By Ethan A. Huff, Natural News
Just prior to his recent death, Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) introduced new legislation to reform the inherently flawed Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA), an atrocious piece of legislation that over the years has allowed an untold number of toxic chemicals to flood the consumer products industry without being properly safety tested. But its proposed replacement, the Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013 (CSIA), will likely do little, if anything, to correct the flaws of TSCA, while simultaneously dismantling the freedom of individual states to pass their own chemical safety regulations.
The Center for Environmental Health (CEH), an environmental and human rights advocacy group, recently sounded the alarm about the flaws of CSIA, urging that changes be made now to protect states’ rights with regards to chemical safety regulations. If passed in its current form, CSIA will not only bar states from passing effective chemical safety regulations of their own, but also potentially undo existing state chemical laws, including California’s Proposition 65, which requires that the state publish a list of chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm in humans.
Though the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is technically already required under TSCA to assess chemical safety and toxicity for the entire country, the law is so vaguely written that the agency can basically drag its feet indefinitely and never actually complete any of the necessary safety reviews. And while CSIA would admittedly help correct this by requiring the EPA to prioritize its chemical safety review timeline, any final determinations made by the EPA about chemicals, regardless of their accuracy, would basically override existing state restrictions.
“Under the CSIA, once EPA has made a ‘safety determination’ regarding a toxic chemical, all state laws restricting the use or distribution of that chemical in commerce could be preempted,” explains CEH. “If, for example, EPA in its review of the strong neurotoxin lead decides to ban lead in ammunition, but defers action on other uses of lead, industry will argue that California’s Proposition 65 can no longer allow the state to regulate lead in toys, candy, jewelry, or any product.”
Chemical industry could gain free pass under CSIA to continue unleashing deadly toxins that have never been safely tested
Another major flaw with CSIA is the fact that it still allows the EPA to get around having to safety test chemicals in a timely manner. Though the EPA would be required under CSIA to prioritize its review process for chemicals by categorizing them as either “high-priority” or “low-priority,” there is still no established timeline for how quickly the EPA must act in reviewing either category, which means chemicals could remain on the list for decades without ever getting reviewed.
“Since there are no clear deadlines or timetables for action, the EPA can put the chemicals on the list, fail to take action for 20 years, and effectively tie the hands of state and local governments from protecting their residents from the chemical in the meantime,” says CEH.
Beyond this, CSIA’s provisions have the potential to basically shelter the chemical industry from lawsuits that might arise due to injuries caused by chemical exposure. As mentioned previously, decisions made by the EPA with regards to chemical safety will preempt those of individual states, which also preempts individuals from obtaining monetary or other relief under state tort law, a major public protection.
“[A] person injured by a toxic exposure after a ‘safety determination’ may be prevented from obtaining a remedy under tort law if EPA determines the chemical meets applicable safety standards for certain uses,” explains CEH. “For instance, a person injured by a chronic, years-long exposure to a toxic chemical deemed safe by EPA would be unable to seek recourse under state tort law.”
CSIA lacks vital protection for states’ rights, allows chemical industry to control safety data reviewed by EPA
When making any safety determinations, it is only reasonable that the EPA be required to review independent safety data from a myriad of sources. But under CSIA as it is currently written, the chemical industry would be in full control of which data the EPA and other government agencies have access to, which means only favorable data would likely be submitted. This is completely unacceptable, and defeats the entire purpose of having an EPA or any other regulatory body.
Prior to introducing CSIA, Sen. Lautenberg introduced a much stronger chemical regulatory bill known as the Safe Chemicals Act of 2013, which addresses many of the aforementioned problems with CSIA and more. This particular bill was assigned to a congressional committee back in April, and CSIA was introduced and sent to a congressional committee not long after.