House Panel Takes on Toxics Reform
Amid growing concern that U.S. chemical regulations are not adequate for protecting human health, a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee this week will investigate the current law to assess its effectiveness at governing the thousands of chemicals in commerce today.
The House Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection Subcommittee will meet Thursday to discuss the Toxic Substances Control Act, which was first established in 1976 to govern the roughly 82,700 chemicals in commerce.
Critics have called for an overhaul of TSCA, saying U.S. EPA cannot properly assess chemicals’ toxicity because of a high burden of proof — the government must prove a chemical poses a health threat before it can act. However, regulators also need proof before they can require companies to provide more information about a chemical.
Since TSCA was enacted 32 years ago, EPA has used it to evaluate the safety of 200 chemicals and banned five.
In response, three Democrats, including new Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) last year introduced legislation to require chemical manufacturers to provide health and safety information on chemicals used in products such as baby bottles and food wrappings instead of presuming a substance is safe until proven dangerous.
“The United States’ current regulatory approach to chemicals is in dire need of being modernized,” Waxman said in a statement when the bill was introduced.
The bill, the “Kid Safe Chemical Act,” was also sponsored by Rep. Hilda Solis (D-Calif.), who may be confirmed as President Obama’s Labor secretary this week. It would be the first effort to reform TSCA since it was enacted more than three decades ago (E&E Daily, May 21, 2008).
Industry groups have argued that while there is some room for improvement, TSCA is fundamentally protective to human health.
The hearing is set for Thursday, Feb. 26, at 10 a.m. in 2123 Rayburn, Washington, D.C.
Sara Goodman, E&E Reporter
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