Toxic Chemical Regulations Update – A Marathon, not a Sprint

annie sartorBy Annie Sartor, Policy and Campaigns Coordinator

We are in the middle of a glacially paced struggle between the organizations and activists who care about protecting public health, and a chemical industry that prioritizes corporate profits over everything else.

Breast Cancer Action exists to address and end the breast cancer epidemic, and part of our focus is primary prevention of the disease. Currently, this work is centered on regulation of toxic chemicals linked to breast cancer. For years, we have fiercely advocated for strong chemical safety laws and regulations. As mounting evidence continues to show a connection between a seemingly endless list of synthetic chemicals in our daily lives and an equally long list of health harms, including breast cancer, we remain committed to work that we know will be a long haul.

Along with many partners and allies, we are focused on updating the outdated and toothless Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which, since its inception in 1976, has failed to adequately protect us from the toxic soup of hazardous and toxic chemicals in our homes, workplaces, and lives.

In the past year alone, three new TSCA reform proposals have emerged from the U.S. Congress – the very strong Safe Chemicals Act of 2013, the very weak Chemical Safety Improvement Act, and a discussion draft of the abysmal Chemicals in Commerce Act. While two of the three bills are insufficient in protecting public health, these ongoing efforts nonetheless are a good sign: this Congress recognizes that TSCA reform is necessary. However, the chemical industry has also realized that TSCA reform appears imminent, and is doing everything it can to weaken existing regulation by introducing industry-friendly legislation under the guise of “updating” and “reforming” our broken chemical regulations.

The Chemicals in Commerce Act is a great example of why we need to remain steadfast in our opposition to such industry efforts to hijack TSCA reform. This draft bill, introduced last month, is nothing more than a gift to the chemical industry. Thankfully, since it was introduced, not much news has emerged from behind Congressional doors, and we believe that in this case, no news is good news. Because so many BCAction members, in addition to thousands of other activists and individuals across the country, spoke out in opposition to this bill we hope that it will remain a discussion draft, never to see the light of day again.

In terms of what comes next, there are a few of possibilities: another bill could be introduced in either the Senate or the House of Representatives; one of the existing chemical reform bills could re-emerge; or, nothing could happen.

We are working hard to keep the pressure on legislators to act and to maintain momentum for TSCA reform, and we will continue to demand that any TSCA reform bill put public health before chemical industry profits. Together, we must keep the pressure on legislators to only support proposed legislation that will protect all of us from hazardous chemicals. Achieving political change can be a long road. Heartfelt thanks to all of you who have stood with us on this important issue. The chemical industry may have billions of dollars, but together, we have the people power that can make change happen!

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