A bill introduced today by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Representatives Hilda Solis and Henry Waxman (both D-CA) would overhaul chemical regulation in the United States, forcing the chemical industry to demonstrate the safety of a chemical product before approving it for use in products.
The Kid Safe Chemical Act would require chemical manufacturers to provide health and safety information on chemicals used in products like baby bottles and food wrapping instead of presuming a substance is safe until proven dangerous. Testing by the Environmental Working Group has found 455 chemicals in people.
“For years the chemical industry has worn the pants in its relationship with EPA. This bill would give the agency the power it needs to keep our bodies free from dangerous chemicals,” said Ben Dunham, associate legislative counsel and environmental health policy analyst with Earthjustice. “Each day we learn more about the link between the chemicals found in our bodies and conditions like autism, childhood cancer, and learning deficits. The Kid Safe Chemicals Act requires companies to test these chemicals and prove them safe.”
Today’s legislation represents the first effort in more than 30 years to protect public health through comprehensive chemical policy reform. The legislation would supplant the severely deficient regulation currently on the books — the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) — which was passed in 1976. In the years since, the Environmental Protection Agency has used the law to evaluate the safety of just 200 out of 80,000 chemicals, and has banned only five. The current law is so weak that EPA was unable to use it to ban even asbestos — responsible for killing some 10,000 people each year.
The legislation introduced today would reform these and other failings of the current law in the following ways:
- Requires basic data on industrial chemicals. Chemical companies must demonstrate the safety of their products, backed up with credible evidence. Chemicals that lack minimum data could not be legally manufactured in or imported into the United States.
- Places the burden on industry to demonstrate safety. EPA must systematically review whether industry has met this burden of proof for all industrial chemicals within 15 years of adoption, even sooner for priority chemicals.
- Restrict the use of dangerous chemicals found in newborn babies. Hazardous chemicals detected in human cord blood would be immediately targeted for restrictions on their use.
- Use new scientific evidence to protect health. EPA must consider and is authorized to require additional testing as new science and new testing methods emerge, including for health effects at low doses or during fetal or infant development
- Establish national program to assess human exposure. The federal government’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is to expand existing analysis of pollutants in people to help identify chemicals that threaten the health of children, workers, or other vulnerable populations.
- Expand the public right to know on toxic chemicals. New, internet-accessible public database on chemical hazards and uses will inform companies, communities, and consumers. EPA is to rein in excessive industry claims of confidentiality.
- Invest in long-term solutions. New funding and incentives are provided for development of safer alternatives and technical assistance in “green chemistry.”
“We thank Senator Lautenberg and Representatives Solis and Waxman for their leadership on this issue,” Dunham added. “Their legislation will fill one of the biggest existing gaps in environmental laws today and will place the burden where it belongs: on chemical companies.”