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Archaic Laws Still Protect Businesses (Not Consumers) from Sketchy Chemicals

There's a piece in the Washington Post that should be required reading for anyone who cares about their health, and the health of the world around them. It's about how the chemical industry is able to operate without much oversight at all, protected by trade secret laws that prevent them from having to publicly disclose (or even not-publicly disclose, in some cases) their ingredients.This is problematic for rather obvious reasons. More than anything, though, it forces us to put an awful lot of trust in companies that are not accountable to us, or to public health agencies. A hypothetical: Let's say company X makes a floor cleaner. Chances are good that a handful of the chemicals used in said floor cleaner are not made by the company selling you the finished product. Does that company know what's in the ingredients they purchase from a third party chemical manufacturer? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Do they know whether or not that ingredient is safe? Almost certainly not. If you want to know if it's safe, can you find out? Almost never.So that was hypothetical. Here's a real life example that's even scarier:"Two days [after treating a guy involved in a chemical spill], the nurse, Cathy Behr, was fighting for her life. Her liver was failing and her lungs were filling with fluid. Behr said her doctors diagnosed chemical poisoning and called the manufacturer, Weatherford International, to find out what she might have been exposed to.Weatherford provided safety information, including hazards, for the chemical, known as ZetaFlow. But because ZetaFlow has confidential status, the information did not include all of its ingredients."The laws are in place to protect business, not consumers-we're expected to just go on faith that everything will be okay in the end. This year, though, those laws will be up for review, so here's hoping pressure from the GAO and the Obama administration push things in the right direction.

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