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Welcome to PSR's Environmental Health Policy Institute, where we ask questions -- then we ask the experts to answer them. Join us as physicians, health professionals, and environmental health experts share their ideas, inspiration, and analysis about toxic chemicals and environmental health policy.

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CSIA Doesn’t Do the Job

By Jeanne Rizzo, RN, for Breast Cancer Fund

We now have thirty-seven years of proof that the nation’s chemical law, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) has failed us, and miserably so. Of the 84,000-plus chemicals on the TSCA inventory, only five have been restricted or banned. In fact, TSCA makes it so difficult to regulate a chemical that the EPA has not even been able to ban asbestos, a well-established human carcinogen. We are only just beginning to fully understand the public health implications of widespread use of unregulated toxic chemicals.

Look at breast cancer: Today one in eight women in the United States will be diagnosed in her lifetime. That’s a 40 percent increase since TSCA’s passage. We know that only five to ten percent of breast cancers can be traced back to inherited genetic factors, and a volcano of scientific studies points to environmental causes, including chemical exposure.

The Chemical Safety Improvement Act (S. 1009), bipartisan legislation introduced to fix TSCA, fails to provide the EPA the necessary tools to protect people from toxic chemicals linked to disease and ensure the health of future generations. The Breast Cancer Fund urges the Senate to strengthen the bill by ensuring it will:

  1. Protect the most vulnerable among us, including pregnant women, children, workers and communities disproportionately endangered by chemical exposures.
  2. Respect the right of states to protect their residents if the federal government fails to do so or is slow to act.
  3. Allow for the EPA to take fast action on the worst chemicals.
  4. Require chemical manufacturers to provide adequate data to demonstrate chemicals are safe before they are allowed to enter the marketplace.
  5. Require that the public has access to information regarding the safety of chemicals.

By addressing these key issues, the legislation has the potential to enhance chemical safety and indeed improve the lives of Americans.  Anything less is not a meaningful reform of a deeply flawed system.

We have to take seriously our new knowledge, emerging science, and the growing consensus that TSCA must be reformed. Among the myriad of voices calling for TSCA reform are three major federal reports written in the last two years. Specifically, we urge the bill sponsors to read a February 2013 federal advisory committee report, entitled Breast Cancer and the Environment, Prioritizing Prevention, that finds that identifying and eliminating environmental causes of breast cancer, which kills 40,000 women every year, is the best opportunity to reduce incidence of the disease. Among its key recommendations, the committee called for reform of TSCA, including establishing safety standards that protect human health, requiring safety reviews of new chemicals by manufacturers, and taking action on chemicals known or found to be toxic. The CSIA does not give the EPA adequate authority to meet any of these requirements.

It is clearly time for Congress to act. And we agree that chemical policy reform is an area ripe for bipartisan agreement, but bipartisanship cannot come at the expense of meaningful reform. We cannot support legislation that will continue to allow children and pregnant women to be expose to hazardous chemicals found in everything from couches to cleaning products.

The Breast Cancer Fund is committed to strengthening this legislation into a bill that we can support. Our constituents, located in every state of the country, are being mobilized. We’ll work for them and for the millions of people who for many years have raised their voices to say that we will no longer accept ingesting, inhaling and absorbing toxic chemicals as the price of living in the modern world—that our government has the responsibility to protect us. Our health is simply too precious to risk.

Comments

Catherine campbell said ..

excellent thank you very much

December 10, 2013

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