The purpose of this hearing is to review the need to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the primary law that regulates chemicals in this country.
TSCA, which was enacted in the 1970s, was intended to protect public health and ensure the safety of chemicals that are found in products we use every day. Unfortunately, this law has proven to lack the tools necessary to act swiftly and effectively when dealing with chemicals with potentially toxic effects.
The weaknesses in the law were highlighted by a 1991 decision, when a court interpreted TSCA to require a complex process to obtain protections from asbestos, despite its obvious health hazards. It is clear that reforms are needed if the public is to have the protections that it deserves.
A good illustration of the critical need to reform our toxics law is the experience with a group of flame retardants, which was intended to protect public safety, but has raised serious concerns about the risk they pose due to the toxic chemicals they contain.
We need to reform TSCA to provide incentives and ensure that the safest chemicals are used in our products so that the American public, including the most vulnerable among us - infants, children, and pregnant women - are protected from toxic substances.
I want to commend Senator Lautenberg for his leadership and hard work to move forward with needed reforms. He has worked tirelessly with stakeholders, including the chemical industry, the public health community, and across the aisle in the Senate, to find common ground in this important effort.
The American people need us to reform TSCA, which is why I support Senator Lautenberg's determination to move a bill from this committee and to broaden the discussion to the Senate floor. We must continue to work to develop consensus on the issue.
I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today. It is time to take action on this public health issue.