Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Bipartisan Bill to Harness Toxic Chemicals Was Years in the Making

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Bipartisan Bill to Harness Toxic Chemicals Was Years in the Making

Article excerpt

The first-ever update to federal regulations on toxic chemicals requires a a national review of thousands of household and commercial substances, including asbestos and BPA.

The bill passed Tuesday by the Senate requires the "first-ever systematic review of all chemicals in commerce," according to a Senate fact sheet on the legislation.

"For the first time in 40 years, the United States of America will have a chemical safety program that works ... and protects families from dangerous chemicals in their daily lives," Sen. Tom Udall (D) of New Mexico, one of the bill's chief sponsors, told the Associated Press.

President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law, at which point it will regulate an $8 billion industry.

The bill updates the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which received criticism for being unenforceable and in dire need of updating. The new bill strikes at both critiques, providing the first safety standards on otherwise unregulated chemicals, including Bisphenol A (BPA), formaldehyde, and styrene.

The old law was the only environmental law that had never been updated, and the EPA had been unable to employ it effectively since its efforts to restrict use of asbestos failed in court in 1991, according to the Senate. It is named after Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D) of New Jersey, who had worked to update TSCA for decades until his death in 2013.

"TSCA is outdated legislation," Sheldon Krimsky, a professor of environmental policy at Tufts University, in Medford, Mass., told The Christian Science Monitor in 2014. "The way it has worked is when a chemical causes harm, that's when the EPA will start engaging in taking actions."

"The way TSCA was developed, it's mostly a reporting mechanism. Industry uses its own information even if it's no information when they are reporting to the EPA that they have this chemical," Professor Krimsky added. …

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