As the European Union and other nations worldwide have begun to tighten their environmental standards, manufacturers have begun to use America as a dumping ground for consumer goods that fail to meet other nations' standards for toxic chemical content.
Manufacturers ship wood, toys, electronics, pesticides and cosmetics to the United States containing substances that are banned or restricted elsewhere because they raise the risk of cancer or cause reproductive or neurological damage.
Unlike the European Union, which uses a "precautionary principle" that prescribes protective steps whenever there is scientific evidence of risks to public health or the environment, the U.S. EPA relies on voluntary steps from the industries themselves.
The EPA has not attempted to ban any industrial compounds since its unsuccessful attempt to ban asbestos nearly two decades ago.
Products legal to sell in the United States but not in Europe include toys and nail polishes made with solvents called phthalates, which are reproductive toxins; herbicides and insecticides, including atrazine, endosulfan and aldicarb; and electronic items such as Palm's Treo 650 smart phone and Apple's iSight camera, which contain lead components.