looks at 120 chemicals that have been identified by multiple federal, state and international officials as known or suspected health hazards. Using the latest, albeit limited, data collected by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, we identify which of these chemicals are in commerce in the U.S.; in what amounts they are being made; which companies are producing or importing them; where they are being produced or imported; and how they are being used.

An interactive online map accompanying the report lets the user access the report’s data and search by chemical, company, state, and location.

Among the report’s key findings:

  • At least 81 of the chemicals on the list are produced or imported to the US annually in amounts of one million pounds or more.
  • At least 14 exceed one billion pounds produced or imported annually, including carcinogens such as formaldehyde and benzene, and the endocrine disruptor bisphenol A (BPA).
  • More than 90 chemicals on the list are found in consumer and commercial products. At least eight are used in children’s products.

Most Americans assume that somebody is regulating these chemicals to make sure we’re safe. In fact, thanks to gaping loopholes in federal law, officials are virtually powerless to limit even chemicals — such as those featured in our report — we know or have good reason to suspect are dangerous. Because none of us has the power to avoid them on our own, we need stronger safeguards that protect us from the biggest risks and give companies that use these chemicals a reason to look for better alternatives.

The good news is that Congress is working on bipartisan legislation that — if done right — would require greater evidence of safety for both chemicals already in use and new chemicals before they enter the market. And by driving development of and access to more chemical safety data, it would give not only government but also product makers and consumers much more of the information they need to identify and avoid dangerous chemicals, and strengthen incentives to develop safer alternatives.

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