If you've no account register here first time
User Name :
User Email :
Password :

Login Now

40 Years and 1000s of Untested Chemicals Later – Will Congress Finally Act?

vogel_sarah_edfCongress seemed poised to fix America’s broken chemical safety law.

Expert witnesses warned about the urgent need to update the Toxic Substances Control Act, telling a congressional hearing the federal law “has clearly failed.”

Their testimony made the problem clear: Thousands of chemicals are in use in everyday household products and nobody knows if they are safe. Even dangerous chemicals remain unregulated.

News stories predicted that action was “already under way” to reform the law, also known as TSCA.

The year was 1994. And Congress couldn’t get its act together to fix America’s main chemical law. Nothing would change.

The law that governs most chemicals in commerce was originally passed in 1976. It wasn’t very strong to begin with and for each year that passed, it became increasingly out of date.

It’s now so badly broken that only a small fraction of the chemicals in cleaning products, clothing, furniture and most other products have ever been reviewed for safety.

The US Environmental Protection Agency is virtually powerless to restrict even known dangers such as lead and formaldehyde.

10,000 new chemicals since 1994

Indeed, since the last time Congress tried to fix this law in 1994, things have gotten bad. More than 10,000 additional chemicals have gone on the market with little review of their safety, and only a handful of chemicals already in use have been examined.

States have tried to step in, but since TSCA passed they have only managed to restrict limited uses of about 12 chemicals or groups of chemicals.

The fatal blow for sufficient regulation came in 1991, when EPA’s decade-long attempt to ban asbestos was thrown out by a federal court. Since then, EPA has never tried again to use TSCA to regulate a chemical.

It took more than a decade for legislation to be introduced again. There were bills in 2005, 2008, 2010 and 2011, but none even made it to the House or Senate floor. They just didn’t have the bi-partisan support necessary to pass.

Millions of babies were exposed

Unfortunately, this failure to act has real, human consequences.

Chemicals in common use are increasingly being linked to diseases such as certain childhood cancers, asthma and diabetes that are on the rise in the American population. Research shows that environmental factors, including chemical exposures, explain a significant part of these trends.

Since 1994, 80 million babies have been born, many or all of whom have come into the world carrying toxic chemicals in their bodies.

Sarah Vogel
Sarah Vogel is the program director, health, at the Environmental Defense Fund. She works with a team of scientists and policy experts to protect health by reducing exposure to toxic chemicals. Prior to joining EDF, Sarah worked as a program officer at the Johnson Family Foundation.
 
10 Tactics of Successful Energy Managers
Sponsored By: EnergyCap, Inc.

  
Video: Expense & Data Management for Complex Payables
Sponsored By: Ecova, Inc.

  
Leveraging EHS Software in Support of Culture Changes
Sponsored By: VelocityEHS

  
Planning for a Sustainable Future
Sponsored By: Dakota Software

  

2 thoughts on “40 Years and 1000s of Untested Chemicals Later – Will Congress Finally Act?

  1. This article is a disappointment. It states: “The US Environmental Protection Agency is virtually powerless to restrict even known dangers such as lead and formaldehyde.” But the EPA banned lead in paint in 1978.
    http://epa.gov/agriculture/lsca.html

    “Thousands of chemicals are in use in everyday household products and nobody knows if they are safe.”
    Under TSCA § 5, EPA has an inventory of chemical substances. If a new chemical is introduced into a product, a PMN must be submitted to the EPA, to identify the chemical & provide available information on health and environmental effects. If available data are not sufficient to evaluate the chemical’s effects, EPA can IMPOSE RESTRICTIONS.
    http://epa.gov/agriculture/lsca.html

    “EPA’s decade-long attempt to ban asbestos was thrown out by a federal court.” While it is not banned, asbestos is regulated, and permits are needed for demolition of asbestos containing buildings, and there must be an Asbestos Maintenance plan to limit the exposure to workers inside the building. Disposal of asbestos is also regulated.
    http://www2.epa.gov/asbestos/us-federal-bans-asbestos

    Disposal of Asbestos is also regulated by EPA at 40 CFR 61.

  2. Yeah, unfortunately there’s a lot of momentum behind fixing the broken law that’s being used by industry and lap dogs like Vitter to create a new regulatory system that could actually wind up being far worse than what we have now. What about the 5 year period of public poisoning during which time the EPA is taking its time to review a chemicals, the states are forced to sit on the sidelines and yet chemical companies will be allowed to sell that chemical. If you think that’s somehow better than what we have now, then I’d love to hear why. And while you’re at it, Sarah, I’d love to hear why we need state pre-emption at all. Please just say it out loud for me. We need state preemption because…..

    Thanks!

Leave a Comment