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Seventh Generation has asked its fans and supporters to join them in urging Congress to strengthen and pass the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA). But we realize that in order to lend your voice to this effort, you need to know more. This “primer” on toxic chemical reform should give you the facts you need and help you decide where you stand.
Many of us assume that chemicals used to make ordinary products are tested for safety. Sadly, that’s not the case. From baby bottles made with bisphenol-A (BPA) to carpets containing formaldehyde, dangerous chemicals are in our homes and in the products we use every day.
When the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) became law in 1976, the goal was to ensure the safety of chemicals from manufacture to use and disposal. From the start, it was clear that weaknesses in the law would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from acting on even known health dangers or require testing on specific chemicals. Under TSCA, the EPA must prove a chemical poses an "unreasonable risk" to public health or the environment before it can be regulated. The law allowed 62,000 chemicals to remain on the market without testing and in the more than 30 years since then, testing has been required for only about 200 of those chemicals. In the end, only five have been partially regulated. The rest have never been fully assessed for toxic impacts on human health and the environment.
For the 22,000 chemicals introduced since 1976, chemical manufacturers have provided little or no information to the EPA regarding their potential health or environmental impacts.
In an attempt to overhaul TSCA and improve chemical regulation, the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA), was introduced earlier this year. Co-sponsored by the late Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Senator David Vitter (R-LA), the bill focuses primarily on preventing chemicals from entering the market until proven safe, rather than allowing them to enter the market and removing them if proven harmful.
The introduction of the bi-partisan Chemical Safety Improvement Act opens the door to meaningful conversation about what effective reform needs to look like. Seventh Generation is part of that conversation, and we’ve voiced our opinion that the bill must be strengthened in order to fully protect our communities. While the proposed bill would give the EPA critical tools it needs to address risks that chemicals pose to health, it does not give them the power to use these tools effectively and efficiently.
That’s why we believe that the current bill must be strengthened in these important areas:
1. The legislation must allow for the EPA to take fast action on the worst chemicals and include specific timetables for such regulatory actions.
2. It must respect the right of states to protect their residents if the federal government fails to do so or is slow to act.
3. Science, not industry influence must drive policy. The bill must go much further to protect scientific integrity from undue industry influence.
4. It must protect the most vulnerable among us, including pregnant women, children, workers and communities who are disproportionately exposed to chemical exposures.
5. The legislation should require that the public has access to information regarding the safety of chemicals; that the responsibility is on chemical manufacturers to demonstrate chemicals are safe before they are allowed to enter the marketplace; and that the federal government invest in developing safer alternatives to toxic chemicals.
The CSIA has the potential to enhance chemical safety and improve the lives of millions. That’s why we’re committed to getting it “right.” We’re combining our small, but influential voice with those of our supporters and our NGO partners, Women’s Voices for the Earth, the Breast Cancer Fund, and Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families to urge the Senate to strengthen and pass the Chemical Safety Improvement Act. We invite you to join us.