Senators clear the air on “early preemption” under the Senate TSCA reform bill

Richard Denison, Ph.D.is a Lead Senior Scientist.

In the immediate aftermath of the Senate’s unanimous passage of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (S. 697) on December 17, 2015, three of the key Democratic cosponsors of that bill – Senators Whitehouse (RI) , Booker (NJ) and Merkley (OR) – participated in a colloquy to discuss one of the most contentious – and widely misunderstood – provisions of the Senate bill:  the extent to which it would preempt states from acting during review of a high-priority chemical by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

That colloquy ran in the next day’s Congressional Record.  I am including it at the end of this post in its entirety; it explains the Senators’ successful effort to limit preemption of state authority in the final bill – including by narrowing the conditions states must meet to act during EPA review of a chemical essentially to constraints on state authority already imposed by the U.S. Constitution.  The Senators conclude:  “Restoring the ability for States to protect their citizens while EPA assesses the safety of chemicals was one of the primary goals of our work to improve this bill and that has been accomplished under section 18(f)(2) of S. 697, as reported by the Environment and Public Works Committee. We believe this does, within the limits imposed by the Constitution.”

Although this preemption provision was narrowed in negotiations led by those Senators this past April, it is still being widely mischaracterized.   Read More »

Posted in TSCA Reform| Tagged , | Comments are closed

Links to essential reading on Senate and House TSCA reform legislation

Richard Denison, Ph.D.is a Lead Senior Scientist.

[UPDATE 2/8/16:  Updated version of our detailed side-by-side comparison of Senate and House bills has been posted below.]

On December 17, 2015, the full Senate passed the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (S. 697, the Lautenberg Act), which would amend the nearly 40-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

The House of Representatives already passed its TSCA reform bill in June, the TSCA Modernization Act of 2015, H.R. 2576.

Next up in the New Year will be efforts to reconcile these two bills.  In anticipation of this, I am posting here updated analyses of the two bills that examine how and to what extent they would address key flaws in TSCA.  These analyses include:

  • brief and detailed side-by-sides of TSCA and the two bills,
  • a comparison of how the bills deal with the contentious issue of preemption of state authority,
  • a comparison of how well the bills meet the Administration’s principles for TSCA reform, and
  • an earlier blog post on the importance of understanding which chemicals are in use today.

All of these materials (including this post) are available at blogs.edf.org/health.

ANALYSES:

Posted in Health Policy, TSCA Reform| Tagged , , , , , | Comments are closed

Let’s savor this moment: Senate passes legislation representing real chemical safety reform

Richard Denison, Ph.D.is a Lead Senior Scientist.

[Links to: the Senate-passed bill and a staff-prepared summary and list of changes made since committee markup.]

A huge step was taken tonight toward bringing this country’s chemical safety law into the 21st century:  The Senate (at last!) brought the Lautenberg Act to the floor by unanimous consent and passed it without objection by a voice vote.  While this outcome was not surprising, given that 60 Senators had already co-sponsored the legislation, it took a long time to get here and tonight’s vote is an historic moment that merits reflection.

I’ve been working for better chemical safety policies, including meaningful and comprehensive reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), for most of my career at EDF.  And for much of that time I found myself and my organization virtually always at odds with the chemical industry and often with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  When I started, I’m not sure I could ever have predicted either how long it would take – or how strongly bipartisan the support for TSCA reform would become.

The twists and turns along the way toward today’s Senate vote are too many to recount.  Suffice it to say we wouldn’t be here without the tremendous, sustained work of a group of Senators and their staff on both sides of the aisle who dedicated themselves to steadily moving this legislation forward while improving it in response to the concerns of literally hundreds of stakeholders.  The key has been the active engagement of and by an ever-enlarging circle of Senators and stakeholders, who saw the potential for a public health and environmental breakthrough and had the courage to work toward a compromise bill even in the most partisan of climates.

EDF’s benchmark for judging the strength of any legislative proposal has been the extent to which it addresses the many flaws in current law.  The Lautenberg Act, while clearly a compromise, still unequivocally meets that test – and has the level and diversity of support needed for the bill to actually become law.

Our press release, factsheets and side-by-side comparison of the Lautenberg Act to current TSCA summarize why we believe it represents the meaningful, comprehensive reform for which we’ve been working for so long and that American families deserve.

Of course, the work to get TSCA reform is not done.  The task of reconciling the comprehensive Senate bill with the more skeletal TSCA Modernization Act that breezed through the House in the summer now begins.  EDF strongly believes this should not be an exercise in merely splitting the differences.  Rather, we will be relentless in working to ensure that any bill signed into law meets key health protection objectives and delivers real reform.

