I've previously written about the woefully inadequate Toxic Substances Control Act, in effect since the 1970s, and about efforts to update it. Last year, the Safe Chemicals Act was introduced in the Senate, but failed to gain bipartisan support. A bipartisan bill known as the Chemical Safety Improvement Act was then proposed. Public health and environmental groups have been divided in their opinion of whether the bill is strong enough in its current form to promote.
Now a bill has been introduced in the House. It's known as the Chemicals in Commerce Act (CICA) and many groups are characterizing it as a step backwards rather than forward. Noted problems include those related to setting health standards, prioritizing problematic chemicals, and enforcing deadlines and minimum requirements for action. Opposition is coming not only from health and environmental groups, but also from a coalition of states that oppose the bill because current state authority to regulate chemicals would be undermined and largely eliminated.
The regulation of chemicals is often framed as a fight between health and economic interests. As a recent Huffington Post article reports, however, problems associated with toxic exposures have an associated financial cost. The article notes that a 2011 study found that toxic chemicals and air pollutants cost $76.6 billion in lost working hours, reduced IQ points, and children’s health care. The study included only a fraction of possible concerns. It didn’t, for example, look at childhood obesity related to exposure to bisphenol A, which is estimated to cost the economy $1.49 billion.
If you'd like to add your voice to those calling for meaningful reform and expressing disappointment in the Chemicals in Commerce Act, the Center for Environmental Health has provided a way for people to easily contact their representatives about the issue. There's also an online petition that can be signed on the website of the organization Safer Chemicals: Healthy Families.
It would be nice if regulations were in place that required manufacturers to prove products safe before putting them on the market and making it easy to remove them once problems surfaced. Since that doesn’t exist, each of us must continue to do our homework and to purchase products with the health of ourselves, our families, and our fellow human beings in mind.