There is a wolf in sheep’s clothing in the Senate this week. It’s parading as true chemical reform, which is something our country desperately needs. The Toxic Substance Control Act, written in 1973, is broken, outdated and allows over 60,000 chemicals in the marketplace that have never been tested for reform. So clearly, we need reform. Just not this one.
This one was written by big chemical industry lobbyists and it creates mile wide loopholes that will harm public health.
Here are what our allies are saying is wrong with this bill. The first one is personal.
1. It allows for no state exemptions. I live in a pretty progressive state called Vermont. We have worked HARD to pass legislation to ban lead from children’s products, to get rid of toxic flame retardants, and to regulate harmful chemicals in the marketplace. The Vitter-Udall bill would end all of this, and make the rule of the land the federal law, effectively wiping out all this work, and going with even lower standards for our citizens. Other states have made great progress too. This is reason alone to not support this bill.
2. This bill would stop states from acting on a harmful chemical while the EPA begins it’s slow review of the chemical, which according to EcoWatch and Safer States, could take up to 7 years. The pace is very slow and there are many chemicals to regulate. All the while instead of acting with precaution to protect public health, there would be years more of unnecessary exposure to potentially dangerous chemicals in question. This is a gift to industry and harmful to public health.
3. It doesn’t listen to doctors and scientists. The EPA won’t have to follow the guidelines of the American Academy of Pediatrics and National Academy of Sciences on the issue of “aggregate exposure.” According to National Institute of Public Health in the Netherlands, “Aggregated exposure is the exposure to one single chemical from all exposure routes (dermal, oral and inhalatory) and from different sources (for example several different consumer products and/ or in combination with food).” This means they couldn’t track BPA exposure from multiple sources: canned food, receipts, water bottles, hospital tubes, and in food, such as in milk or cheese leached from packaging. This is how are children are exposed– from multiple sources and in different ways. Why wouldn’t regulation allow for guidelines from doctors and scientists about this exposure (ie, real life) to be used?
4. It is financially beholden to an industry that hasn’t looked out for public health. According to Safer Chemicals, Healthy families, the bill authorizes the EPA to collect fees from the chemical industry for the program, but the overall fees are capped at $18 million or 25% of the program. The fees are small for the many benefits this industry has had on the backs of public health.
5. The bill weakens EPA’s authority over imported products. We already have major problems with imported products. Lead, cadmium, PVC and phthalates, to name a few harmful chemicals found in children’s products. Weakening these standards only means more harmful products at dollar stores and other retailers with many imports.
6. Companies could pay to expedite the chemical they want for the marketplace. This could be at the expense of the EPA reviewing more hazardous chemicals like asbestos that are doing more harm, but are not being “expedited by major corporations with deep pockets.
7. More steps and loopholes to test and regulate chemicals and products containing them. Many extra steps would be required at multiple levels– effectively slowing or stopping the progress on the thousands of chemicals that need to be tested for safety and regulated. See this post from the Environmental Working Group for more reasons to oppose this bill and more details about the extra steps that chemicals companies can use to stall legislation while the public is exposed to more harmful chemicals.
Please, lookout for the wolf in sheep’s clothing. Yes, we need toxics reform. But it needs to be real reform that protects public health. This bill needs more work and input from trusted public health groups, doctors, nurses, and scientists to continue. You can take action here to let your senators know you don’t support this false reform.
Which one of these troubles you the most?
image: Woodlouse on Flickr under CC