EDF Applauds President Obama’s Historic Signing of Strong New Toxic Chemicals Law

President’s Signing of the Lautenberg Act Marks Biggest Environmental Overhaul in Two Decades

June 22, 2016
Keith Gaby, (202) 572-3336, kgaby@edf.org

EDF Applauds President Obama’s Historic Signing of Strong New Toxic Chemicals Law

President’s Signing of the Lautenberg Act Marks Biggest Environmental Overhaul in Two Decades

(June 22, 2016)  Today, President Obama signed the Lautenberg Act into law, the first major environmental legislation in two decades. The legislation, which updates the 40-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), will provide vital new protections for American families from hazardous chemicals found in everything from clothing to couches to cleaners.

“With his signature today, President Obama set us on a course for a less toxic America,” said EDF President Fred Krupp. “For too long we have allowed unfettered use of chemicals linked to cancer, Parkinson’s, and other serious health problems. While it will take time and a lot of work to clean up this 40-year-old mess, this and future generations will see real benefits because of this historic law.”

“President Obama’s signature today launches a new law that will help to improve public health for years to come,” said Dr. Richard Denison, EDF lead senior scientist.  “While not perfect, the Lautenberg Act fixes the biggest problems with a badly broken law that has left our health at risk. Now the hard work must begin: tending to decades of neglect when it comes to unreviewed and unregulated chemicals.”

Science has linked some chemicals used in everyday products such as household cleaners, clothing and furniture to serious illnesses, including cancer, infertility, diabetes and Parkinson’s. Yet TSCA hadn’t been updated for 40 years and was so weak that only a small fraction of the thousands of chemicals used in products have ever been reviewed for safety. The old law left 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 old law undercut consumer confidence in the safety of everyday products, leading many businesses to support a national system even if that means tougher regulation.

“The historic moment at the White House today should give everyone hope—not only for better protections from toxic chemicals, but also for progress on other seemingly intransigent problems in Washington,” said Elizabeth Thompson, EDF Vice President for Political Affairs. “Make no mistake, the road to TSCA reform was not easy. It required years of hard work both in Washington and around the country to get this strong bill to President Obama. But we should take heart in the fact that Members of Congress and stakeholders from all sides were able to put aside differences, work hard to find the common ground and deliver a major advance for public health.”

The success of the bill is due to the tireless efforts of Members of Congress who worked hard to get this bill to the president’s desk, including Senators Tom Udall, David Vitter, Jim Inhofe, Barbara Boxer, Tom Carper, Ed Markey, Sheldon Whitehouse, Jeff Merkley, Cory Booker, and Dick Durbin and Representatives John Shimkus, Frank Pallone, Fred Upton, Diana DeGette, Gene Green, Steny Hoyer, Leader Nancy Pelosi, Speaker Paul Ryan and many more.

The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (HR 2576) is the product of three years of negotiations, begun by its namesake, the late public health champion, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ).

Both the House and Senate passed the bill with overwhelming bipartisan support. In May, the White House made its support known with a strong Statement of Administration Policy  calling the Lautenberg Act “landmark reform” and “an historic advancement for both chemical safety and environmental law.”

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