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Parents, take note: The Safe Chemicals Act is Introduced!

04.16.10 Parents, take note: The Safe Chemicals Act is Introduced!

We've got a bill! Finally, the Safer Chemicals Act has been introduced by Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey. He said:

“America’s system for regulating industrial chemicals is broken,”;said Senator Lautenberg.“Parents are afraid because hundreds of untested chemicals are found in their children’s bodies. EPA does not have the tools to act on dangerous chemicals and the chemical industry has asked for stronger laws so that their customers are assured their products are safe. My 'Safe Chemicals Act' will breathe new life into a long-dead statute by empowering EPA to get tough on toxic chemicals. Chemical safety reform is not a Democratic or Republican issue, it is a common-sense issue and I look forward to building bipartisan support for this measure.”

Amen to that! This legislation is a great start. According to Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, it has these redeeming qualities:

"While there are differences between the House and Senate versions of the legislation, the Safe Chemicals Act includes a number of essential reforms that would substantially improve public health protections:

  • Requiring chemical companies to develop and make publicly available basic health and safety information for all chemicals.
  • Requiring chemicals to meet a safety standard that protects vulnerable sub-populations, including pregnant women and children.
  • A new program to identify communities that are “hot spots” for toxic chemicals and to take action to reduce exposures.
  • Expediting safety determinations and actions to restrict some of the most notorious chemicals, like formaldehyde, vinyl chloride, and flame retardants."
But there are parts of the bill that could be much stronger. Safer Chemicals encourages legislators to strengthen this bill, because of some of what it doesn't do:
  • Allow hundreds of new chemicals to enter the market and be used in products for many years without first requiring them to be shown to be safe.
  • Not provide clear authority for EPA to immediately restrict production and use of the most dangerous chemicals, even persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT) chemicals, which already have been extensively studied and are restricted by governments around the world.
  • Would not require EPA to adopt the National Academy of Sciences’ recommendations to incorporate the best and latest science when determining the safety of chemicals, although the Senate bill does call on EPA to consider those recommendations.
While I am thrilled this bill has been introduced, and is beginning its hopefully quick journey through Congress (stay away, chemical lobby!), I agree with Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families that improvements need to be made to protect more families.


Finally, we might see a lessening of what I have called "the great chemical divide". Those who have myriad chemical exposures are often families with low incomes or in poverty-- and this can lead to learning disabilities, obesity, and other health problems. This legislation has the potential to protect all families from unnecessary and dangerous chemical exposures.

I'm going to read up on this bill, and follow its progress closely (as closely as I can while chasing my 3 and 5 year old, finishing edits on my book, and teaching!).

A good place to keep track of what is happening is the Environmental Working Group's blog on the Kid Safe Chemical Act. They've got a great article up right now that describes the process and important information the legislation contains.

Parents, rejoice! The time for a massive shift is here-- no longer will us consumers have to determine if a chemical is safe in a certain product-- the burden will shift to where it should be, with the corporations and manufacturers who create and profit from its sale.

Stay tuned for how you can help support (and strengthen) this legislation.

I'm all ears and will keep you posted.

Posted in: Chemical Reform
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