Archives for posts with tag: Toxic Substances Control Act

You can link to an illuminating podcast interview, titled “Better Living Through Chemistryfrom the Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), here.

Here is PSR’s brief description of the interview:

We depend on chemicals in consumer products to perform as expected, and to be safe. But our regulatory system is not adequately protecting us from potential hazards in our food cans, diapers, shower curtains, baby bottles, and other consumer products. Listen to Washington State PSR President, Dr. Steven Gilbert, a toxicologist, together with pediatric urologist and Phsicians for Social Responsibility (“PSR”) board member Dr. Rich Grady, discuss chemicals policy in an illuminating radio interview, touching on “chemical trespass,” the precautionary approach to chemical regulation, and the importance of state-level policy change. They also discuss the federal bills, currently before Congress, intended to modernize the Toxic Substances Control Act — including the need to strengthen these bills. The interview was aired on Seattle radio station KEXP on June 19, 2010.

Listen to the interview here (mp3, 10 MB).

From The New York Times:

You might say Sen. Frank Lautenberg wants to be the grandfather of chemical regulation.

The New Jersey Democrat emotes the aura of a grandfather — so much so that even his staff pays him a reverence that goes beyond what senators typically receive from their aides.

And, like most grandfathers, Lautenberg is particularly concerned with children’s health. His eyes light up when asked about how chemicals in the environment or in day-to-day products may pose risks to children.

The 87-year-old lawmaker quickly rattles off statistics such as 5 percent of pediatric cancers, 10 percent of cognition problems in newborns and 30 percent of asthmatics are likely caused by chemical exposures. Not to mention possible links to rising autism rates.

Those statistics, Lautenberg said during a recent interview with E&E Daily in his Senate office, led him to become the chief advocate for reforming the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) — the nation’s only law for regulating chemicals.

“When you looked at TSCA and saw a piece of legislation that had almost no interest or no attention, I thought that was outrageous,” Lautenberg said. “I see families come to the Capitol. This week it was a group with diabetes. You see hundreds of kids sitting out there — not that their condition is necessarily tied to chemical presences — but when you see these children and you see the affliction that is put on them by something. That’s what gets us going.”

There is only one problem: Lautenberg’s numerous efforts at reforming TSCA so far have all failed.

But that is not stopping Lautenberg from trying again this year. The Democrat has introduced the “Safe Chemicals Act of 2011,” (S. 847 (pdf)) which calls for a seismic shift in the way chemicals are regulated by placing the burden on manufacturers to prove a chemical is safe before it goes on the market.

Talking to Lautenberg, who has served in the Senate twice — dating back to 1983 — you cannot help but get the distinct impression that the Democrat only has a few more fights left in him. After all, his term ends in 2014, when he will be 90.

But this year Lautenberg appears more likely to get something done from his perch as chairman of the Senate Environmental and Public Works Superfund, Toxics and Environmental Health Subcommittee. He notably began holding stakeholder meetings on the issue with Environment and Public Works Committee ranking member James Inhofe (R-Okla.) recently — signaling the possibility of Republican support that has never existed before — and says this year may be different (E&E Daily, June 15).

“We’ve got ourselves in position,” he said. “Persistence is our mantra. We keep chipping away at it.”

Lautenberg’s resilience on the issue has made him a hero to environmental groups who say that the 1976 law, the country’s only major environmental statute to never receive a congressional update, is woefully inadequate. Such groups say that for Lautenberg — who has had such accomplishments as banning smoking from airplanes — TSCA reform has become his holy grail, his legacy.

“He’s really been dogged,” said Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group. “This is a guy who has really been a courageous public health champion and this would be the environmental crown on his career.”

Family motivation

Lautenberg’s dedication to TSCA reform is deeply rooted in personal terms.

Many years ago, Lautenberg’s sister Marian Rosenstadt was diagnosed with asthma. She had a machine in her car, he said, that helped her during attacks.

At a school board meeting in Rye, N.Y., she felt such an attack coming on. She rushed out to her car but did not make it in time, passing out near the parking lot.

Three days later, she died at the hospital. She was 53 years old.

