Generations of us have grown up, and raised families, under a forty-year old chemical bill so weak that the authorities whose job it is to protect us did not even have the ability to ban asbestos.
After years of serious, intense, impassioned and difficult work, during which parents and grandparents visited countless legislators, signed countless petitions, marched through the halls of Congress, and joined in stroller brigades, we may soon have a new law in place that will require the Environmental Protection Agency to start tackling notoriously dangerous chemicals immediately.
It is a significant improvement over existing law. It will take time for the EPA to go through the tens of thousands of chemicals that are now in all of our stuff — some of which are known endocrine disrupters and carcinogens. We want EPA to be painstaking in its analysis. And of course, we will have to fight to make sure EPA has the funding it needs to do this work — especially in light of a presidential candidate who threatens to shut down environmental protection entirely.
Of particular note, the new bill:
- requires safety reviews for chemicals in commerce, instead of giving untested chemicals a free pass to harm our health;
- requires a finding of safety before new chemicals are allowed on the market, instead of the rubber stamp approval process under existing law;
- requires that chemical safety be evaluated under a health-based standard, instead of a cost-based one;
- requires EPA to prioritize chemicals that are persistent, bioaccumulative, carcinogenic, and toxic;
- requires the protection of vulnerable populations, like children and pregnant women;
- requires access to confidential information about chemicals by state, health and environmental professionals so they can do their jobs
- requires that trade secret claims be justified on a regular schedule, instead of letting industry shield the identities of chemicals forever.
States will be able to continue to play a significant role in protecting their citizens from harmful chemicals.
One final point is noteworthy: This bill gives us a glimpse of what bipartisan cooperation looks like (Tweet this) — in what has been a highly divided, contentious Congress, for years.
We look forward to celebrating this victory any moment!