Thursday, January 21, 2016

Advocates Push for "Long-Overdue" Reform of Toxic Chemicals Law

Andrea Sears, Public News Service 

Some imported children's toys may contain toxic chemicals, and health and safety advocates say the government isn't doing enough to test or restrict them. (Joseph Mischyshyn/geograph.ie)
Some imported children's toys may contain toxic chemicals, and health and safety advocates say the government isn't doing enough to test or restrict them. (Joseph Mischyshyn/geograph.ie)
PITTSBURGH – For the first time in 40 years, the federal Toxic Substances Control Act is being reformed, and advocates for the changes say the results could give Pennsylvanians a much-needed layer of protection.

Chemicals are everywhere, including in children's toys, household products and construction materials.

Michelle Naccarati-Chapkis, executive director of Women for a Healthy Environment, points out that since the law passed in 1976, more than 83,000 chemicals have been used in commerce, but the Environmental Protection Agency has only reviewed 200, and regulated just five.

"So, there's general consensus that that particular act is woefully broken,” she states. “It's not doing anything at this point to really protect public health and the environment."

Reform bills have passed both houses of Congress, although both bills contain provisions that she believes would hinder the law's effectiveness.

The Senate bill, for example, would block states from taking any new action on a chemical while the EPA is conducting its assessment.

With no law on the books in Pennsylvania, Naccarati-Chapkis says consumers here often depend on laws in other states, such as California's Prop 65 warning label requirement.

"I was purchasing items for my children,” she relates. “One of them contained a Prop 65 warning label saying it may contain lead and phthalates, and so that gave me pause to select another product on the shelf."

Phthalates are a hormone-disrupting chemicals used in some plastics.

There are also provisions Naccarati-Chapkis says would be major improvements on the existing law, including setting a minimum number of chemicals to be tested each year.

She’s counting on the final result being the best of both the House and Senate bills.

"So, we are at a time where we must ensure that the commonsense approaches are a part of that conversation as these bills get reconciled in Congress, in early 2016," she states.

No comments:

Post a Comment