House Passes Bill Overhauling Chemical Safety Standards
Styrene, Formaldehyde, BPA among chemicals reviewed
On Tuesday, the House overwhelmingly approved new chemical safety rules intended to overhaul a law created 40 years ago governing toxic chemicals. The measure will for the first time subject some 64,000 chemicals to regulation.
The bill, which was passed 403 to 12, is expected to be passed by the Senate as soon as this week, and signed into law by President Obama.
New and existing chemicals will be evaluated against a new risk-based safety standard that includes considerations for pregnant women, children, and other particularly vulnerable populations.
Trade groups representing Dow Chemical Co., DuPont Co., and others have been pushing for the legislation, even as states and big box stores were creating their own overarching rules over concerns about chemical safety. 
Under the new rules, the EPA must launch a review of 10 chemicals and eventually have 20 chemicals under review at a time. The agency will have a deadline of 7 years per chemical. Policy experts say it could take several years to review all of the chemicals that escaped regulation under the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).
However, these deadlines will make it harder for the industry to claim chemical information is proprietary, and therefore secret.
Not all environmental groups are fully on board with the bill, and say it does too little to protect consumers from toxic chemicals that that can contribute to the development of cancer, nervous system disorders, and other health problems.
Andy Igrejas, campaign director for Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, which has lobbied on the bill on behalf of approximately 450 environmental and public health groups, told The New York Times:
“We’re not in support of the bill. But we’re not formally opposing it. This bill has some real reforms that give EPA authority to go after more chemicals and order more testing, but taking authority away from the states is a real limitation.”
Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group (EWG), told The Associated Press:
“Despite the best efforts of many lawmakers to redeem legislation that originated in the suites of the chemical industry, on balance the law Congress will send to the president’s desk continues to place chemical company interests above the public interest.”
In a statement, the White House said Monday:
“While not perfect, the bill meets the high goals set by the administration for meaningful reform.”
The White House went on to say it believes the legislation will restore public confidence in the safety of chemicals, as well as improve public health and the environment.
Styrene, formaldehyde, and Bisphenol A (BPA) are among the chemicals that will be regulated once the law goes into effect.
Just last week, a new study linked prenatal BPA exposure to obesity in children.
Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.