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Statement on TSCA Reform from Maryland PIRG's Public Health Organizer Juliana Bilowich
We are disappointed with the TSCA bill that was released by the House and Senate leaders and we urge Congress to reject the bill. When it comes to public health protections, the federal government should set a floor, not a ceiling. By unnecessarily preempting states’ efforts to regulate toxic chemicals, this bill does more harm than good.
Most people think that the products we use on a daily basis are safe. Unfortunately, our national chemical safety law, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) from 1976, is so weak that of the 80,000 chemicals on the market since, less than 2 percent have been tested for safety. Of those screened, more than 1,400 chemicals still in use today have known or probable links to cancer, asthma, developmental disorders, reproductive problems, and other health issues. In other words, the law has utterly failed us and our families.
Many states have been leading the fight against toxic substances and have been more effective in protecting their citizens from dangerous chemicals than the federal government. In recent years, Maryland has regulated six dangerous chemicals: After leading the country in banning BPA from baby bottles and sippy cups, Maryland restricted heavy metals like cadmium and lead, as well as toxic flame retardants in baby products.
Maryland is just one of many states that has stepped up in the absence of federal protections. California and Washington, for example, have robust and comprehensive laws to promote transparency and protect citizens from a host of toxic chemicals. State regulation of toxic substances not only protects citizens of one state from dangerous chemicals but often results in adoption by other states, forcing major companies to remove dangerous chemicals from their products. The good news is action in the states has driven the chemical industry to the negotiating table, the bad news is they are using the opportunity to try to stop further state action on toxics.
Proponents of the negotiated bill argue that it would create a better framework for regulating chemicals than the current ineffective TSCA law. We agree that in some ways it would. But there is a reason why the chemical industry supports this bill. It handcuffs state regulators and takes 50 chemical cops off the beat. This proposal could best be characterized as one step forward and two steps back. We can do better, and we urge lawmakers to vote no.
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