EWG Welcomes Boxer-Markey Bill To Fix Badly Broken Chemical Safety Law

WASHINGTON – Legislation introduced today by Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Edward Markey, D-Mass., to fix the nation’s badly broken and outdated chemical safety law would be a major step in ensuring that Americans, especially children, are protected from toxic substances, Environmental Working Group said.

The Boxer-Markey bill, titled the Alan Reinstein and Trevor Schaefer Toxic Chemical Protection Act, would correct major weaknesses of the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA. It would ensure that all chemicals be proven to pose a “reasonable certainty of no harm” -- the same standard required for pesticides on produce and food chemicals.

“Americans rightly expect that chemicals in everyday products they use are safe, especially for children who are most vulnerable to toxic exposures,” said EWG president and co-founder Ken Cook. “The Boxer-Markey bill would make sure that the nation’s chemical safety law meets that expectation.”

TSCA has failed to ensure that tens of thousands of widely used toxic chemicals are safe. The 1976 law exempted chemicals already on the market from review and allowed new chemicals to be introduced without complete safety testing.

Since 1976, the EPA has done safety evaluations of only 200 of 60,000 “existing” chemicals in commerce. The law is so weak that EPA was unable to ban asbestos -- a known human carcinogen responsible for killing thousands of people each year.

The Boxer-Markey bill would require rapid review of asbestos and toxic chemicals that are known to be persistent and build up in the human body. The chemical industry would have to share the cost of the federal safety review system.

“We have waited long enough for safety reviews of the most dangerous chemicals to begin,” Cook added. “We should not have to wait even longer for the results.” 

A competing industry-backed bill introduced by Sens. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and David Vitter, R-La., would create a weaker safety standard, give the EPA up to seven years to complete safety reviews and unlimited time to implement chemical restrictions. The Udall-Vitter proposal also would preempt state regulation of chemicals designated as “high priority” by EPA.

“In the absence of a credible federal toxics law, states have led the way to ensure that chemicals are safe,” said Heather White, EWG’s executive director. "To take away that right undermines public health. Congress should instead take advantage of the states’ leadership, expertise and resources to better safeguard children’s health and our environment.” 

EWG is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment.  Our mission is to empower people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Learn more at www.ewg.org.

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