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Hearing of the Environment and the Economy Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee - Chemicals in Commerce Act


Location: Washington, DC

Today the Subcommittee examines a new proposal to amend the Toxic Substances Control Act.

According to the National Cancer Institute, researchers have estimated that as many as two in three cases of cancer are linked to some type of environmental factor. Half of these cancer cases are linked to tobacco and diet, but toxic chemicals are also an important cause.

The President's Cancer Panel found that reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act is "critically needed" to reduce the incidence and burden of cancer in this country.

The Centers for Disease Control conducts biomonitoring in order to understand when chemicals end up in humans' bodies. CDC has found that chemical exposures are ubiquitous. For example, according to the Centers' most recent data, 75% of people tested have the commonly used chemical triclosan in their bodies. That chemical has been shown to interfere with hormone levels in animals.

The CDC also found five different "PBDEs" in more than 60% of participants. These chemicals have been linked to serious health concerns, including rising autism rates. And these chemicals are showing up in the bodies of Americans at levels three to ten times higher than found in European populations.

This is an issue we must get right. Unfortunately, this bill would take us in the wrong direction. Letters of opposition have poured in. It has been called a "gross disappointment" and a "wish list tailored to ensure regulatory inaction."

If enacted, this proposal would weaken current law and endanger public health. That's why I cannot support the bill in its current form.

For years, the public health, labor, and environmental communities have worked to improve EPA's ability to require testing of chemicals under TSCA. But this draft would restrict existing testing authority, so that EPA could only require testing in a limited set of circumstances.

On top of that, the catch-22 of current law would remain. The agency would be required to identify risk before being authorized to test for risk. This is the roadblock that has stymied the agency for years.

When new chemicals are brought to market, the draft creates new exemptions for industry and applies new procedural requirements to limit EPA action.
For existing chemicals, the draft would arbitrarily limit what risks EPA can consider in assessing safety.

And for dangerous chemicals, EPA would be blocked from taking action unless alternatives are already available.

On preemption, the draft goes well beyond even the Senate bill, which has been rightfully criticized for preempting essential state-level protections.

The current law is not working. The suffering and uncertainty we saw in West Virginia when hazardous chemicals spilled into the water supply has demonstrated the need for a more effective TSCA.

That's why I want to work with Chairman Shimkus and Chairman Upton on TSCA reform.

I am a realist. I know House Democrats can't pass a TSCA bill without Republican support. But I also believe that House Republicans cannot enact a law without the support of House Democrats.

There's a lot of work that needs to be done to get a bill we can all support, but I am committed to making this effort. I hope we pay close attention to the testimony today and then renew our efforts to find common ground.

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