U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) today applauded the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for initiating risk assessments on 20 flame retardants and three other chemicals found in everyday consumer products. Today's announcement follows a letter sent last month by Lautenberg and 22 of his Senate colleagues urging the EPA to conduct further evaluations of flame retardant chemicals found in household products. Senator Lautenberg is the leader in Congress on reforming the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and providing the EPA with the authority to protect Americans from harmful chemicals, including toxic flame retardants.
"The evidence is building that flame retardants are threatening the health of our children and families in their own homes, and I am proud to see the EPA taking steps to better evaluate the risks from these substances. Unfortunately, the EPA remains severely limited under existing law and is unable to fully address the risks revealed by its assessments," said Lautenberg. "We must reform our broken chemical laws if we ever hope to truly protect American families from dangerous chemicals. We will continue working to pass new laws to ensure that every chemical that comes into contact with a child has been proven safe."
The EPA announced today that it will conduct risk assessments on 20 flame retardant chemicals, as well as 1,4 dioxane; 1-Bromopropane; and Octamethylcyclotetrasiloxane. Recent studies have found toxic flame retardant chemicals in a number of everyday household products, such as couches, mattresses, and even children's products such as nap mats and cribs. The chemical 1,4 dioxane is found in laundry detergents and is a suspected carcinogen. In January, Proctor & Gamble agreed in a California court to significantly reduce the levels of 1,4 dioxane in its detergents Tide and Tide Free & Gentle.
Scientific research has shown that a number of flame retardant chemicals are toxic and are linked to cancer, as well as various neurological and developmental diseases. While these chemicals are purported to make products more flame resistant, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has found that most do not provide any significant protection against the risk of fires in most cases.
The EPA's risk assessments are carried out under the agency's limited authority in TSCA. Under current law, the EPA can call for safety testing only after evidence surfaces demonstrating a chemical is dangerous. As a result, EPA has been able to require testing for roughly 200 of the more than 80,000 chemicals currently registered in the United States, and has been able to ban only five dangerous substances. These shortfalls led the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to identify TSCA as a "high risk" area of the law in 2009.
Lautenberg plans to reintroduce TSCA reform legislation in the coming weeks. Lautenberg has been working to reform TSCA since 2005, and his Safe Chemicals Act was approved by the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee last year.