The Senate passed legislation on June 7th that will overhaul the way the federal government regulates every chemical sold on the market in the United States. The bipartisan effort represents the most sweeping environmental measure to pass Congress in a quarter-century.
The bill, which drew support from the chemical industry, trial lawyers and many public health and environmental groups, updates a 40-year-old law long criticized as ineffective.
In reauthorizing the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act on a voice vote, lawmakers are providing chemical manufacturers with greater certainty while giving the Environmental Protection Agency the ability to obtain more information about a chemical before approving its use. And because the laws involved regulate thousands of chemicals used in products including furniture, sippy cups and detergents, the measure will affect Americans’ everyday lives in ways large and small.
Currently, the EPA must prove that a chemical poses a potential risk before it can demand data or require testing, and that substance can automatically enter the marketplace after 90 days. As a result, the agency has required testing for 200 out of thousands of chemicals that have entered the market, and it has issued regulations to control only five of them.
More than 8,000 chemicals are produced in the United States at an annual rate of more than 25,000 pounds each, according to the agency
The overhaul will allow the EPA to order companies to test their new products. The measure will also create a more uniform regulatory system for chemical manufacturers, although states will still have the right to seek a federal waiver to impose their rules on a given chemical. It will also severely limit the testing of chemicals on animals.
Manufacturers have lobbied for updated legislation because several states have begun to impose their own curbs on toxic chemicals out of concern that the federal government was not doing enough.
The measure, which President Obama is poised to sign into law, grew out of an effort that the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) launched with Vitter and Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) in 2012. The bill passed the House by an overwhelming margin late last month, but Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) put a hold on it that delayed its passage