Monday, June 24, 2013

To Compromise or Not to Compromise: That is the Question

Legislation introduced by Senator Frank Lautenberg just weeks before he died continues to be the focus of much discussion and dissension. To recap, the Toxic Substances Control Act has been in effect since the 1970s. Under the TSCA, chemicals don’t have to be proven safe before they enter the market. The Environmental Protection Agency must prove a chemical to be unsafe before it can be banned, but there are challenges (such as the difficulty of acquiring needed information from manufacturers) that make that task difficult.

Senator Lautenberg addressed the problem by introducing the Safe Chemicals Act, but the bill failed to attract bipartisan support. Then, a bipartisan compromise bill (the Chemical Safety Improvement Act) was drafted by Lautenberg and Senator David Vitter. Environmental and public health advocacy groups are divided over the Lautenberg-Vitter bill; with some supporting it and some saying they can not endorse it until it is strengthened.

According to various news reports on the issue, here’s where things currently stand:

  • The compromise bill came as a surprise to many chemical safety advocates, including Senator Barbara Boxer, who has emerged as its strongest opponent.

  • Boxer is a friend of Lautenberg’s widow, who has urged her to support the bill.

  • Boxer has accused some of the bill’s supporters of not fully understanding it. They deny that charge and state that they support it because it has a better chance of passage.

The organization Safer Chemicals: Healthy Families urges people to ask lawmakers to strengthen the Lautenberg-Vitter bill. They provide an easy way to do that on their “Take Action” page.Taking a minute to visit the page and send an electronic message is another way to let our elected representatives know that the issue of chemical safety is important to us. This vital issue finally has a little bit of traction, and I pray that some sort of improvement to the TSCA will make it across the finish line.


DebraSY said...

Well, I went to the page and entered my zip code and started to personalize the form letter to Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt. I came across the following sentence, which is a bullet point I was presumably asking them to support:

"Ensure chemicals have adequate information before they are prioritized."

What does that mean? Prioritized by whom? Prioritized for approval? How can chemicals have adequate information? People can have information about chemicals, but chemicals aren't alive. Do we mean we want chemical companies to supply our regulators with adequate information so that they may test products properly before they are allowed on the market? Again, what is "prioritized"?

I'm really confused. I will wait for your clarification, then go back to the site and do my duty. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I'll try to keep this brief because my computer crashed and I'm trying to type from my phone, which I'm not very good at doing. (This comment may also show up as being from "anonymous," but this is Martha.). Anyway, I agree the sentence is confusing and poorly written. My understanding is that the EPA would be given the task of prioritizing chemicals for review and that critics are concerned that they might not have access to the information they need to adequately prioritize them. The chemicals are those already on the market that would be reviewed for safety (I think).