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Chemicals Law Overhaul Proposed in House

For Immediate Release: 
Friday, July 23, 2010

WASHINGTON, DC – Congressional leaders today introduced in the House the first comprehensive overhaul in more than 30 years of a federal law that has been widely condemned for failing to protect Americans against the risks of toxic chemicals.

The legislation filed by Reps. Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.) and Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) to reform the Ford-era federal Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) would fundamentally change the process by which chemicals – current and future – are cleared for use.

The Toxic Chemicals Safety Act (H.R. 5820) would make a number of significant changes in the current approach to chemical regulation, including:

• Establishing a framework to ensure that all chemicals to which the American people are exposed are reviewed for safety and restricted where necessary to protect public health and the environment.

• Requiring the chemical industry to develop and provide to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) essential safety data, and improving EPA’s authority to compel safety testing where necessary.

• Ensuring that non-confidential information about chemicals submitted to EPA is readily available to the public and that critical confidential information is shared among regulators, state officials and workers in the industry.

• Establishing an expedited process enabling EPA to reduce exposure to chemicals that are known to be persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic.

• Promoting research to advance understanding of children’s vulnerability to the harms of chemicals.

Environmental Working Group (EWG) has documented through two landmark reports that chemical contamination among people begins in the womb where the developing fetus is, largely due to the failed federal law, exposed to hundreds of industrial pollutants.

“Not as much as a speed bump dots the current regulatory path that toxic chemicals travel to get on the market, in products and ultimately into people.” said EWG president Ken Cook. “The House plan, along with legislation introduced earlier this year in the Senate, will finally bring some order to the free-wheeling, ‘wild west’ approach industry has enjoyed for more than 30 years, sending thousands of chemicals through the EPA’s toothless review program faster than a bullet through a barrel.”

Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced his proposal for reform, titled the Safe Chemicals Act, in April. The House and Senate bills are similar in their approach to overhauling TSCA and both place the burden on industry to prove that a chemical is safe before it can be used.

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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.