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Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff

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No More Spitting in the Wind

Posted: 11/23/11 04:03 PM ET

I just tuned in to the webcast of last week's Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing on the 2011 Safe Chemicals Act.

Scintillating stuff.

No, really. Healthy Child Healthy World has been pushing for chemical management reform for nearly 20 years. On a daily basis, we can help parents understand how to reduce toxic chemical exposures, but without a better chemical management policy at the federal level, we're just spitting in the wind.

But back to the hearing, where things got pretty heated: Democratic Senators Ben Cardin of Maryland, Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island criticized the obstructionist tactics of Cal Dooley, president of the American Chemistry Council, which represents Dow, DuPont and Exxon Mobil Chemical, among others.

Surprisingly, the Consumer Specialty Products Association, which represents companies like Procter & Gamble and SC Johnson, indicated support for the measure, admitting "the need to provide useful information to the EPA about the chemicals they use," the Washington Post summarized.

On the whole, the hearing showed encouraging bi-partisan support for the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011, a much-needed overhaul of the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act. As Charlotte Brody, registered nurse and the Director of Chemicals, Public Health and Green Chemistry for the BlueGreen Alliance so poignantly stated in her testimony:

I started practicing as a registered nurse around the time that TSCA became law. If I practiced nursing the same way I did then, I would be in prison for gross negligence and malpractice. The science about disease and treatment has changed so much since then.

[...]Allowing our nation's chemical management system to remain lost in the 1970s is its own form of negligence, especially when we have the opportunity to modernize the law.

Reforming our chemical management policy is simply common sense. If Congress approves the Act, the Environmental Protection Agency will have more authority to regulate chemicals and can require chemical manufacturers to prove safety before bringing a substance to market. Interestingly, these are both practices most major manufacturers are already transitioning to in order to meet the new, tougher regulations in place in Canada and the European Union. Don't Americans deserve the same?

Senator Lautenberg is working with Environment and Public Works Committee member James Inhofe of Oklahoma to seek Republican support for the measure, which he hopes to move through committee by the end of the year, according to Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families.

"We remain open to other ways of achieving our shared goal of a system that improves safety and encourages continued innovation and growth in the chemical industry," Lautenberg said in his opening remarks at the hearing. "But we must act on this issue soon."

Stay tuned for new developments. And, if you have a Senator who is a member of the Environment and Public Works committee, please, please, take a moment to let him or her know how important it is to pass the Safe Chemicals Act.