By Cherie Ching, Advocacy Fellow
July 17, 2015
Article information provided by Rachelle Ain in the Advocacy Committee
While regulations on Toxic Substances are being addressed on Capitol Hill, local efforts to ban toxics are also taking place on Beacon Hill. The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Reform will tighten regulation on toxics in building materials and products to ensure healthier buildings for the people of Massachusetts to work and live in. Our Chapter continues to promote a greener community with stricter regulations on companies using toxics in our building materials, which will result in less toxics exposure for our citizens.
Since its inception, the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act has been in need of updating and improvement. The law exempted over 60,000 chemicals already on the market, and has since hindered the EPA from identifying and regulating chemicals. TSCA has largely been ineffective at regulating the safe use of new chemicals. This year, at the Federal level, both the House and the Senate have advanced TSCA reform bills. The Senate Bill, S.697, the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, was introduced by Senators Udall (NM) and Vitter (LA) in March, gained committee approval in April, and is expected to go for final vote at the end of July. The House Bill, TSCA Modernization Act (TMA-DD / HR 2576), was introduced by Congressman Shimkus (IL) and passed the House at the end of July.
There are complexities to pushing for the TSCA reform because both bills fall short on effective chemical regulation. The Senate bill in particular has been criticized for serious federal overreach because of its state preemption provision, which would ban state regulation of a chemical that is being reviewed by the EPA. It is notable that the chemical industry has been supportive of the Senate bill, undoubtedly, and the bill would further weaken current law by requiring EPA to set aside claimed “low priority” chemicals without a safety determination.
Massachusetts bills on toxic substances include Bill S.1132: To protect children and families from harmful flame retardants (Sponsored by Senator Cynthia Stone Creem) and Bill H.2119: To prohibit the distribution in commerce of children's products and upholstered furniture containing certain flame retardants (Sponsored by Representative Marjorie C. Decker). Both of the above bills are focused on flame retardants in products, which particularly affect children, families, and firefighters. Without realizing it, many families are exposed to these chemicals on direct contact with their household products, leading to chronic diseases and disorders, birth defects, and several cancers. These bills will initiate the phase out of flame retardants in children’s products and residential furniture. In addition, Bill H.2119 prohibits any manufacturer, distributor, or retailer to sell, offer for sale, manufacture for sale, distribute in commerce, or import into the United States any children’s product or upholstered furniture that contains a flame retardant specified in subsection (c) for any part of the product or furniture.
The Senate Bill S.697 for TSCA reform appears to be gearing up for a vote in the next two weeks. Our Advocacy Committee is reaching out to many organizations to talk about advocacy efforts our group may consider. If Bill S.697 limits regulation of chemicals on a federal level, it may also put a damper on efforts being made at the state level. In the meanwhile, please send a letter to Senators Warren and Markey, stating your concern opposing the Senate Bill S.697.
Check out our Healthy Materials & Toxics Advocacy Page for more information!