The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), passed in 1976 and never updated, regulates the chemicals used in consumer products. And there are many chemicals, over 80,000 of them, in consumer products. There are many new chemicals not on the inventory of chemicals mandated by the TSCA. New chemicals exempt from the listing process include inorganics, pesticides, food additives, and any chemical produced in small quantities. The EPA and FDA don’t know exactly how many chemicals are used in consumer products, according to the Environmental Working Group.
Some business leaders think there needs to be better regulation of the chemicals used in consumer products. Barry A. Cik, co-founder of Naturepedic, which manufactures certified organic mattresses and bedding, is one of them. Cik testified last month in favor of stronger regulation of toxic chemicals at a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce, Environment and the Economy Subcommittee.
Cik spoke as representative of the American Sustainable Business Council, and on behalf of the Companies for Safer Chemicals coalition, launched by the ASBC and Seventh Generation. Founding members of the coalition include Patagonia, Stonyfield Farm, Aubrey Organics, Method, Naturepedic, Badger, Annie’s, EILEEN FISHER, Zarbee’s Naturals, Keys, Think Dirty, and Beautycounter. The coalition members signed a declaration that asks Congress “to pass comprehensive and effective chemical safety reform legislation.”
A 2012 poll by the ASBC of the opinions of small business owners on toxic chemicals and reform of the TSCA found that three-quarters support stricter regulation of chemicals used in consumer products. Almost all think there should be a publicly accessible database of toxic chemicals and manufacturers should be responsible for chemical safety. Nearly three out of four support a proposed reform of the TSCA requiring manufacturers to prove their chemicals are safe. Some congressional members also think the TSCA needs to be reformed. The House subcommittee is chaired by John Shimkus (R-IL) who introduced a proposal earlier this year to reform the Toxic Substance Control Act. His bill is called the Chemicals in Commerce Act. The bill would require the EPA to categorize chemicals as either “high priority” or “low priority.” High priority chemicals would undergo rigorous scientific study by the EPA, and the agency would have authority to require manufacturers and processors to produce information on the chemicals, and possibly test them for risks. The EPA would then decide if the chemical would result in an unreasonable risk of harm for its intended use. If the EPA decides that a chemical poses an unreasonable risk of harm it would be subject to a rule that would either restrict its use or some other requirement such as worker safeguards or consumer product labeling.
Some states are not waiting for the federal government to act. The Vermont state senate passed a bill, Senate Bill 239, to regulate toxic chemicals. The bill would require the Department of Health to identify and publish a list of chemicals of “high concern.” The bill would also require a manufacturer of a consumer product containing a chemical of high concern to notify the Commissioner of Health and to replace the chemical with a safer alternative. If a manufacturer does not replace the chemical of high concern or does not obtain a waiver, the bill would require that the sale of the consumer product be banned in Vermont.
Photo: Yersinia pestis
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