U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), the leader in Congress on reforming the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) today reintroduced the "Safe Chemicals Act" to protect Americans from dangerous toxic chemicals that are found in everyday consumer products. Senators Lautenberg and Gillibrand have been working to reform TSCA and provide the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with the authority to protect Americans from harmful chemicals. The Senators are leading the push for reform in the 113th Congress. The bill already has the support of more than one-quarter of the U.S. Senate with 27 additional Senators listed as original co-sponsors.
"I was shocked to learn that in most instances, the federal government is unable to require safety testing of the chemicals used in the products my kids use every day," 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."
In addition to Senators Lautenberg and Gillibrand, the cosponsors of the Safe Chemicals Act of 2013 are Senators 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), Tom Harkin (D-IA), 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 introduced today is identical to Lautenberg's legislation that was approved by the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee last year. That legislation included a number of significant changes from previous versions of the bill and reflected input from members of the Committee, the chemical industry, and public health officials. The legislation was also informed by a number of Congressional hearings, stakeholder meetings, and principles for reform issued by the EPA, the American Chemistry Council, and the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families Coalition.
The Safe Chemicals Act 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.