The "best chance in a generation" to protect us from toxic chemicals

Jack Pratt

Jack is EDF's Senior Political Director.
Published March 13, 2015 in Health

There isn’t much to celebrate from Congress these days, but something big happened this week: 17 senators from both sides of the aisle came together to protect Americans from hazardous chemicals in detergents, upholstery fabric, cleaning agents and thousands of other household products.

Their bill represents the “best chance in a generation” to fix America’s now-badly broken chemical safety law, noted Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp. It’s an opportunity we can’t afford to lose.

The current chemical safety law is as old as I am - 39 - but it’s aged like milk. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lacks the power to ensure the safety of chemicals we use every day. The agency can’t even effectively restrict the ones we know are dangerous, including identified carcinogens.

It’s absolutely insane, but it doesn’t have to be that way. The new Senate bill would fundamentally change the chemical safety system for the better. It would:

  • Require a safety review for all chemicals in use today.
  • Ensure all new chemicals pass a safety check before they can be sold on the market.
  • Explicitly require protection for those most at risk from toxic chemicals, such as children and pregnant women.
  • Give the EPA new authority to require companies to test new and existing chemicals for safety.
  • Keep all current state actions on chemicals in place, and only replace state authority when the EPA takes the lead on a specific chemical.

But all that can happen only if this legislation becomes law. And after years of trying, we’ve finally got a bill with a realistic chance of passing.

This is why members of Congress needs to hear from every American who wants safety for themselves and their families.

“Rare political circumstances have opened a narrow window to pass meaningful reform that protects the health of American families,” said EDF Lead Senior Scientist Richard Denison, Ph.D. “It’s essential Congress act now.”

Don’t get me wrong: This proposal isn’t perfect. But even a perfect bill with no hope of passing does nothing to protect American families.

It’s time Congress finally does something to make us safer.

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