Today, U.S. Senators Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) applauded the release of a new report from the non-partisan U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) demonstrating the need for their "Safe Chemicals Act of 2013." The report finds that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is severely limited in its ability to protect Americans from toxic chemicals due to flaws in the existing Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The Safe Chemicals Act of 2013, which was introduced by Sen. Lautenberg and Sen. Gillibrand earlier this year, would reform TSCA to give the 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.
"This report makes it clear that the EPA's hands are tied when it comes to protecting Americans from toxic chemicals found in everyday consumer products. Despite EPA's best intentions and efforts, the agency lacks the necessary authority to quickly collect health and safety data or take actions when serious risks are identified. My Safe Chemicals Act would reform our broken chemical laws and give the EPA the tools it needs to protect public health," said Lautenberg.
"This new report demonstrates the federal government needs the ability to require safety testing of the chemicals used in common household products," said Senator Gillibrand, a mother of two young boys. "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."
Under current law, the EPA is severely limited in its ability to require safety testing for chemicals or limit harmful uses of toxic chemicals. 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 GAO to identify TSCA as a "high risk" area of the law in 2009.
In 2009, EPA initiated a new approach under TSCA to improve chemical safety, including new chemical risk assessments, expanded efforts to collect data on chemicals, and new regulatory actions to limit harmful new uses of specific chemicals. However, the GAO found that despite EPA's goal of increasing the safety of chemicals, the underlying flaws with TSCA undermine EPA's ability to collect health and safety data and pursue regulatory actions to address risk. The Safe Chemicals Act of 2013 would reform TSCA to give EPA the tools it needs to adequately protect public health from toxic chemicals.
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.