‘Safe Chemical Act’ to Protect Americans Reintroduced

Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg
WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), the leader in Congress on reforming the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), today reintroduced his “Safe Chemicals Act” to protect Americans from dangerous toxic chemicals that are found in everyday consumer products.
Lautenberg has been working since 2005 to reform TSCA and provide the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with the authority to protect Americans from harmful chemicals.
Testing by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found more than 212 industrial chemicals in Americans’ bodies, including at least six known carcinogens and dozens that are linked to cancer, birth defects, and other diseases.
Many of these chemicals are found in a wide-range of consumer products including cleaners, detergents, furniture, food packaging, electronics, vinyl products, non-stick cookware, and even children’s products. Research has shown that children and pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to toxic chemical exposures.
The “Safe Chemicals Act of 2013” would modernize TSCA to give the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the tools it needs to collect health and safety information, screen chemicals for safety, and require risk management when chemicals cannot be proven safe.
Under current law, the EPA can call for safety testing only after evidence surfaces demonstrating a chemical is dangerous.
As a result, EPA has only been able to require testing for roughly 200 of the more than 84,000 chemicals currently registered in the United States, and has been able to ban only five dangerous substances since TSCA was first enacted in 1976.
These shortfalls led the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to identify TSCA as a “high risk” area of the law in 2009.
The bill introduced today is identical to Lautenberg’s legislation that was approved by the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee last year.
That legislation included a number of significant changes from previous versions of the bill and reflected input from members of the Committee, the chemical industry, and public health officials. The legislation was also informed by a number of Congressional hearings, stakeholder meetings, and principles for reform issued by the EPA, the American Chemistry Council, and the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families Coalition.
The Safe Chemicals Act would:
  • Allow EPA to secure health and safety information for new and existing chemicals, while avoiding duplicative or unnecessary testing.
  • Screen chemicals for safety by prioritizing chemicals based on risk, so that EPA can focus resources on evaluating those most likely to cause harm while working through the backlog of untested existing chemicals.
  • Require risk management of chemicals that cannot be proven safe. This can include labeling, disposal requirements, restricted uses, or even full chemical bans.
  • Establish a public database to catalog the health and safety information submitted by chemical manufacturers and the EPA’s safety determinations, while also protecting trade secrets.
  • Promote innovation and development of safe chemical alternatives.
“American families deserve to know that the chemicals found in everyday products are safe. But because of our broken laws, toxic chemicals that have been linked to cancer and other serious diseases make their way into our homes on a daily basis,” Lautenberg said. “The Safe Chemicals Act will ensure that all chemicals are screened for safety and that unsafe uses of chemicals are banned. It’s time to break away from the chemical industry lobbyists and listen to concerned parents, pediatricians, and nurses who are demanding change. Just like Big Tobacco, the chemical lobby and their allies are working to pad their profits at the expense of the health and well-being of Americans. Now the tide is turning for greater transparency, improved testing and better health protections and we’re determined to pass our bill in this Congress.”
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is joining Lautenberg to lead the push for reform in the 113th Congress. The bill already has the support of more than one-quarter of the U.S. Senate with 27 additional Senators listed as original co-sponsors.
“I was shocked to learn that in most instances, the federal government is unable to require safety testing of the chemicals used in the products my kids use every day,” said Gillibrand, a mother of two young boys. “It’s outrageous that everything from car seats to my son’s dishware could be leaching hormone disrupting or cancer causing chemicals, but the EPA is virtually powerless to regulate them. We need to do better. This legislation will give the EPA the authority to collect the data and study the chemicals in our everyday products and empower consumers with the knowledge they need to keep our families safe.”
In addition to Senators Lautenberg and Gillibrand, the cosponsors of the Safe Chemicals Act of 2013 are Senators Tom Udall (D-NM), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Patty Murray (D-WA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Max Baucus (D-MT), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Al Franken (D-MN), Jon Tester (D-MT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Richard “Mo” Cowan (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and Angus King (I-ME.)
“Almost 40 years have passed since we updated the law that keeps consumers safe from toxic chemicals in household products,” said Udall, Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Superfund, Toxics and Environmental Health. “Families in this country should be able to have faith that our system will protect their children from coming in contact with dangerous toys and products. Frank Lautenberg has been the champion for new and necessary oversight and I am proud to join him in this effort.”
“Generations of Americans have been asked to tolerate exposure to potentially toxic chemicals in everything from their furniture to their clothing,” Assistant Majority Leader Sen. Durbin said. “But powerful industry groups have waged a deceptive marketing campaign that has created a false impression that these chemicals are safe. We need to do more than take the chemical industry at its word. The Safe Chemicals Act will insure all chemicals are tested for safety. Our families deserve to be protected by science, not industry double-talk.”
“This legislation is critical to reforming and improving our nation’s law to protect people, including pregnant women, infants, and children, from dangerous chemicals,” said Sen. Boxer, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW.) “TSCA needs to be modernized to ensure that chemicals used in everyday products are safe for our children and families.”
The Safe Chemicals Act of 2013 is supported by the the National Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, the United Steelworkers, the Blue Green Alliance, the Breast Cancer Fund, and the 450 member Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families Coalition.
The text of the bill can be found here and a full summary of the bill can be found here.

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