US Senate Approves Chemicals Reform Bill: Advocates Call for Stronger Protections

Friday, December 18, 2015Rebecca Meuninck

Health advocates call on Congressman Upton to fight to protect state’s rights and halt imports of toxic products in conference
Last night, the US Senate passed Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) reform legislation by unanimous consent. The legislation would reform our nation’s main chemical law, which has been in dire need of change for many years. The Senate bill now must be reconciled with a very different House bill, co-sponsored by Congressman Upton, and passed by the US House of Representatives in June. Public health and environmental organizations, in Michigan and nationally, have generally preferred the House version.
The bill passed despite strong opposition from health and environmental advocates in Michigan. The Senate bill would undermine the ability of states to protect their residents by blocking state action on priority chemicals. Under this bill, many chemicals are cleared for use without completing a safety determination by claiming they are “low priority.” The bill also makes it harder to halt imported products that contain toxic chemicals restricted in the U.S.
“Although there have been improvements to the Senate bill, it still has a number of critical flaws that we hope will be addressed in the conference committee,” said Rebecca Meuninck, deputy director of the Ecology Center and director of the Michigan Network for Children’s Environmental Health. “We are urging Congressman Upton to fight to protect state’s rights to protect their residents and to halt the import of products containing toxic chemicals.”
Serious problems with the Senate legislation include:
·      Making it more difficult for EPA to identify and intercept imported products containing toxic chemicals.
·      States will still be blocked from taking action while EPA studies a chemical, potentially delaying urgent public health interventions.
·      The “low priority” category requires EPA to ‘green-light’ some chemicals without a thorough safety review.

“As an oncology nurse, I frequently encounter some of the most difficult diseases to treat,” said Bernadine Sherwood, BSN, RN. “Certain cancers have been linked to acute or chronic exposure to toxic substances. Often diseases linked to toxic chemicals don’t even manifest until years or decades after exposure. We need strong federal chemicals policy reform that does not contain loopholes for chemicals that we don’t have enough information about or have not even undergone a thorough safety review.”
Michigan-based manufacturers, retailers, workers and consumers would all greatly benefit from better protections against hazardous imported products.  However, the legislation actually makes it harder for anyone to know the products they are buying and selling are safe. 
“Our consumer product testing shows that our store shelves are stocked full of hazardous imported products,” said Jeff Gearhart, research director, Ecology Center.  “This bill, shockingly, actually makes it harder to protect the public from those toxic products by making it more difficult to halt these products from coming into the country.” 
“Fortunately, it is not too late to make critical improvements to this legislation before it gets to the president’s desk,” said Meuninck.

Contact: Rebecca Meuninck, Rebecca@ecocenter.orgOffice: 734-369-9278, Cell: 734-276-8005.


Published on December 18, 2015