Major Chemical Reform Takes Root

Rep. Bobby Rush (foreground) is helping to advance new chemical legislation and have it reach a vote before the August break.© Woodstock Institute

Under the leadership of U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL), chair of the subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection, and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), chair of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, the first bill on toxic substances since the 1970s was introduced to the House last Wednesday. The bill, named the Toxic Chemicals Safety Act of 2010, would amend the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 and would "ensure that the public and the environment are protected from risks of chemical exposure." Only a handful of substances have been banned under the original 1976 act; and of the 80,000 chemicals currently used in commerce, only 200 have been tested for human safety.

Rush said the legislation is a huge step forward for consumer protection. The bill ensures that any chemical to which the public is exposed to is reviewed for safety standards. Any that are deemed unsafe will be restricted. The bill requires the chemical industry to provide the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency with any data it needs in relation to the chemicals being used. It would also enforce transparency between the chemical industry and the public, providing the public with any non-confidential information given to the EPA and providing confidential information to regulators, states and workers in the industry.

Other portions of the bill touch on green chemistry training, education workshops, alternatives to animal testing, child education research, and incentives for creating safer alternatives to harmful products.

A committee hearing will be held on the legislation this Thursday. Says Rep. Rush: "We are working with all deliberate speed, in this session of Congress, to update a law that is of major importance to American consumers."

SOURCE: Committee on Energy and Commerce.