You Acted, Congress Answered
You've been hearing us talk about Safe Chemicals legislation pending in Congress -- the Safe Chemicals Act in the Senate and the Toxic Chemicals Safety Act in the House -- two bills which will overhaul the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the decades-old federal law that oversees chemical regulation. It is hopelessly out of date, and we are working hard to reform it. These bill proposals are our chance to pass meaningful toxics reform in the US that will protect our families from toxic chemicals that are currently found throughout our homes.
In the past six months, we've been asking for persistent, bioaccumalative toxics (PBTs) to be given special attention in the proposed bills.
PBTs are just a fancy way of identifying chemicals that build up in our systems, and cause problems with our health and with the environment. These are the worst of the worst chemicals like lead, mercury, the compound used to make Teflon and some flame retardants.
PBTs are uniquely dangerous because they pose a triple threat. They persist in the environment for long periods of time and can be transported long distances; they accumulate in living organisms and increase in concentration as they move up the food chain; and, they are highly toxic, often at very low levels of exposure.
When the bill proposal was first floated a few months ago, it looked like PBTs were not going to be given special consideration, despite our best efforts. We asked for your support, and many of you called Congress to ask that PBTs be included in the Safe Chemicals Act.
The House bill, (HR 5820) was introduced last Thursday by Representatives Bobby Rush (D-IL) and Henry Waxman (D-CA) and included important provisions for PBTs.
The public was heard. We thank you for all your support in helping to push through this important provision, and give a standing ovation to Representatives Rush and Waxman for their hard work. Of course, we won't rest until a strong federal bill is passed, and we are protected. It will be a tough fight against the powerful chemical industry who wants to keep the status quo and have ultimate control over secret formulas and hidden ingredients that are harmful to our health.
Here's what the states had to say about the introduction of the Toxic Chemical Safety Act:
"The Toxic Chemical Safety Act is much improved now that it includes a phaseout of chemicals we know pose serious health and environmental threats. Washington State has been targeting these chemicals for over a decade and it's time the federal government caught up. This legislation is just plain commonsense and long overdue."
- Ivy Sager-Rosenthal, Campaign Director, Washington Toxics Coalition
"The Toxic Chemicals Safety Act of 2010 follows on the heels of essential work in Minnesota to protect public health from toxic chemicals. The bill directs the EPA to take action on certain high risk chemicals that build up in the human body, like brominated flame retardants, which have been the subject of state regulation across the country."
- Kathleen Schuler, Co-Director, Healthy Legacy
"We're really pleased that this bill reflects modern science and gives the EPA additional tools to reduce exposure to PBT chemicals for all communities. It's especially important that the bill acknowledges the needs of vulnerable populations including low income communities of color that are unfairly overburdened, pregnant women, infants, workers and the elderly."
- Mark Mitchell, M.D., MPH, Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice, President and founding member of the Coalition for a Safe and Healthy Connecticut, who will be testifying on the bill before the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection this Thursday.
"People have been led to believe that chemicals are proven safe before added to products we use every day, but the law doesn’t offer that protection ... Today’s legislation gives EPA both the authority and a mandate to begin making up for 34 years of neglect. Congress should seize this opportunity immediately."
- Andy Igrejas, Director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, a coalition of 250 environmental and public health groups.
"It's not enough to have packages that are green on the outside if what's inside is wreaking havoc on our health. We applaud Bobby Rush for his leadership on this crucial legislation and -- as the bill makes its way through the legislative process -- we urge him to fight to keep it strong."
- Sara Tamez, Campaign Coordinator, Illinois PIRG, in the Chicago Tribune.
To keep apprised of the latest news on the Safe Chemicals Acts as they move through Congress, read the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families blog, and check back here to see how reform in the states continues to sway the national agenda toward a safer toxic chemical policy.