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Its Official: Strong TSCA Reform Bill Debuts in the House

Daniel Rosenberg

Posted July 23, 2010

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The TSCA reform bill introduced on Thursday by Representatives Bobby Rush and Henry Waxman, called the “Toxic Chemicals Safety Act” (H.R.5820) will help fix an outdated and barely functioning law that was intended to protect people from unsafe chemicals but failed to do so.  The bill will improve public health protection by establishing a system that moves us toward production and use of safer chemicals.

The bill will enhance EPA’s authority (and responsibility) to regulate toxic chemicals, both those we already know are unsafe, and those for which we currently lack sufficient information to determine safety.

And the bill will expand the public’s right to know about the health and environmental impacts of chemicals used in commerce, as well as where those chemicals are used and how people are likely to be exposed. 

The Toxic Chemicals Safety Act contains many important provisions for reforming TSCA and improving public protection from toxic chemicals.  Here is a Top Ten list of features in the bill:

  • Shifts the burden of proof from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to the chemical industry to prove that a chemical is safe to enter or remain on the market;
  • Requires chemicals to meet a safety standard that accounts for those more vulnerable sub-populations like children, the elderly and some workers and considers all exposures to a chemical, as well as information on exposure to other chemicals that can have the same health impacts;
  • Ensures EPA will rely upon the most up to date methods for assessing the safety of chemicals; including recent recommendations by the National Academy of Sciences;
  • Requires the chemical industry to (finally) provide basic information on all chemicals in commerce, including potential effects on health and the environment;
  • Directs EPA to identify those toxic chemicals that are persistent in the environment and build up in our bodies (PBTs) and take immediate action to protect the public from the risks posed by those chemicals;
  • Directs EPA to identify the 20 communities disproportionately exposed to toxic chemicals and develop and carry out plans for reducing the exposures in those areas;
  • Expands the public’s right to know about the potential health impacts of chemicals as well as where they are manufactured and used and how people can be exposed;
  • Enables EPA to require testing of chemicals where the agency has concerns or needs additional information to evaluate the safety of a chemical;
  • Promotes the development of safer alternatives to unsafe chemicals and the development of green chemistry;
  • Expands the use of bio-monitoring to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the toxic substances we are exposed to and carry in our bodies.

If enacted into law, this bill would transform TSCA from a toothless, meaningless, nearly forgotten law, into a critical and effective tool for protecting the public from chronic illness caused by exposure to unsafe toxic chemicals. The chemical lobby is going to pull out all the stops to kill this bill.  We should all pull together to make it the law of the land, and save ourselves (even those chemical industry lobbyists) in the process.

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Charli BJul 28 2010 03:58 PM

Making industrial chemicals safer is something we can all get behind. However, if we want safer chemicals and a safer environment then we must use nonanimal methods of testing.

Currently, many toxicity tests are based on experiments in animals and use methods that were developed as long ago as the 1930’s; they and are slow, inaccurate, open to uncertainty and manipulation, and do not adequately protect human health. These tests take anywhere from months to years, and tens of thousands to millions of dollars to perform. More importantly, the current testing paradigm has a poor record in predicting effects in humans and an even poorer record in leading to actual regulation of dangerous chemicals.

The blueprint for the development and implementation of nonanimal testing is the National Academy of Sciences report, "Toxicity Testing in the 21st Century: A Vision and a Strategy in 2007." This report calls for a shift away from the use of animals in toxicity testing. The report also concludes that human cell- and computer-based approaches are the best way to protect human health because they allow us to understand more quickly and accurately the varied effects that chemicals can have on different groups of people. They are also more affordable and more humane.

These methods are ideal for assessing the real world scenarios such as mixtures of chemicals, which have proven problematic using animal-based test methods. And, they're the only way we can assess all chemicals on the market.

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