Top Problems with New House Chemical Proposal

Consumers rightly expect that the chemicals used in everyday products are safe. But draft legislation released by three members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce falls far short of what’s needed to evaluate and regulate potentially dangerous chemicals. Simply put, this new draft would fail to ensure that chemicals are safe, fail to set tough deadlines for action, fail to move quickly to review and regulate the most dangerous chemicals, and fail to provide the federal Environmental Protection Agency with adequate resources.

Read the letter EWG submitted to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce opposing the discussion draft of the "TSCA Modernization Act."

Here are the top problems with this new draft:

  • Chemicals Still Not Safe – Toxic industrial chemicals that end up in people’s bodies, and even contaminate babies before they are born, should be at least as safe as pesticides. However, the new draft would retain the weaker “no unreasonable risk of harm” standard, rather than the “reasonable certainty of no harm” standard applied to pesticides on produce and food additives. 
  • Costs May Still Trump Health – The new draft is, at best, ambiguous about whether and when the EPA must consider costs and benefits when determining how to regulate risky chemicals. While one section seems to exclude consideration of costs and benefits and eliminates a requirement to select the least burdensome option, another section says EPA must consider the economic consequences of chemical regulations and impose requirements that are cost-effective.
  • No Deadlines For Action – The EPA estimates that roughly 1,000 chemicals need immediate health and safety review. Under the new draft, it could take EPA a century or longer to review the most dangerous chemicals. EPA could take up to five years to review a single chemical and there are no deadlines for implementing restrictions, phase-outs or bans. In particular, the new draft does not require quick action to regulate asbestos.
  • Pay to Play for Safety Reviews – The new draft would allow manufacturers to receive expedited review of their favored chemicals if they are willing to pay a fee, but it would not require expedited review of asbestos or extremely dangerous chemicals that persist in the environment and build up in people. Consumers would have to count on Congress, not industry, to fund reviews of these dangerous chemicals.
  • Tougher Judicial Review – The new draft would retain the “substantial evidence” standard for judicial review – which confers an enormous advantage to industry in regulatory and judicial proceedings – rather than the “arbitrary and capricious” standard that strengthens EPA’s authority in nearly all other agency actions. This heightened standard was one of the reasons EPA was unable to ban asbestos more than two decades ago.
  • Fails to Preserve State Actions – The new draft also fails to preserve actions already taken by states to protect consumers. States have led the way to in recent years, enacting dozens of laws to ban or restrict chemicals that have driven product reformulations across the nation.
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