Under proposed new legislation introduced by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) the US EPA would gain far greater control over industrial chemicals. The bill, called the “Safe Chemicals Act”, would require industry to prove chemicals are safe for human exposure before they could be used. This is in contrast to the current system where the EPA only has authority over chemicals that have been scientifically proven to cause harm to human health. According to Lautenburg, he introduced the bill because “America’s system for regulating industrial chemicals is broken” and ““parents are afraid because hundreds of untested chemicals are found in their children’s bodies. The EPA does not have the tools to act on dangerous chemicals and the chemical industry has asked for stronger laws so that their customers are assured their products are safe”.
The bill would reform the “Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976” to put it in line with how drugs, food additives, and the water supply are currently regulated. Requiring substances to go through an approval process would prevent such incidents such as the past widespread use of asbestos and lead based paint, and the disastrous health consequences they have caused. In a time when thousands of untested chemicals are used in everyday products, many of which can be found in our bodies, a growing chorus of health experts and industry watchdogs are calling this common sense legislation. The Environmental Working Group has stated, “the effort to protect Americans from chemical dangers took a historic step forward” with the introduction of this bill. Also, the coalition Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, which claims to be 11 million members strong, released a statement of support that can be found here.
Additional aspects of the bill call for a public database of all chemical information including test results, and funding for the development of “green” chemical alternatives. The House version is being introduced by Congressman Bobby Rush (D-IL) and Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA). Furthermore, the bill reportedly has the support of the Obama Administration. The full text of the senate legislation can be found here.
In the mean time, you can reduce your exposure to harmful chemicals by using green cleaning agents from companies such as Seventh Generation and Ecover. Also, cutting down on the use of tupperware, avoiding scratched teflon cookware, eliminating the use of plastics #3, #6, and #7, and finding green alternatives to cosmetics and other sources of chemicals will all help.