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House TSCA bill won't stem the tide of chronic diseases
Kathy Attar, MPH
June 8, 2015
The U.S. House Committee on Energy & Commerce recently passed the "TSCA Modernization Act of 2015," which seeks to update how we regulate toxic chemicals in the U.S. The bill was introduced by Reps. John Shimkus (R-IL), Paul Tonko (D-NY), Fred Upton and Frank Pallone (D-NJ).
Will this legislation help to slow the rise of chronic diseases we are currently experiencing in the U.S.? The CDC reported in 2014 that about one child in 68 is identified as having Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). CDC's ASD estimate is about 30% higher than the estimate for 2008, roughly 60% higher than the estimate for 2006, and approximately 120% higher than the estimates for 2002 and 2000.
My six-year-old daughter has a cousin who is a year older and has an ASD. When they were toddlers their development progressed in similar patterns, but as they grow older their social and behavioral development is diverging - which is heart-breaking. The cousin is smart, warm and caring. She has an aide who helps her navigate the school day. Most likely she will need assistance in the classroom, and elsewhere, for the rest of her life.
Does the House bill do enough to stem the tide of diseases like ASD that are linked to environmental toxins? No. Industry interests still trump public health.
Key issues with the bill remain, including:
- Requires EPA to conduct a risk evaluation of a chemical substance if the manufacturer of the substance requests that EPA do so. This provision could lead to EPA focusing much of its efforts on industry-initiated evaluations instead of on chemicals that pose the most risk to public health.
- Any restrictions imposed on a chemical deemed unsafe must be "cost-effective." This language is ambiguous and could lead to years of litigation before chemicals EPA has already proven to be unsafe could be taken off the market.
- Several parts of the proposal direct how EPA should consider scientific evidence and would set limits on what studies the agency can rely upon in assessing the safety of chemicals. EPA should have access to the best available science and adhere to the recommendations of the National Academies when it undertakes chemical assessments.
- The bill keeps the same standard for judicial review that TSCA has – "substantial evidence" – which played a role in the failed attempt to ban asbestos.
- The bill prohibits any state from regulating a chemical substance if EPA has determined that the chemical does not present an unreasonable risk of injury under its intended conditions of use. If EPA issues a rule restricting a chemical, a state cannot impose any additional restrictions on the substance or mixture, including any restrictions on products containing the substance or mixture. This "preemption" clause would apply to both new and existing state chemical regulations.
The House bill is scheduled to be considered by the full U.S. House before the end of June. Our representatives need to hear from us that their work is not done. We need real, health-protective chemical reform that will slow the tide of chronic diseases in our communities. Call your representatives today: 202-224-3121.