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Lautenberg Assumes Powerful Committee Position With Oversight of Toxic Chemicals

For Immediate Release: 
Thursday, February 12, 2009

WASHINGTON, February 12, 2009 – Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, D-NJ, one of the U.S. Senate’s most influential advocates for children’s health has assumed the chair of the Environment and Public Works subcommittee charged with overseeing the regulation of chemicals to which Americans are exposed in their air, food, water and environment.

“Every day, consumers rely on household products that contain thousands of chemicals. The American public expects the federal government do all it can to ensure these chemicals are safe before they reach the market,” said Senator Lautenberg, who plans to reintroduce the Kid-Safe Chemicals Act, an overhaul of current toxic chemical controls, in the near future. “We already have strong regulations for pesticides and pharmaceuticals—it’s common sense that we do the same for chemicals that end up in the household items we use every day.”

“We could not find a stronger advocate to take the reins of this important subcommittee,” said Environmental Working Group (EWG) co-founder and President Ken Cook. “With the author of the Kid-Safe Chemicals Act in charge of the committee that will move to reform the failed federal toxics program, the goal of reducing young children’s exposure to harmful chemicals is in sight.”

As chair of the Superfund, Toxics and Environmental Health subcommittee, Lautenberg will be responsible for overseeing the Superfund and Brownfields programs, environmental justice issues and regulations under the Toxic Substances Control Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act.

Lautenberg has won major legislative victories promoting health and the environment, among them:

  • Banning smoking on airlines.
  • National drinking age limit of 21 and tighter blood alcohol standard. Safety advocates, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), credit Lautenberg with saving more than 20,000 lives since becoming law.
  • Firearms ban for persons convicted of domestic violence, a law that has prevented 150,000 gun sales.

"Senator Lautenberg has always put this country’s children first,” said Cook. “We look forward in helping him fundamentally change the way the chemical industry operates. There are 80,000 chemicals in commerce today, very few of them tested for hazards to human health. Senator Lautenberg’s work is vital to reducing exposures to chemicals that may linked to a number of very serious conditions such as childhood cancer, asthma, autism, learning deficits, infertility and reproductive disorders.”

EWG research has found that pollution begins in the womb. EWG laboratory tests have found an average of 200 chemicals in the umbilical cord blood of 10 newborns.

This research shows that at the critical time when a child is developing, the umbilical cord is carrying industrial chemicals, pollutants and pesticides.

EWG’s policy priority is to help build support for the Kid-Safe Chemicals Act, whose aim is to close the loopholes that have enabled chemical manufacturers to evade meaningful product testing. The act would require chemical makers to show that their products are safe for children before they go on the market.

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EWG is a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, DC that uses the power of information to protect human health and the environment.

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