Chemical Reform Law Falls Short in Protecting Public Health, Environment

Washington, D.C. – Environmental Working Group issued the following statement ahead of expected passage today by the House on H.R.3576, the TSCA Modernization Act of 2016.

EWG President Ken Cook:

Passage of the first legislation to regulate toxic industrial chemicals in 40 years ought to be cause for celebration, and it is—for the companies that make those toxic chemicals.

As for the rest of us, we should be mad as hell.

Despite the best efforts of many lawmakers to redeem legislation that originated in the c-suites of the chemical industry, on balance the law Congress will send to the president’s desk continues to place chemical company interests above the public interest.

The public deserves a law strong enough to curb the abuses of an industry that clearly cannot be trusted. The toxic products of America’s chemical companies show up by the hundreds in the bodies of the American people, including babies still in the womb. Thousands of cities, school systems and water utilities nationwide are forced to clean up, or live with, water, air and toxic buildings rendered unsafe by the chemical industry’s hazardous products.

This is an industry that routinely poisons its own workers and the very communities in which it operates, and just as routinely lies about it.

EWG fears this law will do too little to protect us from chemicals that cause cancer and nervous system disorders, impaired fertility, immune system dysfunction and a host of other problems.

Chemical companies have long ago lost the confidence of the American people, and this law will only fuel that mistrust. Because this law will not strongly and urgently address the problem of toxic chemical exposure, increasingly consumers will act to protect themselves. They will continue to reject products that contain unsafe chemicals; and manufacturers and retailers that listen to consumers will reformulate or reject those products.

Indeed, more unsafe chemicals may be “regulated by retail” in the years ahead, and regulated faster and more stringently, than will be regulated by this legislation.

Instead of raising confidence about the safety of chemicals and the products that contain them, this law will raise doubts—an outcome no one should be celebrating.

From EWG’s VP for Government Affairs, Scott Faber:

Few public health laws are as broken as the Toxic Substances Control Act. While the legislation being considered by the House makes improvements to the worst environmental law on the books, it does not go far enough or fast enough to protect Americans from dangerous chemicals. In particular, the bill does not provide EPA with the resources or clear legal authority to quickly review and, if needed, ban dangerous chemicals linked to cancer and other serious health problems. Thanks to the leadership of key legislators, including Sens. Barbara Boxer, Ed Markey, Jeff Merkley, Sheldon Whitehouse and Cory Booker, and Reps. Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, Frank Pallone and Paul Tonko, the bill headed to the House floor includes important reforms. We are grateful for their tireless efforts on behalf of consumers and the environment.

In particular, new chemicals can no longer enter commerce until proven safe, EPA can demand basic data about chemicals, and trade secret claims must be justified. But, these modest reforms say as much about how broken the current law has been as they do about the virtues of the bill headed to the House floor today. While we hope that the EPA will move quickly to review, regulate and ban dangerous chemicals, we know it will largely continue to be the responsibility of consumers and responsible companies to drive the worst of the worst chemicals out of our homes, schools and businesses.  As such, this bill will not only fall short of the reasonable expectations of many Americans, but will also fail to provide the chemical industry the certainty its leaders claim to seek.

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