Gillibrand, other senators reach agreement to reform nation's chemical laws

By WBNG News

Gillibrand, other senators reach agreement to reform nation's chemical laws

May 22, 2013 Updated May 22, 2013 at 7:12 PM EDT

(WBNG Binghamton) New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and other lawmakers on Wednesday announced a groundbreaking, bipartisan agreement to modernize the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and ensure the safety of everyday consumer products to better protect American families. 

According to a news release:

Their legislation would significantly update and improve TSCA, which has proven ineffective and is criticized by both the public health community and industry. The Lautenberg-Vitter legislation would, for the first time, ensure that all chemicals are screened for safety to protect public health and the environment, while also creating an environment where manufacturers can continue to innovate, grow, and create jobs.  
“For far too long, American families have been exposed to chemicals that have never been tested for safety,” said Senator Gillibrand. “This bill will finally allow the EPA to test those chemicals that pose the greatest hazard to our children and pregnant women, and it will give the companies that manufacture the chemicals certainty that what they are selling is certified safe across all 50 States.”
The legislation also has the support of public health advocates and chemical industry representatives.
In contrast to existing law, the Lautenberg-Vitter “Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013” would:

• Require Safety Evaluations for All Chemicals: All active chemicals in commerce must be evaluated for safety and labeled as either “high” or “low” priority chemical based on potential risk to human health and the environment.  For high priority chemicals, EPA must conduct further safety evaluations.

• Protect Public Health from Unsafe Chemicals: If a chemical is found to be unsafe, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has the necessary authority to take action.  This can range from labeling requirements to the full phase-out or ban of a chemical. 

• Prioritize Chemicals for Review: The Environmental Protection Agency will have to transparently assess risk, determine safety, and apply any needed measures to manage risks.

• Screen New Chemicals for Safety: New chemicals entering the market must be screened for safety and the EPA is given the authority to prohibit unsafe chemicals from entering the market.

• Secure Necessary Health and Safety Information: The legislation allows EPA to secure necessary health and safety information from chemical manufacturers, while directing EPA to rely first on existing information to avoid duplicative testing.

• Promote Innovation and Safer Chemistry: This legislation provides clear paths to getting new chemistry on the market and protects trade secrets and intellectual property from disclosure.

• Protect Children and Pregnant Women: The legislation requires EPA to evaluate the risks posed to particularly vulnerable populations, such as children and pregnant women, when evaluating the safety of a chemical—a provision not included in existing law.

• Give States and Municipalities a Say:  States and local governments will have the opportunity to provide input on prioritization, safety assessment and the safety determination processes, requiring timely response from EPA, and the bill establishes a waiver process to allow state regulations or laws to remain in effect when circumstances warrant it.      
Under current law, the EPA can call for safety testing only after evidence surfaces demonstrating a chemical may be dangerous.  As a result, EPA has only been able to require testing for roughly 200 of the more than 84,000 chemicals currently registered in the United States, and has been able to ban only five dangerous substances since TSCA was first enacted in 1976.  These shortfalls led the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to identify TSCA as a “high risk” area of the law in 2009. 

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