Safe Chemicals Act of 2011

Did you catch these news reports this week?

Millions of Americans have been ingesting them for years—perchlorate, hexavalent chromium, volatile organic compounds—not because they’re safe, but because they are among 6,000 toxins the EPA has not gotten around to regulating in municipal drinking water systems.  (Forbes, 8/9/11).

Pregnant women participating in a pilot study at San Francisco General Hospital had the highest levels of banned chemicals used in flame retardants in their bodies compared with other expectant mothers in other studies conducted worldwide.  (San Francisco Chronicle, 8/10/11).

Both are reminders of why we must support the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011, introduced by Senator Frank Lautenberg in April.

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The Centers for Disease Control has found more than 212 industrial chemicals in the bodies of most Americans. At least six of those are known carcinogens and dozens others are linked to cancer, birth defects, and other adverse health effects.

The Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA) governs these chemicals, but it hasn’t been amended since its adoption. It has not kept up with huge changes in chemical production and in our understanding of what chemicals do to our health and to the environment.

TSCA has limited the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to testing only about 200 chemicals of more than 80,000 in use. It has allowed EPA to regulate limited uses of only five chemicals. In 1989, EPA banned most uses of asbestos, but the courts tossed out the regulation, ruling that EPA had not met its burden of proof under TSCA that asbestos poses an “unreasonable risk.” EPA has not since tried to regulate a chemical’s production or use.

The Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 addresses the failings of TSCA. It would require chemical companies to demonstrate the safety of industrial chemicals and EPA to evaluate safety based on the best available science.

The bill would:

• Ensure EPA has information on the health risks of all chemicals.
• Require EPA to prioritize chemicals based on risk.
• Expedite action to reduce risk from chemicals of highest concern.
• Further evaluate chemicals that could pose unacceptable risk.
• Provide broad public, market and worker access to reliable chemical information.
• Promote innovation, green chemistry, and safer alternatives to chemicals of concern.

On Wednesday, Sweet William and I joined moms and health activists in a stroller brigade to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s office to show our support for the bill, of which she is a co-sponsor (there’s coverage of the event on CBS).

Please tell your congressional representatives that you expect them to back the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011.  To send an email, visit the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families website.

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