A blog to keep current on MPIRG'S fight for social and environmental justice.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

New Bill Focuses on Protecting Public Health from Toxic Chemicals

Earlier today, Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced the 2011 Safe Chemicals Act aimed at contemporizing the outdated Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). TSCA, passed in 1976, grandfathered tens of thousands of chemicals into U.S. markets without adequate evaluation for health and environmental standards, and provided limited authority for the U.S. EPA to protect public health.

The introduction of the Safe Chemicals Act is a monumental step forward for U.S. families, children, and workers. Conventional wisdom dictates the failure of TSCA to actually protect public health and the environment. Out of more than 80,000 industrial chemicals, the EPA had the authority to test only 200 of these chemicals and the power to regulate five. It took the EPA well over a decade to regulate asbestos, a well known carcinogen.

Minnesota Senators Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar demonstrated exceptional leadership when they signed on as original co-authors of this innovative bill that really puts the U.S. on track to catch up with the changing global tide of how we use chemicals in consumer products.

The Safe Chemicals Act will change the way we review and regulate chemicals we use in our everyday products.

What MPIRG likes about the 2011 Safe Chemicals Act:

  • Requires immediate action on Persistent Bioaccumulative Toxins (PBTs), which are chemicals that build up in the food chain and do not break down in the natural environment
  • Requires basic health and safety information for all new chemicals entering the market.
  • Reduces the burden of disproportional exposure to toxic chemicals for people of color and low income and indigenous communities.
  • Upgrades the scientific methods for testing and evaluation of chemicals as recommended by the National Academy of Sciences.

The 2011 Safe Chemicals Act is indeed a reason to celebrate. Is it common sense legislation that protects public health and the environment? Yes, but as history shows there are deep rooted financial interests that will fight these reforms tooth and nail and so environmental health advocates and organizers will dig their heels in to prepare for an epic battle. MPIRG will continue to engage in this struggle and report live from the front lines.

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