EDF Hails Passage of Bi-Partisan Chemical Safety Reform

Senate Overwhelmingly Votes to Send “Landmark Reform” to President

June 7, 2016
Keith Gaby, (202) 572-3336, kgaby@edf.org

EDF Hails Passage of Bi-Partisan Chemical Safety Reform
Senate Overwhelmingly Votes to Send “Landmark Reform” to President

(June 7, 2016)  Today the Senate passed legislation to fix America’s badly broken chemical safety system, sending it to the president for his signature.   The legislation provides important new protections for American families from hazardous chemicals found in everything from clothing to couches to cleaners.

Senate passage of the Lautenberg Act follows the House’s passage in May, by a vote of 403 to 12, of the same bill, which a White House statement called “landmark reform.” The bill, which updates the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976, is the first major environmental legislation enacted 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 Senators who worked to get this legislation passed, including Senators David Vitter, Jim Inhofe, Barbara Boxer, Tom Carper, Ed Markey, Sheldon Whitehouse, Jeff Merkley, Cory Booker, and especially Tom Udall.  After so much hard work, we are just a signature away from a law that will finally start to give Americans the health protections they deserve.”

 “Today’s vote is an historic victory for public health,” said Dr. Richard Denison, EDF lead senior scientist.  “While not perfect, 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. We look forward to seeing the president sign this landmark reform, 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 historic 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 a major advance for public health.”

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).

Now that both chambers have acted on the bill, the president is expected to sign the legislation into law. In May, the White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy calling the Lautenberg Act “an historic advancement for both chemical safety and environmental law.”

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Environmental Defense Fund (edf.org), a leading international nonprofit organization, creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. EDF links science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships. Connect with us on EDF Voices, Twitter and Facebook.