On April 14, 2011, Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 (S. 847), a comprehensive bill aimed at revamping the decades-old Toxic Substances Control Act.
Bill proposes vital changes to law
The Senate bill goes a long way toward bringing our chemicals policy into the 21st century. Some highlights:
- Remove "grandfather" loophole. The bills close the loophole that has allowed 62,000 older synthetic chemicals to remain untested, by requiring them to be tested in order to stay on the market.
- Shift the burden of proof to chemical companies. Companies would be required to prove their chemicals are safe. Currently under TSCA, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is required to prove a chemical is harmful before it can impose any controls.
- Inform the public and the market about chemicals. The bills would limit companies' ability to hide information about toxic chemicals and would establish an Internet-based public database.
- Prioritize action for chemicals of high concern. Chemicals of high concern would be subject to expedited actions to reduce their use or exposure to them, or expedited safety determinations.
Health advocates, industry back reform but differences remain
For the first time, Congress's attempt to reform our nation's system for regulating toxic chemicals has the support of the chemical industry as well as public health advocates. But some significant differences remain over what shape that reform will take.
What public health advocates want
- Public disclosure of safety information for all chemicals in use
- Prompt action to phaseout or reduce the most dangerous chemicals
- Deciding safety based on real-world exposure to all sources of toxic chemicals
What the chemical industry wants
- Limited testing of a handful of chemicals, leaving us in the dark about most safety hazards
- More lengthy and costly studies of chemicals already proven to be dangerous
- An assumption that we're only exposed to one chemical at a time from one source at a time