Sen. Whitehouse and Hasbro Celebrate Progress on Toxic Chemicals Law
Providence, RI – As the Senate nears consideration of a major reform to the law intended to protect consumers from toxic chemicals in everyday products, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) today held a press conference with local stakeholders to provide an update. The event was held at Hasbro, Inc., in Providence, which has long called for improvements to the law. Whitehouse joined Hasbro, Inc. Chairman, President & CEO Brian Goldner to celebrate recent progress and discuss how this new legislation will help Rhode Island businesses and consumers. They were also joined by Richard Denison, Lead Senior Scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), a nonprofit organization that has been strongly supportive of the legislation.
The law, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), has failed to protect American consumers for decades. At the press conference today, Whitehouse, Goldner, and Denison spoke about their support for the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which would update and strengthen TSCA.
"TSCA is widely considered to be a toothless statute that fails to protect public health and the environment from harmful chemicals, and it is long overdue for serious reforms,” said Whitehouse. “Thanks to the support of partners like Hasbro and EDF and a bipartisan group of Senators, we are now on the verge of passing legislation to begin giving consumers peace of mind that the products they use are safe. The bill would also improve regulatory certainty for businesses like Hasbro in a patchwork of state-by-state rules, while still preserving a role for states to protect their citizens if the federal government drags its feet. I’m proud to have helped craft this bill, and I hope we will soon pass it in the Senate.”
“We applaud Congress in their progress and bipartisan work to update this outdated law. Hasbro is on a mission to make the world a better place for children and their families and this reform will be a victory for them and for Hasbro,” said Goldner. “We urge Congress to pass this much-needed reform bill.”
“America’s chemical safety law is dangerously outdated, putting our health at risk. Senator Whitehouse has been fighting for legislation that would finally update this badly broken law,” said Denison. “I’m hopeful that the Senate will quickly take up his legislation so we can all have more confidence in the safety of the thousands of chemicals in products we all use every day.”
In almost 40 years, TSCA has restricted just five chemicals of the more than 80,000 that are in commerce—and even failed to ban asbestos. As a result, potentially harmful chemicals like BPA continue to be found in everyday products like the thermal paper used in ATMs, exposing millions of Americans to a substance that research suggests could be linked to a range of harmful effects. In addition, potentially harmful flame retardants continue to be used in couches and baby products. Concerns over the federal government’s failure to act have prompted several states, including Rhode Island, to regulate chemical substances on their own, resulting in a complex patchwork of regulations across the country that are burdensome for businesses like Hasbro.
The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act seeks to address these concerns. Named for former-Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), who was a tireless champion for reforming TSCA before his death in 2013, the bill would:
- Require safety reviews for all chemicals in commerce
- Going forward, require EPA to ensure new chemicals are safe before they can enter into commerce;
- Ensure the EPA takes into consideration only the impact on health and the environment when determining whether to allow a chemical to be sold or manufactured;
- Require chemical companies to help cover the cost of testing chemicals for safety;
- Preserve strong private rights of action to hold industry accountable for negligence and harm;
- Set federal standards that will provide regulatory certainty for industry; and,
- Require EPA to base its safety determinations on ensuring the most vulnerable among us — children, pregnant women, the elderly, and chemical workers – are protected.
This legislation recently reached 60 cosponsors in the Senate, giving it a filibuster-proof majority. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill in the coming weeks. Getting to this point has taken months of intense, bipartisan negotiations involving a diverse coalition of Senators, industry leaders, and environmental advocates. Senator Whitehouse initially opposed the bill because of a regulatory void that would have prohibited states from creating or enforcing state policies while EPA assessed chemicals for safety – what he dubbed a regulatory “dead zone." Working with the bill’s chief sponsors, Whitehouse helped broker a compromise to strengthen the bill, including a protection for states to protect their citizens from hazardous chemicals if the state regulation meets basic criteria. This solution enabled environmentally-minded Senators on the Environment and Public Works Committee like Whitehouse, Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Cory Booker (D-NJ) to support the legislation, and got it out of the EPW Committee with a strong 15-5 bipartisan vote.
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