Our top-ten list of objectives is as follows:

  1. Primary focus on chemicals that EPA, not industry, deems to be of highest priority
  2. Affirmative safety finding before a new chemical can enter the market
  3. No preemption of state authority triggered by EPA actions on new chemicals
  4. Dedicated user fees to defray costs of all EPA chemical reviews, not just those industry selects
  5. Full exclusion of cost considerations from all EPA determinations relating to unreasonable risk
  6. Elimination of TSCA’s Catch-22 requiring EPA to first show evidence of risk to require testing
  7. Deadlines for compliance with, and elimination of a cost-benefit balancing requirement from, EPA chemical regulations
  8. Authority for EPA to act if another agency to which a risk is referred fails to take timely action
  9. EPA review of confidential business information (CBI) claims, both past and future, and mandatory access to CBI by states
  10. No allowance for chemical identity in health and safety information to be claimed CBI

But it’s worth savoring the present moment, brought to all of us by a rare amalgam of political risk-taking and courage, willingness to seek common ground and compromise, dedication to one’s key principles while acknowledging the legitimacy of others’, and countless days, weeks and months of plain old hard work.

 

Posted in Health Policy, TSCA Reform| Tagged | Read 5 Responses

Advancing the ball while minding the gaps: EDF’s comments on EPA’s risk scoping documents for flame retardant chemicals

Lindsay McCormick is a Research Analyst.

Until June 2014, EPA had not completed a chemical risk assessment under its Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) authority in 28 years.  Since then, EPA seems to have been somewhat picking up the pace: Over the past year and a half EPA has completed four additional risk assessments through the TSCA Work Plan Chemical Program, which is designed to assess the risks of priority chemicals currently on the market.

Recently, EPA initiated its assessment process for the next set of Work Plan chemicals, including three “clusters” of flame retardant chemicals.  We fully support EPA’s current efforts to assess the risks of these flame retardants – with the end goal of managing identified risks – and have provided quite extensive comments on EPA’s initial scoping documents.  In this post, I’ll highlight some of our comments and recommendations; see the links at the end to access the comments themselves.   Read More »

Posted in EPA, Food, Health Policy, Health Science| Tagged , , , | Comments are closed

New Wristband Technology Illuminates Chemical Asthmagens in our Environment

Lindsay McCormick is a Research Analyst.

Asthma presents a huge public health challenge.  Over the past few decades, asthma rates in the U.S. have nearly tripled – increasing from 3.1% in 1980 to 8.4% in 2010. Today, more than 25 million people suffer from this chronic respiratory illness.

While air pollution and allergens like pet dander are clearly big triggers for asthma, we know that certain chemical exposures play an important role as well.  A number of chemicals used in everyday consumer products – from household cleaners and building materials to shampoos and cosmetics – are known or suspected "asthmagens"– environmental agents that cause or exacerbate asthma.  Unfortunately, such chemicals are poorly regulated and we, as individuals, rarely have any way of knowing which ones are lurking in our environment.

EDF recently conducted a pilot project to explore which chemicals we are exposed to in our day-to-day lives.  The project employed simple chemical-detecting wristbands that absorb certain chemicals present in the environment.  We enlisted 28 volunteers to become “environmental sensors” for a week by wearing the wristbands.

Among the results:  Over the course of that week, the participants came into contact with a total of 57 potentially hazardous chemicals, 16 of which are linked to respiratory health effects such as asthma.   Read More »

Posted in Emerging Testing Methods, Health Policy, Health Science| Tagged , , , , , | Read 2 Responses

Towards Safer Food Additives

Tom Neltner, J.D.is Chemicals Policy Director.

EDF strives to make safer food available by partnering with companies to reduce and eliminate potentially unsafe chemical food additives and supporting efforts to fix a broken regulatory system.

For many years this blog has focused on the safety of chemicals and nanomaterials used in industrial and consumer products.  Most of these substances are regulated federally by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  But we also encounter chemicals in other ways, including those present in or added to food.  Such chemicals are regulated under a different law, the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act (FFDCA), administered by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  This blog introduces EDF’s “Safer Food Additives” initiative to get unsafe and questionable chemicals out of our food by using dual levers of change—corporate leadership and public policy.   Making our food trustworthy demands leadership in both the private sector and the FDA.

The food market is changing rapidly as manufacturers work to keep up with consumer concerns about what’s in our food. And it’s not just about added sugar, salt and trans fats, or whether the food was grown locally or with or without pesticides. Public campaigns increasingly put the spotlight on many chemicals commonly used in food and food packaging—food additives—with growing scientific evidence questioning the safety of their use.

Consumer concern re foodA respected industry survey released in May 2015 showed that 36% of consumers rated chemicals in food as their most important food safety concern – greater than pathogens, pesticides, animal antibiotics and allergens, and up from 23% in 2014 and 9% in 2011. These concerns translated into action; 45% of consumers reported changing their buying habits.   Read More »

Posted in FDA, Food, Health Policy, Markets and Retail| Tagged , , , , | Comments are closed
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