Sign the Petition for a Stronger Chemicals Law
You may not have heard about it, but there are changes about to happen to the way toxic chemicals in our consumer products are regulated, and it may not be for the better.
On 5/17 a “final draft” of legislation to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) became public and a vote is expected in Congress soon. Both chambers have been meeting since February to reconcile the Senate and House versions. The bill is an improvement over a 2013 version that was favored by the American Chemistry Council (industry). The new version improves current law in some ways but still goes backwards in a few ways, so the public health community is not supporting it.
Key Issue: State Authority or “Preemption”
The states have led the way in taking action against toxic chemicals during the many years that EPA has been hamstrung by TSCA. California is most famous for policies like Prop 65 (product warnings about cancer and birth defects). In New York, NY advocacy groups including several Long Island breast cancer groups have been pushing for a Child Safe Products Act, and fear that this law will reverse years of progress. The Child Safe Products Act is seeking to address arsenic, lead, mercury, benzene, and tris (flame retardant) in children’s products in New York. Under current law, states are allowed to restrict a chemical as they see fit unless EPA decides to impose its own restrictions.
While this new final version does allow for State actions that have been taken as of April of this year to still stand regardless of what EPA does (“grandfathering”), future state actions are the issue. Unless they apply for a waiver, States are blocked from taking action early in the process of EPA’s review of the chemical, which can take up to 4 years. If EPA declares the chemical unsafe, states are allowed to step in and impose restrictions while the EPA considers its own restrictions. When EPA finishes its own restrictions, the state preemption takes effect again. Hard to follow? True! The complication reflects the chemical industry’s influence. Recent pending state policies – particularly around toxic flame retardant chemicals – are still highly likely to be blocked by the bill. That means millions of people, and fire fighters in particular, will be exposed to these chemicals for years.
Issue: Imported Products
This version makes it very difficult compared to current law for EPA to require notification when a chemical is getting into the country in an imported product including toys, shoes, clothes, etc. EPA will look at a chemical and might decide, for example, that a chemical is ok when used as part of an industrial process, but poses too much risk when used in the home. But how will EPA know if the use patterns of the chemical change in the future? [Read more…] about Changes to Product Toxins Law Happening Now