Behind the Scenes at the Safe Chemicals Act Legislative Hearing
Molly Rauch, MPH
November 24, 2011
Last week I wrote about the
legislative hearing in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee of
the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011. At the hearing, Senator Lautenberg (D-NJ) said
that he would be calling for a committee vote in the near future.
Lautenberg issued a rational,
simple plea for bipartisan cooperation. “If you’ve a problem with anything in
this bill, discuss it today, or commit to proposing a solution.” Such a
rational discussion, alas, did not follow. But some exciting and some
encouraging things did. So this week I’m sharing some more detail about what
did happen at the Safe Chemicals Act Legislative Hearing:
Babies worked the line outside the hearing room
What a great sight: two babies
crawled and toddled up and down the shiny hallway outside the Senate
Environment and Public Works Committee hearing room. Their committed moms
brought them to the hearing to show how important meaningful reform of the
Toxics Substances Control Act is to their babies’ health. I applaud both those
moms, and the hundreds upon hundreds more who watched, listened, facebooked,
and tweeted from afar.
Republicans warm up
to chemical policy reform
Republicans have not generally been warm to the prospect of
chemical policy reform. But at the hearing last week, Senator Inhofe (R-OK) introduced
some encouraging sentiments. “It’s time to bring this 35-year-old statute into
the 20th century, but it has to be done right. And this is a good start.” We agree. Thank you, Senator. Senator
Crapo (R-ID) was also constructive and helpful during the hearing. He pointed
out that in this toxic political environment (his words, not mine!), “this
committee works well together.” He said the committee was working to “find
common ground and build consensus.” That sounded like music to my ears. In the
wake of the hearing, their spirit of collaboration seemed to be contagious.
This week, both of Maine’s Republican Senators expressed
support for reform of our federal chemicals management policy. Although
neither Collins nor Snowe is on the Senate Environment and Public Works
Committee, their interest in this issue is important to moving the bill
Is 35 years really
Charlotte Brody, Director of Chemicals, Public Health, and
Green Chemistry for the BlueGreen
Alliance and a registered nurse, was one of the witnesses at the hearing.
She explained that she started practicing as a nurse around the time that TSCA
was passed in 1976. Since that time, TSCA has never been updated. “If I
practiced nursing the same way I did then, I would be in prison for gross
negligence and malpractice.” It was a very powerful reminder that, yes, 35
really is too old when it comes to an environmental health statute.
How to defeat
During the hearing, Senator Cardin (D-MD) excoriated the
American Chemistry Council’s Cal Dooley. The ACC has claimed to be
wholeheartedly in support of TSCA reform, but it objects to most of the
provisions in the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 (as it did to the provisions of
the Safe Chemicals Act of 2010). Cardin begged Dooley to help craft something
the ACC could stand behind. “Give us specific recommendations!” Cardin
exclaimed. “You need to respond point by point so we can sit down here. But if
your objective is to defeat the legislation, then I understand what you’re
doing.” Dooley denied that was his intention, but Cardin’s point seemed to
subdue the chemical industry representative.
How to increase
Americans’ body burdens
Senator Udall (D-NM) also had some strong words for Dooley.
As evidence of a failing system, he pointed to the CDC’s regular biomonitoring
of Americans, which has revealed that hundreds of industrial chemicals are in
the bloodstream of most Americans. “Are you advocating,” he asked Dooley, “for
our body burden to go up?” After some tense back and forth, Dooley responded:
“I take offense when you insinuate that our industry would be advocating that.”
Udall calmly replied: “That’s where we’re heading right now. You know that.
You’re advocating for that.”
Some things you can do:
Call your Senator. Tell him or her that you are a
constituent and that you have your eye on this important event.
- Ask your Senator to stand
up for the health of Americans by supporting reform of the outdated Toxics
Substances Control Act. If he or she is one of the 12 co-sponsors of the Safe Chemicals Act, say thank
you! If he or she is not, ask him or her to take this important step.
- Tweet your Senator to tell him or her what you think of
the hearing, and how you feel about chemicals in consumer products.
Onward, TSCA reform!
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