Medicine: Rx for Environmental Ills

What can be done to prevent new toxic substances from entering the environment? Answer: screen out dangerous chemical compounds before they are used in products or manufacturing processes. Easier said than done. Some 2 million chemical compounds are known, and an estimated 25,000 new ones are developed every year. Of the total, about 10,000 have significant commercial uses, and most of them are not dangerous. Even so, to test those that might cause birth defects, cancer or other diseases would be time consuming and costly.

Most of the current testing of new compounds is done by manufacturers. If their record is spotty,...

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