Lautenberg Renews Drive to Protect Public from Toxic Chemicals

Washington, D.C. – Legislation introduced today by Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.) would overhaul the way synthetic chemicals are regulated.  Lautenberg’s proposal would for the first time place the burden of proof on chemical companies to ensure the substances they create in the lab are safe for human health and the environment before they are allowed on the market.

“There are few people in public life today who have done more to protect human health, particularly the health of children, than Senator Lautenberg,” said Ken Cook, president and co-founder of Environmental Working Group. “And no one in Congress has done as much to try to keep kids safe from the dangers of toxic chemicals. His legislation would do much to prevent potentially dangerous substances from making their way into consumer goods that we, and our children, contact daily.” 

The Safe Chemicals Act of 2013 would revamp the federal Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, the weakest environmental law on the books.  This law has allowed more than 80,000 chemicals to be grandfathered in or fast-tracked through the loophole-riddled approval process at the Environmental Protection Agency, with little or no safety testing. 

Key provisions of the Lautenberg bill would:

  •  Ensure that all chemicals on the market are evaluated against a safety standard of “reasonable certainty of no harm,” the gold standard for protecting people, especially children. 
  •  Require manufacturers to justify all claims of “business confidentiality,” currently invoked to deny the public full disclosure of chemicals, safety tests and other essential data.
  • Ensure that first responders and other public safety personnel have access to important safety information in cases of chemical spills and fires.
  • Require that new chemicals be screened before going on the marketplace.
  •  Protect states’ ability to pass safety laws even stronger than federal regulations.

“Toxic chemicals associated with cancer, neurological problems, infertility, asthma and heart disease, among other serious disorders, shouldn’t be ingredients in products children use,” Cook said. “From toys, personal care and cleaning products, to food packaging and household electronics and furniture, we’re surrounded by thousands of untested or under-tested chemicals. The Safe Chemicals Act would begin to clean up this mess and start protecting kids’ health.”

Lautenberg, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that oversees the EPA, originally introduced this legislation, then called the Kid-Safe Chemicals Act, in 2005.  He has re-introduced similar proposals in every Congressional session.   Last year for the first time, his panel completed drafting this legislation and reported it out to the Senate floor for further consideration.

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