Newsroom: Press Releases
Lautenberg's Safe Chemicals Act Approved by Committee
Milestone Marks Major Victory Over Special Interests and Progress in Mission to Protect Americans from Toxic Chemicals in Consumer Products
Lautenberg Press Office, 202-224-3224
Wednesday, July 25,
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) today announced that his “Safe Chemicals Act” has been approved by the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee. The legislation is designed to protect Americans from dangerous toxic chemicals that are found in everyday consumer products.
“This vote is a major milestone in our effort to fix America’s broken system for regulating toxic chemicals,” said Senator Lautenberg. “Children and families could be in danger from everyday consumer products, and the U.S. Government is virtually powerless to do anything to make sure that the chemicals used in products are safe. For too long, the chemical industry has deceived the public and the government about the safety of their products. They have ripped a page out of the tobacco industry’s playbook. Today we are saying ‘game over’ – it’s time to protect the public health.”
Lautenberg, who chairs the Senate Subcommittee on Superfund, Toxics andEnvironmental Health, introduced the “Safe Chemicals Act of 2011” to modernize the “Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976” (TSCA). The bill gives the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the tools it needs to require health and safety testing of toxic chemicals and places the burden on industry to prove that chemicals are safe. Under current law, the EPA can call for safety testing only after evidence surfaces demonstrating a chemical is dangerous. As a result, EPA has been able to require testing for just 200 of the more than 80,000 chemicals currently registered in the United States, and has been able to ban only five dangerous substances. Lautenberg has been working to reform TSCA since 2005.
Scientists and environmental groups have expressed concern about chemicals that are used in the production of a wide-range of consumer products including:
· Rug cleaners and stain-resistant carpet
· Non-stick cookware
· Vinyl products
· Dishwashing liquids
· Fabric softeners
· Insulation, and
· Hair dyes
The Safe Chemicals Act would:
- Require manufacturers to develop and submit safety data for each chemical they produce, while avoiding duplicative or unnecessary testing.
- Prioritize chemicals based on risk, so that EPA can focus resources on evaluating those most likely to cause harm while working through the backlog of untested existing chemicals.
- Place the burden of proof on chemical manufacturers to demonstrate the safety of their chemicals.
- Restrict uses of chemicals that cannot be proven safe.
- Establish a public database to catalog the information submitted by chemical manufacturers and the EPA’s safety determinations.
- Promote innovation and development of safe chemical alternatives, and bring some new chemicals onto the market using an expedited review process.
A recent nationwide poll by Public Opinion Strategies released on July 19th found strong support for bolstering protections against toxic chemicals:
- Description of a proposal that would require the chemical industry to prove that its products are safe and give EPA greater authority to restrict some or all uses of chemicals that may harm health or the environment garnered support from 77 percent of respondents.
- Nearly 74 percent of those polled think the threat posed to people’s health by the exposure to toxic chemicals is serious, with 34 percent saying they think the threat is “very serious.”
- 68 percent of respondents support stricter regulation of chemicals used and produced in the United States, with support across all demographic sub-groups, including those typically opposed to government regulation, such as self-described conservatives (54 percent) and tea partysupporters (51 percent).
Senator Lautenberg’s legislation is co-sponsored by EPW Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA), as well as Senators Mark Begich (D-AK), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Al Franken (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand(D-NY), Tom Harkin (D-IA), John Kerry (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Jon Tester (D-MT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
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