Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.
Another encouraging sign emerged today that efforts to ensure the chemicals we all encounter every day are safe need not fall into the partisan food fight that seems to consume so much of Washington, DC these days: A bipartisan group of 26 Senators — more than a quarter of the U.S. Senate — has sent a letter to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson in support of actions EPA is taking to limit Americans' exposure to a class of very toxic chemicals widely used for decades as flame retardants in furniture, electronics and even childrens' products.
The chemicals in question have gained even greater notoriety in recent months after an in-depth investigation published in the Chicago Tribune exposed a coordinated campaign of deception by the chemical and tobacco industries to hide the truth about these toxic chemicals.
The Senators' letter urges EPA to pursue a variety of actions on these chemicals, including to finalize proposed notification and testing rules — now undergoing public comment — as quickly as possible. But the Senators also call attention to the severe limits on EPA's authority under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), and they urge prompt action to reform TSCA:
"While we commend the EPA for taking steps to address PBDEs, it is concerning that the agency must undertake lengthy rulemaking processes merely to secure additional health and safety data on a chemical of concern and to receive notifications regarding expansions of its uses. Further, EPA is not evaluating steps to actually restrict existing unsafe production and uses of these toxic flame retardants. This reinforces why there is broad agreement that TSCA must be reformed to protect American families from dangerous chemicals in a cost-effective way and we urge you to continue to work with Congress to enact consensus reforms."
The letter's signatories are as follows:
Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Susan Collins (R-ME), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Al Franken (D-MN), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Jon Tester (D-MT), Jack Reed (D-RI), Tom Udall (D-NM), John Kerry (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Daniel Akaka (D-HI), and Michael Bennet (D-CO).