A new bill in Congress, The Kid Safe Chemical Act, would force chemical manufacturers to prove their chemicals are safe before they are used in commerce, in essence setting up a system more akin to European-style regulations.
The bill was introduced Tuesday by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Representatives Hilda Solis and Henry Waxman (both D-CA).
Currently, chemicals are effectively considered safe until proven otherwise. The worst-case scenario, as in the case of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) or arguably Bisphenol A (BPA) is that a chemical is used widely for years, until enough testing takes place to show serious concerns, if not damning evidence that it causes health problems. Currently, Bisphenol A in plastic is a prime suspect as a hormone-mimicing agent with wide-ranging effects.
Some testing has shown as many as 455 different man-made chemicals in people. This bill would make it harder for hazardous chemicals to be used so widely that they accumulate in people's bodies. Because children's organs are still developing, and because smaller doses have large effects on small bodies, they are most at risk from exposure to chemicals in the environment. Thousands of chemicals are in use today that have never been tested for potential health effects.
Earthjustice, an environmental group, calls the bill the first effort in more than there decades to upgrade the nation's regulation of toxic substances.For years the chemical industry has worn the pants in its relationship with EPA. This bill would give the agency the power it needs to keep our bodies free from dangerous chemicals, said Earthjustice Associate Legislative Counsel and environmental health policy analyst Ben Dunham. Each day we learn more about the link between the chemicals found in our bodies and conditions like autism, childhood cancer, and learning deficits. The Kid Safe Chemicals Act requires companies to test these chemicals and prove them safe.
Here's how Earth Justice summarizes the legislation:
Requires basic data on industrial chemicals. Chemical companies must demonstrate the safety of their products, backed up with credible evidence. Chemicals that lack minimum data could not be legally manufactured in or imported into the United States.
Places the burden on industry to demonstrate safety. EPA must systematically review whether industry has met this burden of proof for all industrial chemicals within 15 years of adoption, even sooner for priority chemicals.
Restrict the use of dangerous chemicals found in newborn babies. Hazardous chemicals detected in human cord blood would be immediately targeted for restrictions on their use.
Use new scientific evidence to protect health. EPA must consider and is authorized to require additional testing as new science and new testing methods emerge, including for health effects at low doses or during fetal or infant development
Establish national program to assess human exposure. The federal governments Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is to expand existing analysis of pollutants in people to help identify chemicals that threaten the health of children, workers, or other vulnerable populations.
Expand the public right to know on toxic chemicals. New, internet-accessible public database on chemical hazards and uses will inform companies, communities, and consumers. EPA is to rein in excessive industry claims of confidentiality.
Invest in long-term solutions. New funding and incentives are provided for development of safer alternatives and technical assistance in green chemistry.
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