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House Panel Tackles Chemical Legislation

Support for Reform from Scientists, Businesses, and Community Leaders


Washington, DC – A House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee today held the first hearing on legislation to overhaul the 34-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act. The new legislation, The Toxic Chemicals Safety Act (HR-5820 Waxman/Rush), received strong support not only from environmental and public health advocates, but from a Pennsylvania manufacturer of construction products. The hearing comes after months of intensive work by the Committee with representatives of businesses, public health advocates, scientists, and community leaders.


“There has never been more momentum to reform our federal chemical policy,” said Andy Igrejas, Director of the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition. “Today the committee got a glimpse of the unusual diversity of support for reform. It is both broad and deep.”


Under the new legislation, chemical manufacturers would have to provide basic health and safety information for all chemicals and also demonstrate a chemical’s safety in order to keep it on the market. The worst of the worst chemicals – those that build up in the food chain – would be targeted for immediate reduction. Product manufacturers and retailers that already work to reduce toxic chemicals would be given new information to help them achieve their goals. EPA would also be given a new mandate to identify communities especially hard-hit by toxic chemicals – “hot spots” – and develop action plans to return them to health.


In testimony before the committee, Howard Williams, Vice President of Construction Specialties Corporation in Pennsylvania strongly supported the legislation. “Meeting customers’ needs and acting upon society’s higher values has always been rewarded, and in today’s terms that can be billions of dollars,” he said. “Our economy and our health are inextricably joined, and fundamental to a strong America.” Williams cited the company’s commitment to eliminating Persistent, Bio-accumulative Toxins and also the need for better information to help it respond to market demand for safer products.


Dr. Mark Mitchell, MD, MPH, of the Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice also strongly supported the legislation in testimony citing its benefits for “environmental justice communities.” Mitchell outlined the combined impact of poorly regulated products in dollar stores, excessive pollution from factories, and legacy contamination in low-income areas and communities of color. “We have higher rates of environmentally related diseases such as asthma, diabetes, learning disabilities, cardiovascular disease and premature death,” Mitchell testified. “In its current form the legislation would go a long way in addressing environmental justice issues in chemical policy.”


Dr. Richard Denison, Senior Scientist at Environmental Defense Fund and the leading expert on TSCA also supported the legislation. “Over the past decade, a litany of serious concerns has emerged that calls into question the safety of the thousands of chemicals we use and encounter in our everyday lives,” he said. “This critically important legislation represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to protect the American people and our environment from dangerous chemicals.”


Copies of the testimony are available at