EDF Applauds House Passage of Bi-Partisan Chemical Safety Reform

House Passage of House-Senate Agreement on TSCA Reform Sets Stage for Senate Action and New Law

May 24, 2016
Keith Gaby, (202) 572-3336, kgaby@edf.org

(Washington, D.C. — May 24, 2016) Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) applauded the House passage of bipartisan chemical safety legislation, the Lautenberg Act. By a margin of 403-12, the House passed a House-Senate agreement reforming America’s badly broken chemical safety law, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The historic vote sets the stage for enactment of the most significant environmental legislation in more than two decades.

“Generations of American children have grown up without any real legal protection from toxic chemicals,” said Fred Krupp, President of EDF. “I am grateful to all the House members who worked hard to make chemical safety a priority, including Reps. Frank Pallone, John Shimkus, Fred Upton, Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, Gene Green and Diana DeGette. The Senate should act quickly to get this bill to the president’s desk and give Americans real protection from toxic chemicals.”

 “With today’s vote, Congress took another big step forward for public health,” said Dr. Richard Denison, EDF lead senior scientist.  “The Lautenberg Act fixes the biggest problems with our current law — by requiring safety reviews for chemicals in use today, mandating greater scrutiny of new chemicals before they can be sold, removing the barriers that prevented EPA from banning asbestos and other harmful chemicals, enhancing transparency, and much more. While not perfect, this bill will be a dramatic improvement over current law. The Senate should act immediately to pass this legislation, so we can begin the process of restoring confidence in our chemical safety system.”

Science has linked chemicals used in everyday products such as household cleaners, clothing and furniture to serious illnesses, including cancer, infertility, diabetes and Parkinson’s. Yet TSCA hasn’t been updated for 40 years and is so weak that only a small fraction of the thousands of chemicals used in products have ever been reviewed for safety. The law leaves EPA virtually powerless to ensure the safety of common chemicals—or even to restrict known hazards, including asbestos, lead and formaldehyde. The failures of the current law have undercut consumer confidence in the safety of everyday products, leading many businesses to support a national system even if that means tougher regulation.

“Today’s broad, bipartisan vote shows meaningful progress is still possible in Washington,” said Elizabeth Thompson, EDF Vice President for Political Affairs. “Solutions to big problems are not easy — they require collaboration, putting aside differences and working hard to find the common ground. The result of that hard work is going to be a major advance for public health.”

The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act would address critical flaws in TSCA. The Lautenberg Act is the product of three years of negotiations, begun by its namesake, the late public health champion Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ). The House passed a streamlined bill in June of 2015 by a vote of 398-1, while the Senate passed broader legislation by unanimous voice vote in December of 2015.

Now that the House has passed the bill, the Senate is expected to move quickly to pass the Lautenberg Act. On Monday the White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy strongly supporting the Lautenberg Act, indicating the president is likely to sign the bill following Senate passage.

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