Lindsay Dahl, deputy director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, is focused on the same goal. Earlier this year, her nonprofit coalition helped lead more than 200 moms and kids as part of the National Stroller Brigade in Washington, D.C. Their mission: convince Congress to retire the outdated Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA), the country’s main law regulating chemicals used in everyday products, and replace it with the stronger, more precautionary Safe Chemicals Act. That legislation, first proposed by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) in 2010, now awaits a Senate vote.
The swap would essentially shift the burden of proof for chemical safety from the current assumption that a chemical is safe until proven toxic by the EPA to a requirement for industry to prove that a chemical is safe prior to placing it on store shelves.
Of all the parents among the nearly 3,400 people who have so far attended screenings of his film worldwide, Brown said that at least nine out of every 10 had no prior idea that most of the products they buy have never been tested for effects on a child’s brain, immune or reproductive system.
By the time the U.S. government passed legislation to regulate toxic chemicals in 1976, some 62,000 chemicals already filled the U.S. market. That new law, while meant to regulate all industrial chemicals, actually kept the ball rolling for the chemical industry: TSCA grandfathered in most existing chemicals such as BPA under presumptions of safety despite the lack of safety testing.
The EPA reports that it has only been able to require testing of little more than 200 members of that list, due to the “legal and procedural hurdles that TSCA imposes.”
Of the rest — the more than 20,000 chemicals introduced in the U.S. since 1976 — few of those have undergone any thorough health risk assessment either. And even when the science does prove a chemical’s harm, added Denison, the EPA’s hands tend to be tied.
“The language of TSCA requires that the EPA, before it can do any kind of regulation of a chemical, has to find the risk posed by that chemical unreasonable,” he said. “That term is not defined in the law.”
The Safe Chemical Act would not only give the EPA the legal authority to require testing to identify and restrict toxic chemicals — both those on the grandfathered list and those coming through the pipeline for the first time — but it would also compel the agency to update their scientific methodologies to ensure those assessments consider the same subtle health effects that scientists are now seeing, explained Igrejas.