From Green Right Now Reports
U.S. Senators today introduced the Safe Chemicals Act, designed to require stricter screening of chemicals to assess their safety before they’re approved for public use.
The SCA also would give the EPA more authority to go after chemicals that have been linked to cancer and other health conditions.
This sounds so logical, you probably thought we already had such a law. We did, we do, have a law. But it has come to be known as a lax and ineffective law, a sieve for allowing thousands chemicals to stream onto the market place. This existing law, The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), was passed by Congress in 1976 and in a nutshell, it requires little oversight of chemicals, unless they been proven to be dangerous.
This new law flips that logic, essentially, and asks that chemicals be shown to be safe before they are unleashed on the public. It will also give the EPA more tools to deal with existing chemicals, such as flame retardants, Bisphenol A and others suspected of hurting human health.
U.S. Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) are the lead sponsors of the bill, which has 27 co-sponsors.
Lautenberg, who’s been working on this topic for years, said that Americans, who now carry a variety of chemicals in their bodies, deserve better protection.
“The Safe Chemicals Act will ensure that all chemicals are screened for safety and that unsafe uses of chemicals are banned,” Lautenberg said in a statement.
“It’s time to break away from the chemical industry lobbyists and listen to concerned parents, pediatricians, and nurses who are demanding change. Just like Big Tobacco, the chemical lobby and their allies are working to pad their profits at the expense of the health and well-being of Americans. Now the tide is turning for greater transparency, improved testing and better health protections and we’re determined to pass our bill in this Congress.”
Said Gillibrand, who has two young boys:
“I was shocked to learn that in most instances, the federal government is unable to require safety testing of the chemicals used in the products my kids use every day.
“It’s outrageous that everything from car seats to my son’s dishware could be leaching hormone disrupting or cancer causing chemicals, but the EPA is virtually powerless to regulate them. We need to do better. This legislation will give the EPA the authority to collect the data and study the chemicals in our everyday products and empower consumers with the knowledge they need to keep our families safe.”
The act will take aim at chemicals in common use that studies have linked to cancer, fertility issues and child development issues.
Studies by the Centers for Disease Control have found that Americans test positive for having 212 chemicals in their bodies, including some known carcinogens and others that pose special risks to fetuses.
The American Chemistry Council responded to the introduction of the Safe Chemicals Act with a statement from ACC President and CEO Cal Dooley that was variously gracious and bristling. The industry group agreed that the current law needs modernizing, Dooley said, but would prefer a different measure being prepared by Sen. David Vitter (D-LA).
The ACC expects that Vitter’s bill would “improve safety and promote public confidence in our nation’s chemicals management system, while also enabling U.S. industries to innovate and compete in the global economy,” Dooley said.
Chemical manufacturers support the concept of providing “robust information” about their products to the EPA in a “transparent manner,” he said, but warned that the process should also protect the intellectual property of chemical manufacturers and jobs and innovation for American consumers.
Supporters of the Safe Chemicals Act include the National Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, the United Steelworkers, the Blue Green Alliance, the Breast Cancer Fund, and 450 individual and organization members of the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families Coalition.
“Americans across the political spectrum have woken up to the fact that unregulated toxic chemicals get into their homes and their bodies,” said Andy Igrejas, executive director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families. “It is uniformly unnerving. The Safe Chemicals Act would establish common sense limits on these chemicals that are broadly popular [the limits, not the chemicals] and long overdue.”
According to Lautenberg’s office, the Safe Chemicals Act, which has been revised from earlier versions, would:
- Allow EPA to secure health and safety information for new and existing chemicals, while avoiding duplicative or unnecessary testing.
- Screen chemicals for safety by prioritizing chemicals based on risk, so that EPA can focus resources on evaluating those most likely to cause harm while working through the backlog of untested existing chemicals.
- Require risk management of chemicals that cannot be proven safe. This can include labeling, disposal requirements, restricted uses, or even full chemical bans.
- Establish a public database to catalog the health and safety information submitted by chemical manufacturers and the EPA’s safety determinations, while also protecting trade secrets.
- Promote innovation and development of safe chemical alternatives.
This may sound a lot like what EPA does already, but the Safe Chemicals Act of 2013 aims to make risk assessments easier for the agency, and give it more authority to stop unsafe chemicals before they are distributed and incorporated into household and industrial products. It’s a little difficult to decipher exactly how many teeth the new bill would have. The previous one is widely considered to have been toothless.
Under TSCA, the existing law, the EPA’s ability to protect human health and the environment from harmful chemicals was “severely limited,” according to a summary of the bill put out by the senators’ offices.
“…These legal restrictions are so burdensome that, of the more than 84,000 chemicals on the inventory, EPA has been able to require health and safety testing of about 200, and banned only five, since TSCA was first enacted in 1976.
Under the new law, EPA will be able to use “a wide range” of approaches from requiring warning labels up through stopping the manufacture of toxic chemicals, when there is “broad agreement that the chemical poses a serious health risk.”
Senators who’ve signed on to the legislation include: Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Patty Murray (D-WA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Tom Udall (D-NM), Max Baucus (D-MT), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Al Franken (D-MN), Jon Tester (D-MT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Richard “Mo” Cowan (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and Angus King (I-ME).