Last night, the Senate passed an industry-friendly chemical “reform” bill that will fail to protect public health. The bill, called the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (S.697), was meant to update our nation’s broken, outdated 1976 chemical safety law called the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). But in some ways, the bill takes us backward, making current legislation even worse. For example, it doesn’t allow states to take action to protect the public from a chemical of concern if that chemical is in the process of being reviewed by the EPA—a process that could take years and leave the public exposed to toxic chemicals until action is permitted.
But the push for real chemical safety protections is not over yet, and we will not settle for an industry-friendly bill. The House’s chemical safety “reform” bill, called the TSCA Modernization Act of 2015, passed in June, and so a conference committee will work to integrate the two bills in the new year. While the House bill is a bit better, as it doesn’t block states from taking action, it still does not adhere to our six standards for meaningful chemical safety reform. Ultimately, both bills fail to follow the precautionary principle—the assurance that a chemical is safe before it comes to market. People shouldn’t have to be the chemical industry’s guinea pigs.
The Senate bill’s passage comes amidst a new study that suggests a majority of cancers are caused by external factors, like toxic environmental exposures. We need true chemical safety reform now more than ever. But we won’t be able to get there without you. The American Chemistry Council, the chemical industry’s lobbying arm, has spent millions lobbying Congress around chemical safety reform. Stay tuned for more ways you can take action to ensure that public health is put before industry profit.