Making Chemicals Safe for Kids: Senate Panel Will Examine ‘Broken’ Toxics Law
WASHINGTON – The nation's toxic chemical regulatory law is broken and fails completely to protect children and other Americans from exposure to dangerous industrial compounds, experts will tell a Senate oversight committee today.
At a hearing of the Environment and Public Works Committee, Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) will hear testimony about the failures of EPA to protect children from toxics chemicals. The Toxic Substances Control Act, TSCA, enacted over 30 years ago and never amended, is widely regarded as the weakest of all federal environmental laws. The answer is the Kid-Safe Chemicals Act of Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA), a member and the chair of the committee. Reps. Hilda Solis and Henry Waxman, both California Democrats, have introduced identical legislation in the House.
TSCA grandfathered in 62,000 chemicals already on the market as safe for use, even though there was little or no scientific data to support this policy. Since that time another 20,000 chemicals have been put on the market, also with little or no safety data.
Hundreds of these chemicals are now found in the bodies of Americans, including babies in the womb. Laboratory tests by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) have found an average of 200 industrial chemicals in the umbilical cord blood of 10 babies – many of the chemicals linked to serious and potentially irreversible health problems.
“All of us are now polluted with hundreds of industrial chemicals, and government regulators are basically powerless to stop it,” said Environmental Working Group Executive Director Richard Wiles.
Kid-Safe would force the chemical industry to prove with scientific testing that chemicals are safe for children before they can be used in consumer products. Kid-Safe would establish a rigorous safety standard for all chemicals to which children are exposed.
“Children are born pre-polluted and the chemical industry can’t be trusted to fix the problem,” Wiles said. “Congress needs to step in now and force the industry to prove to parents that the chemicals in everyday products – everything from infant formula containers to baby bottles and toys – are free of dangerous toxins that could pose health risks to children.”
Wiles said the nation is at a tipping point, where the pollution in people is increasingly associated with a range of serious diseases and conditions from childhood cancer, to autism, ADHD, learning deficits, infertility and birth defects. Yet even as our knowledge about the link between chemical exposure and human disease grows, the government has almost no authority to protect people from even the most hazardous chemicals on the market.
Under current law, the EPA must prove a chemical is dangerous to take it off the market. Kid-Safe legislation reverses the burden of proof and puts it where it belongs, with industry, to prove that chemicals are safe in order to get on the market or stay on the market.
“For over three decades, the public’s health has taken a back seat to chemical industry profits,” said Wiles. “Sen. Lautenberg, Chairman Boxer and Rep. Solis and Chairman Waxman are showing great courage in taking on the chemical industry.”
EWG is a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, DC that uses the power of information to protect human health and the environment.