In July of this year New Jersey's Senator Frank R. Lautenberg 's Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 (S847) received enough votes from the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee to move on to the Senate, where it now awaits a full vote. This legislation has the potential to make significant improvements to our health and the health of our children.
The European Union (EU) has a precautionary principle they can invoke when considering policy or legislation that involves potential toxins. The principle essentially says that if there is a question as to the safety of a chemical or additive, then it's best to err on the side of caution. It "may be used to stop distribution or order withdrawal from the market of products likely to constitute a health hazard."
In the US we have no such protections. This is why we have body products, cosmetics, and even foods that are so much more questionable than our European neighbors. For example, there are currently no requirements for a pre-market safety check of body products.
In 1976 the US legislature passed the Toxic Substances Control Act. It hasn't been very effective. Since it was passed the Environmental Protection Agency has only been able to regulate five chemicals of concern. Currently the onus is not on the manufacturer but on the EPA to prove the safety or danger of a chemical.
Lautenberg's Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 would set the standard even higher than the EU's review of toxic chemicals. Currently a safety review is initiated if the EPA questions it, and then it's up to the EPA to perform the review - with taxpayer's money. S.847 would require the manufacturer of a chemical to prove its safety. It would also make the industry more transparent as it would require disclosure of the ingredients in their creations. There would no longer be synthetics with undisclosed ingredients in our homes and communities.
A safe chemical is defined in the bill as having “a reasonable certainty of no harm.” This is similar to the standard the EPA has used to assess pesticides for the last ten years.
A particularly progressive part of the bill is the acknowledgment that we need to consider what it calls "aggregate exposure." It adds together exposure to a single substance from all sources, such as air, water, and food. It also looks at cumulative exposure which would consider the public’s aggregate exposures to chemicals that have similar effects, such as mimicking estrogen.
Here's a link to urge your senators to co-sponsor the Safe Chemicals Act. Let's finally get a Safe Chemical Act in 2012/2013!
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