You Asked, Congress Listened
We’ve just moved one step closer to retiring Bad Actor Chemicals in this country. Yesterday, Congressmen Bobby Rush (D-IL) and Henry Waxman (D-CA) formally introduced the Toxic Chemicals Safety Act of 2010 (H.R. 5820). Back in June we asked you to contact your representative to urge them to make the Toxics Substances Control Act reform bills stronger in five ways. Guess what? You asked and they listened (mostly). Look at how the new bill took some of your thoughts and incorporated them (or not):
1. Requiring new chemicals to meet stringent safety standards BEFORE they reach store shelves.
Yes. In the new bill, companies are required to submit a minimum data set on all new chemicals sufficient for the Environmental Protection Agency to make a determination of their safety. If the department is not able to determine whether the chemical is safe by the deadline, the chemical or process is prohibited until the safety determination is complete. This is completely opposite of the current practice that allows new chemicals on to the market without data.
2. Quickly phasing out the worst, persistent toxic chemicals (PBTs).
Yes. The bill establishes a fast track for the worst of the worst chemicals – those that are toxic, accumulate in the body, and persist in the environment for a very long time (called Persistent Bioaccumulative Toxic chemicals, or PBTs). The EPA is to establish criteria for determining which chemicals meet that label within a year. Then, except for critical uses for which there is no safer alternative, the EPA imposes a regulatory response necessary to achieve the greatest practicable reduction in exposure to the chemical.
3. Assessing the safety of chemicals based on a thorough review of the best possible alternatives, not on the notion that there is an acceptable level of cancer or other health hazards.
Partial. Chemicals that are Persistent, Bioaccumulative and Toxic (PBT) go straight to a reduction strategy, all other chemicals will go through a safety determination that is based on the notion that there is an acceptable level of cancer or other health hazards.
4. Requiring EPA to adopt National Academy of Sciences Recommendations on safety and environmental determination.
Yes. This is particularly important since the EPA will use a safety determination that is based on acceptable levels of cancer or other health hazards (see point 3).
5. Ensuring and supporting smooth job transitions for potentially impacted workers and communities
No. Unfortunately, this provision did not make into the bill.
Congress listened and incorporated some of our concerns, but we have to make sure to keep the good provisions in, and continue pushing on health protective measures as the bill progresses.