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Legislative Summary

On July 22nd, 2010, Congressmen Bobby Rush (D-IL) and Henry Waxman (D-CA), introduced the “Toxic Chemicals Safety Act of 2010”—a follow-up to a similar bill introduced in the Senate in April 2010 (see below). The bill would overhaul the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, which has done little to regulate chemicals in consumer products, including those linked to cancer and other health problems. The House legislation would heavily increase public health protections from toxic chemicals.

Some aspects of the bill include:

  • Requiring the chemical industry to demonstrate that a chemical is safe, as opposed to relying on the EPA to prove a chemical is unsafe.
  • Requiring chemicals to meet a health standard before they are allowed on the market.
  • Requiring chemical manufacturers to provide basic health and safety information for all chemicals, as a condition for being allowed to remain on the market.
  • Requiring the EPA to rely on the National Academy of Sciences’ recommendations to incorporate the latest science in chemical safety determinations.
  • Requiring the EPA to identify and restrict persistent, bioaccumulative toxins.

On April 15, 2010, Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced the “Safe Chemicals Act of 2010” to amend and update TSCA. The bill needs strengthening before enactment in order to truly protect public health. As currently drafted: 

  • The Safe Chemicals Act would allow hundreds of new chemicals to enter the market and be used in products for many years without first requiring them to be shown to be safe. We think a health-protective bill must include pre-market testing requirements -- the “no data, no market” principle.
  • The Act would not provide clear authority for EPA to immediately restrict production and use of the most dangerous chemicals, even persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT) chemicals, which already have been extensively studied and are restricted by governments around the world. As the Washington Toxics Coalition put it, “The legislation doesn’t require a ban on chemicals that we know pose serious health and environmental threats, not even chemicals that are found in newborn babies (persistent, bioaccumulative, or toxic or PBTs).”
  • The Act would not require EPA to adopt the National Academy of Sciences’ recommendations to incorporate the best and latest science when determining the safety of chemicals, although the Senate bill does call on EPA to consider those recommendations.

Some of the positive aspects of the bill include:

  • Requiring chemical companies to develop and make publicly available basic health and safety information for all chemicals.
  • Requiring chemicals to meet a safety standard that protects vulnerable sub-populations, including pregnant women and children.
  • A new program to identify communities that are “hot spots” for toxic chemicals and to take action to reduce exposures.
  • Expediting safety determinations and actions to restrict some of the most notorious chemicals, like formaldehyde, vinyl chloride, and flame retardants.

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