Chemical Reform Bill Creates Long Overdue Changes for Public Protection

Legislation Expands Right to Know About Chemicals Potential Health Effects, Requires Industry to Prove Chemicals are Safe

WASHINGTON (April 15, 2010) -- Chemical companies will have to disclose more information about the chemicals they produce, including the environmental and health effects, and will be required to prove that their chemicals are safe to remain on the market, based on legislation introduced in the House and Senate today.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg, (D-N.J.), introduced the Safe Chemicals Act in the Senate, and Rep.  Bobby Rush, (D-Ill.) and Rep. Henry Waxman, (D-Calif.), introduced the Toxic Chemicals Safety Act of 2010,  “discussion draft” of chemical protection reform legislation in the House.

Under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the Environmental Protection Agency has only required testing of about 200 of the 62,000 chemicals on the market when the law was enacted in 1976, and has partially regulated only five. The bills make changes to the law to regulate not only the chemical that existed then but the 22,000 chemicals that have been added to the market during the last 34 years.

The existing chemical control law has failed to protect the public from exposure to unsafe and untested chemicals and today’s legislation is a much-anticipated step toward creating a healthier environment, according to experts at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The bills expand the public’s right to know about the health and safety effects of most chemicals, require chemicals to meet a safety standard that protects children and other particularly vulnerable populations, and put the burden on the chemical industry to prove that its products are safe. The legislation also requires EPA to develop action plans to reduce unsafe chemicals in communities disproportionately exposed to toxic pollution.

The following is a statement from Daniel Rosenberg, Senior Attorney in NRDC’s Health and Environment Program:

“Changing the existing law would make a significant difference in peoples’ lives by reducing daily exposure to toxic chemicals.

“These bills provide an excellent starting place to strengthen EPA’s authority to protect the public. If this legislation fulfills its promise, we can hope to see a decline in cancer, learning and developmental disabilities, infertility and other disease associated with exposure to these chemicals. Reducing such health problems will improve and lengthen lives as well as reduce the costs of healthcare.

“Many people assume the protections these bills create already exist, but they don’t and they are long overdue. Both bills will need some strengthening to ensure that the promise of meaningful reform is fulfilled and we will work with lawmakers to make that happen.”

As the legislation moves forward in the House and Senate, NRDC will work to ensure that under the revised law EPA:

  • will incorporate recent recommendations by the National Academy of Sciences into its  evaluation of the safety of chemicals;
  • will take fast action to phase out or reduce the use of the worst toxic chemicals, including those that persist in the environment and that build up in the food chain and in our bodies;
  • will not allow new chemicals into the market -- or into homes -- before they have been determined to be safe.

Click here to find more information about the need for chemical protection reform.
For more detail on the two bills, read Daniel’s blog: Toward a Non-Toxic Earth Day.