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Public Health Groups Challenge Industry on Chemical Policy Reform

Fundamental Differences Emerge As Congress Prepares to Introduce New Legislation

Protest Today Outside GlobalChem Conference in Baltimore

As leading chemical manufacturers met today for their annual GlobalChem conference in Baltimore, a coalition of 200 environmental and public health groups called on them to deliver a substantive platform to reform our federal toxic chemicals policy. The coalition — Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families (SCHF) — released a document outlining three fundamental differences between how the chemical industry vs. public health groups are defining reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act — a law whose modernization is imminent and long-overdue.

Also today just outside of the GlobalChem conference, protesters inflated a 20-foot rubber duck with a giant sign for all attendees to see which says: “Safer Chemicals Now!” The rubber duck represents thousands of products, including those that babies commonly put into their mouths, made from the toxic chemicals such as phthalates.

Following are excerpts from today’s release by Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, entitled: “Shaping Chemicals Policy Reform: Public Health Advocates vs. the Chemical Industry:”

Basic Safety Information for All Chemicals:

  • SCHF believes all chemicals should have basic health and safety information as a condition for entering or remaining on the market — something other laws already require for drugs and pesticides.
  • The chemical industry wants to use the very limited information currently available for most chemicals to identify a few as priorities. Only these priority chemicals would be subjected to further information requirements and then only on a case-by-case basis.

Expedited Action on the Most Dangerous Chemicals:

  • SCHF wants to ensure that EPA moves quickly to reduce the impact of those chemicals already known to be dangerous. For example, government authorities around the world have already concluded that use of certain persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) chemicals must be reduced or eliminated.
  • The chemical industry opposes allowing the EPA to take action on any chemicals without first undergoing new full-blown risk assessments. EPA would essentially be wasting precious resources to reinvent the wheel.

Real-World Analysis Using the Best Science:

  • Currently, chemicals are assessed (when assessed at all) as if a person is exposed to individual chemicals in isolation. SCHF believes the National Academies of Sciences recommendations that cumulative exposure to chemicals, such as they are experienced in the real world, should be considered when the EPA reviews chemicals for safety.
  • The chemical industry wants the EPA to take into account only some of the uses of the small number of chemicals identified as priorities, and then make “safe use determinations” without reference to aggregate or cumulative exposure. The industry has also been hostile to the NAS recommendations.

In the next few weeks Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Representative Bobby Rush (D-IL) are expected to introduce a TSCA reform bill. Of the 62,000 chemicals on the market at the time this law passed in 1976, the EPA has only required testing on about 200; and it has only regulated five. As scientific studies linking common chemicals to various diseases have increased in recent years, several state governments and major trading partners like the EU and Canada have changed their own chemical laws. Concerned consumers have even prompted major companies like Staples, Wal-Mart, and SC Johnson to restrict certain chemicals in their products. In the face of these developments, the leading chemical industry association, the American Chemistry Council, finally endorsed reform of TSCA in 2009, reversing its long-standing opposition.

“We are thrilled that the chemical industry finally agrees that we need to reform this outdated law,” said Igrejas. “Now we need to make sure that we take advantage of this long-awaited opportunity to protect the health of Americans for decades to come.”

See the complete statement: Shaping Chemicals Policy Reform: Public Health Advocates vs. the Chemical Industry