If universal health care were a reality in the United States, would the regulation of harmful products be tighter since the government would have to deal with the long-term health (read: economic) consequences?
I recently attended an author’s talk at The Nation‘s offices on Irving Place for Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What’s At Stake for American Power written by Mark Schapiro. The book looks at the initiatives that have been taken in the European Union since the June 25, 2004 election that unified the countries’ food and drug regulations.
When the EU surpassed the United States as the world’s largest economy, its regulating committee decided to extensively study the role chemicals were playing in cosmetics, automobiles, toys and household items. The result was the discovery of carcinogenic ingredients, as well as chemicals that damage the nervous and reproductive systems, and a “Negative List” of chemicals that are no longer allowed in European cosmetics.
Not only does the US not have a similar list, but because we don’t hold ourselves to EU standards (or even China standards, as China is aligning their production operations with those of Europe), the US has become a dumping ground for toxic products that have been banned in other countries.
Although Shapiro did not explicitly state that the solution is a universal health care system, one has to wonder if the American government would have greater incentive to take preventative measures now if they were assured to pay the long-term consequences later.