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Rick Haggard

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A Chance for Sensible Chemical Regulatory Reform

Posted: 02/02/10 03:11 PM ET

Gerald Ford was President when lawmakers established our nation's current chemical regulatory system -- the Toxic Substances Control Act. There have been a few updates, but essentially we are all held hostage to a terribly outdated and unsafe chemical regulatory system.

Congress should now seize the opportunity to modernize chemical regulations to reflect current scientific knowledge and engineering.

Over the last three decades, the scientific community has advanced our ability to measure the impact of chemicals on human health and the environment. We have also developed a wide range of increasingly sophisticated, effective and safe chemical-based products used in a range of industries, including high technology, pharmaceutical manufacturing, agriculture, and more.

But federal regulation has stood still. The inadequate federal regulatory system, combined with a patchwork of state regulations, hurts businesses that develop and use chemicals. Innovation is unnecessarily hampered, and businesses must invest in complying with cumbersome, unscientific chemical regulations. Ultimately, these burdens limit businesses' ability to expand and create new jobs.

Does this mean, then, that chemical regulations should be eased? Not at all. In fact, we could better ensure public health, workplace safety, environmental protection, and business growth by giving the EPA the authority and resources to evaluate and regulate chemicals using current, not decades-old, scientific understanding and technology.

In his State of the Union address, President Obama noted that China, Germany, and India have not waited to take steps to improve their economies. In point of fact, these three countries represent increasingly strong competitors in chemical engineering, biotechnology, and advanced materials.

The U.S. has a strong presence in these global industries, but we cannot keep pace if we do not modernize our chemical regulations. A new regulatory system would also help make our nation competitive in the development of a new generation of chemicals and chemical-based products that have a smaller environmental footprint.

In his State of the Union address, the President also called on lawmakers to "try common sense." Reforming regulations in a way that puts health and safety first and creates jobs at the same time would be a welcome step in this direction.

Rick Haggard is the President of the Green Industry Alliance, a member of the Coalition for Chemical Safety