Everyday, the average American adult uses nine personal care products containing roughly 125 different ingredients, according to health and environmental watchdogs. Normally, this wouldn't raise so many concerns, but they say we live in a country that lacks a proper system to regulate chemicals and so unhealthy substances may be found in the products we use.
In an attempt to address this issue, Sens. Frank Lautenberg, Barbara Boxer, Amy Klobuchar and Charles Schumer all Democrats last week introduced the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011, an updated and revised version of Sen. Lautenberg's failed 2010 bill.
The Safe Chemicals Act is designed to replace the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which has resulted in the banning of just nine toxic ingredients since it was passed in 1976.
"The 1976 law acts on the presumption that chemicals should be innocent until proven guilty," Andy Igrejas, the national campaign director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families told reporters during a recent conference call with other advocates for the law.
The Safe Chemicals Act demands that industries study chemicals before they are allowed into consumer products; currently law allows a more "innocent until proven guilty" approach to chemicals regulation that many criticize as too weak to remove chemicals independent studies question but industry studies deem safe.
According to Richard Denison, senior scientist of the Environmental Defense Fund, the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 is "very much a new and improved version of the bill that was introduced last year," which failed to win passage.
In short, the new act would:
The Safe Chemicals Act would categorize chemicals into three classes: high, medium, and low concern. While officials should take action to reduce exposure to high-priority chemicals, low-priority chemicals should not pose any significant risks.
"The Safe Chemicals Act wouldp> provide EPA with the authority it needs to protect public health, the marketplace with the information companies need to innovate safe products, and consumers with the comfort in knowing that their families are being protected," Denison said.
Even though the Safe Chemicals Act of 2010 failed to win passage, supporters say the new bill should kick-start the debate in both houses. The bill has the support of many advocacy groups, including the Breast Cancer Fund, NRDC, the Environmental Working Group and the Union of Concerned Scientists.
"We need a new law to put commonsense limits on toxic chemicals," Igrejas said, "both to protect American families and to give a leg up to American firms in a world market that increasingly demands safer products."
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