“Every day, consumers rely on household products that contain thousands of chemicals. The American public expects the federal government to do all it can to ensure these chemicals are safe before they reach the market.”
Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Americans assume that chemicals used to make ordinary products are tested for safety — but they are not. From baby bottles made with bisphenol A (BPA) to carpets containing formaldehyde, dangerous chemicals are in our homes, places of work, and the products we use every day. With each new scientific report linking toxic chemical exposure to a serious health problem, it becomes more obvious that the law intended to keep harmful chemicals in check — the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976 — is not working.
Now, we have the chance to fix this problem — and to protect future generations from serious harm. By updating TSCA, Congress can create the foundation for a sound and comprehensive chemicals policy that protects public health and the environment, while restoring the luster of safety to U.S. goods in the world market. To be effective, TSCA reform should:
Take immediate action on the most dangerous chemicals
Current laws aren't protecting us from chemicals that are building up in our bodies and threatening our health. These persistent, bioaccumulative toxic chemicals should be phased out of commerce. Our exposure to other toxic chemicals that we know can cause serious health problems, should be reduced. Green chemistry research should be expanded, and safer chemicals favored over those with known health hazards.
Hold industry responsible for the safety of their chemicals and products
Due to serious limitations of the current law, very little is known about the vast majority of the tens of thousands of chemicals produced and used in the US. Over the past three decades, the EPA has required testing on just 200 existing chemicals and restricted only five. Companies that make and use chemicals should be required to provide full information on the impact of all their chemicals on health and the environment. The public, workers, and businesses should have access to information about the safety of chemicals.
Use the best science to protect all people and vulnerable groups
Chemicals should meet a standard of safety for all people, including children, pregnant women, and workers. The extra burden of toxic chemical exposure on people of color, low-income, and indigenous communities must be reduced and more studies must be done to detect which chemicals are present in our bodies. The EPA should adopt the recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences on how to better assess risks from chemicals. And regulators should expand the development and use of information gleaned from “biomonitoring,” the science of detecting human chemical contamination, to inform and impel efforts to reduce such exposures.