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Public Statements

Harkin Co-Sponsors "Safe Chemicals Act" to Protect Americans from Toxic Chemicals in Consumer Products

Press Release

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today co-sponsored the "Safe Chemicals Act," legislation reintroduced by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) to protect Americans from dangerous toxic chemicals that are found in everyday consumer products.

"This legislation will create a comprehensive approach to ensuring that American consumers are safe from toxic chemicals in products that they trust and use every day," said Harkin. "I am proud to join Senator Lautenberg's effort to revitalize the outdated Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and will help keep dangerous toxins out of our household products."

"American families deserve to know that the chemicals found in everyday products are safe. But because of our broken laws, toxic chemicals that have been linked to cancer and other serious diseases make their way into our homes on a daily basis," said Senator Lautenberg. "The Safe Chemicals Act will ensure that all chemicals are screened for safety and that unsafe uses of chemicals are banned. 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."

In addition to Senators Lautenberg and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), the cosponsors of the Safe Chemicals Act of 2013 are 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), 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).

Testing by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found more than 212 industrial chemicals in Americans' bodies, including at least six known carcinogens and dozens that are linked to cancer, birth defects, and other diseases. Many of these chemicals are found in a wide-range of consumer products including cleaners, detergents, furniture, food packaging, electronics, vinyl products, non-stick cookware, and even children's products. Research has shown that children and pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to toxic chemical exposures.

The "Safe Chemicals Act of 2013" would modernize TSCA to give the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the tools it needs to collect health and safety information, screen chemicals for safety, and require risk management when chemicals cannot be proven safe. Under current law, the EPA can call for safety testing only after evidence surfaces demonstrating a chemical is dangerous. As a result, EPA has only been able to require testing for roughly 200 of the more than 84,000 chemicals currently registered in the United States, and has been able to ban only five dangerous substances since TSCA was first enacted in 1976. These shortfalls led the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to identify TSCA as a "high risk" area of the law in 2009.

The bill 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.

The Safe Chemicals Act of 2013 is supported by the the National Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, the United Steelworkers, the Blue Green Alliance, the Breast Cancer Fund, and the 450 member Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families Coalition


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