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Health Watchdog: TSCA Deal Protects Important State Laws but Falls Short of Protecting Public Health

New York, NY (May 24, 2016) – House and Senate negotiators have announced an agreement on a final chemical safety bill. The national nonprofit Center for Environmental Health (CEH) is pleased that the bill includes significant improvements from earlier versions, including protection for California’s Prop 65 consumer protection law. CEH thanks Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and Reps. John Shimkus (R-IL), Diana DeGette (D-CO), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), and Paul Tonko (D-NY) for their leadership in safeguarding Prop 65 and other long-standing state laws. However, CEH notes that the bill continues to leave gaps in key areas that prevent the organization from supporting the bill, particularly by maintaining “premature preemption” of other state laws that protect our children’s and families’ health.

“While we are pleased that Prop 65 will be able to continue to protect millions of Americans, this ‘pause’ provision gives chemical companies free rein to continue to put our children and families at risk, while stopping states from protecting their citizens and creating innovative new solutions” said Michael Green, Executive Director of the Center for Environmental Health.  “The devil in these new rules will surely be in the details of EPA’s implementation. CEH will push for strong EPA action to protect Americans from risky chemicals.

This bill is the first major overhaul of an environmental law in more than two decades. Through Prop 65, which this bill protects, CEH has successfully protected millions of American children and families from toxic chemicals in our food, air, water and in thousands of everyday products. Saving this important law in this TSCA reform bill means that Americans across the country will continue to benefit from stringent chemical safety standards. The bill also improves the overly burdensome standard under existing TSCA that prevented the EPA from regulating asbestos, creating a health-only standard that removes cost as a consideration when determining if a chemical is safe, and puts toxic chemicals that accumulate and persist in the environment and our bodies at the front of the line for regulation.

Despite these positive changes, the bill includes some troubling provisions. As referenced above, the bill’s “premature preemption” provision means that states will be prohibited from acting to protect their citizens even before the EPA has acted on a chemical, thus leaving Americans unprotected from a chemical that has been identified as dangerous. The bill also has concerning limits on how the EPA can regulate chemicals in products that are imported into the United States, and potentially limits the kinds of studies EPA can consider about the health impacts of chemicals, even if they are rigorous, peer-reviewed academic studies. There are also loopholes that would prevent the EPA from taking swift action on persistent chemicals.

CEH looks forward to working with the Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency during implementation of the legislation to ensure that Americans’ health is adequately protected.

The Center for Environmental Health has a nearly 20-year track record of protecting children and families from harmful chemicals in our air, water, food and in dozens of everyday products. CEH also works with major industries and leaders in green business to promote healthier alternatives to toxic products and practices. In 2010, the San Francisco Business Times bestowed its annual “Green Champion” award to CEH for its work to improve health and the environment in the Bay Area and beyond.