June 8, 2016

Whitehouse Releases Statement on Passage of Toxic Chemical Reform Bill

Washington, DC – The Senate last night passed legislation to update the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the nation’s primary toxic chemical protection law.  Having passed the House of Representatives with overwhelming bipartisan support, the bill now goes to President Obama to be signed into law.  Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee who helped to broker an agreement on TSCA reform in the Senate, released the following statement on the legislation:

“Until now, our nation’s outdated chemical safety regulations failed to protect communities and the environment from harmful substances, and saddled businesses with a hodgepodge of regulations.  While this compromise bill is not perfect, it is an important step that allows the EPA to prevent toxic chemicals from being used in everyday products.  It will also make things easier on businesses in Rhode Island and all over the country.  I’m grateful to Senators Udall and Inhofe and Representatives Pallone and Upton for working together to get this done.  We wouldn’t be here without their hard work reconciling two very different proposals.  I also appreciate the constructive work of the Environmental Defense Fund, American Association for Justice, and other groups to make this such a strong bill.”

The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, named for the late New Jersey Senator who championed chemical safety reform, replaces the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) broken safety standard with one that’s based solely on health, requires EPA to review chemicals in commerce for safety, gives EPA more authority to test new and existing chemicals, sets judicially-enforceable deadlines, makes more information about chemicals available by limiting the ability of companies to claim information as confidential, and provides significantly more industry funding for EPA to do its work.  The bill also includes several Whitehouse-led provisions such as a requirement for EPA to waive preemption for states that meet a set of basic criteria, and the creation of a mercury inventory and expansion of the mercury export ban to certain mercury compounds, two provisions of his Mercury Use Reduction Act of 2012. 

First passed in 1976, TSCA was supposed to protect the public and our environment from new and existing chemicals in the marketplace.  However, in the almost 40 years since, the government has only been able to use TSCA to restrict the use of  just five chemicals of the tens of thousands in use—and even failed to ban asbestos.  As a result, potentially harmful chemicals like BPA and flame retardants continue to be used in everyday products, like the thermal paper used at ATMs, couches, and even baby products.  This exposes millions of Americans to substances that research suggests could be linked to a range of harmful effects.


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