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


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.

Jack Pratt

Jack Pratt

Jack is EDF's Chemicals Campaign Director.

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Actually, the states were doing a better job than this bill will do - and this bill would pre-empt the states. So no, we're better off, and safer, if the Senators just count their money from the chemical industry ($200 million, I think) and sit on their hands.

I'm disappointed that the EDF is supporting this as I think it serves to de-legitimize you as an enviro group. :-(

Thanks for the comment, Todd. While we should applaud the efforts states have made in the absence of a federal program, they are no substitute for a comprehensive federal program designed to protect ALL Americans (no matter where they live) and to examine the safety of all existing and new chemicals. States often go after one chemical at a time, which leaves us open to “regrettable substitutions” in cases such as flame retardants—where chemical companies simply replace one bad actor with another. The preemption in the new bill grandfathers in all existing state actions and only applies to new state actions when the Environmental Protection Agency takes up the same chemical (for the same uses). You can find more on the bill here.

So important these things that governments [can do] for us.
Hazardous chemicals are very bad for the world!
I want my own country [Brazil] to be protected, too.
Nice article!