Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Industry-Backed Chemical Safety Law "Doesn't Protect Pennsylvania Families"

Dan Heyman, Public News Service (PA)

IMAGE: Public health advocates, environmental groups and chemical workers' unions all say an industry-backed bill changing the way the federal government regulates dangerous chemicals doesn't do enough to protect Pennsylvania families. Image credit: Wikimedia.
IMAGE: Public health advocates, environmental groups and chemical workers' unions all say an industry-backed bill changing the way the federal government regulates dangerous chemicals doesn't do enough to protect Pennsylvania families. Image credit: Wikimedia.
HERMITAGE, Pa. - An industry-backed bill changing the way the federal government regulates dangerous chemicals won't do enough to protect Pennsylvania families, a coalition of consumer watchdogs say.

Senate Bill 697, also known as the Vitter-Udall bill, is being considered by a Senate committee – but the legislation is also drawing criticism from public health advocates, environmental groups and chemical workers' unions.

Andy Igrejas, director of Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, says in too many cases it would tie the hands of the EPA – and would largely prevent states from doing what the EPA can't.

"The legislation does not adequately reform the federal law," says Igrejas. "But at the same time, it would chill state activity, which has been the main thing that has been protecting the public from toxic chemicals for the last 30 years."

The watchdog coalition says slow safety testing and grandfathering under the current law has resulted in 62,000 chemicals being sold on the marketplace despite unknown impacts. According to the coalition, the EPA would only test a handful of these substances in the years after this bill became law.

That scenario concerns Maureen Swanson, a mother and the director of the Healthy Children Project for the Learning Disabilities Association of America.

"Flame-retardant chemicals are extremely dangerous to brain development," says Swanson. "Under this bill, EPA would not be able to act swiftly and get those chemicals out of our products."

Senator Bob Casey has not signed on as a sponsor of the bill, but Igrejas says pressure and donations from the industry have swayed many senators.

"The two largest recipients of campaign contributions in the last year were the two sponsors of this bill," he says. "The chemical industry's primary champion in Congress, Senator David Vitter from Louisiana, and also Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico, who's a Democrat."

Chemical regulation reform has been gridlocked for years, so watchdog groups say the public is now subject to exposure due to the huge backlog of untested chemicals.

While supporters say the bill is intended to deal with that issue, critics say it was largely written on industry terms – the result of lobbying and campaign spending by chemical manufacturers.

No comments:

Post a Comment