Lautenberg also has 13 grandchildren, some of whom have similar afflictions. One has severe asthma, another has diabetes.

“When you know how devastating some of these conditions can be, and you can prevent it …” he said, before his voice broke up slightly.

Lautenberg grew up poor, the son of Eastern European immigrants. His father died of cancer when Lautenberg was still a teenager. After serving in World War II, he went to Columbia University on the GI bill — and later started a successful paycheck processing company. One of the richest members of Congress, he has never forgotten where he came from — or the role government can play in improving people’s lives.

“I see lots of little children here,” he went on. “I love every one of these little ones. I’d like to see them healthy. … If I want my grandchildren to breathe clean air, I have to get everyone’s grandchildren to breathe clean air. Those are the fundamentals that move me along.”

More.

From The Altantic:

Bisphenol A (BPA)—the once-obscure chemical building block of polycarbonate plastics, the epoxy resins that line many food and beverage cans, and of the coatings that make inks appear in most cash register receipts—is now almost a household word. But familiarity with the chemical has grown not because BPA is used in countless everyday products, but because of its potential adverse health effects, in particular its ability to act as an endocrine-disrupting chemical.

As a result, many major manufacturers of baby bottles, toddlers’ drinking cups, and reusable water bottles—among other products—have switched to “BPA-free” materials. A number of prominent retailers in the U.S. and abroad are doing the same. So the question arises: What are these BPA-free materials, and who’s making sure they’re safe?

As scientific evidence of BPA’s biological activity grows, the search for alternatives becomes more imperative. While the polymers BPA creates are strong, they easily release the substance, which can get into our bodies not only through contact with BPA-laden products themselves but also through food, dust, and air. Potential adverse effects—which can occur at very low levels of exposure—include disrupted genetic signaling and hormone activity that can lead to diabetes; obesity; impaired reproductive, developmental, neurological, immune, and cardiovascular system function; and certain cancers. Of particular concern are the effects of BPA on infants and children. BPA eventually does break down, but the chemical is in so many products that it is virtually ubiquitous. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found BPA in more than 90 percent of the Americans it has tested.

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While there are currently no federal restrictions on BPA use, both the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which has labeled BPA “a chemical of concern,” and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have issued statements of support for the use of BPA alternatives.

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Under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the U.S. law that regulates chemicals in commerce, it’s entirely permissible to launch a new material into high-volume production without disclosing its precise chemical identity or any information about its toxicity. This makes it impossible for the public to assess product safety independently of manufacturer claims. And currently, despite EPA and FDA policies that support “safe” alternatives to a chemical of concern like BPA, neither federal agency conducts safety testing of new materials destined for consumer products before they come on the market.

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What all this means is that while U.S. federal policy supports alternatives to BPA—and we’re using products containing these new materials at increasing volume—we actually know very little about them and lack a system that would provide independent assessment of new materials before they’re in our homes. With demand growing for safe plastics, it’s clear that we need a better and more proactive way of ensuring their safety—and ours.

More.

From The Daily Green:

President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency administrator has made good on something she calls a top priority: Testing chemicals used widely in the U.S. that have never been assessed for the risks they might pose to human health or the environment.

It’s the same priority, in essence, that Congress set in 1976 when it passed the Toxic Substances Control Act, but 35 years later that act is “widely considered a failure” by watchdogs who note that the law exempted 62,000 chemicals already on the market in 1976, and another 22,000 have since been introduced without first undergoing rigorous testing for health and environmental risks.

Testing of human blood and urine routinely turns up dozens of synthetic chemicals, some with known toxic effects like cancer, developmental and reproductive problems and liver toxicity; but many more with unknown effects, but possibly including a range of health problems, from obesity to autism.

Which is why those watchdogs are expressing only reserved praise for Jackson’s announcement this week that the EPA would require companies to test 19 “high production volume” chemicals (so-called HPV chemicals are manufactured in excess of 1 million pounds every year). The 19 target chemicals are the stragglers: EPA managed to get information about 2,200 chemicals by asking companies to volunteer the information; the makers of these 19 chemicals did not comply with that request, so now the EPA is demanding it.

The 19 chemicals don’t have names that most Americans would recognize, but they are used in a range of consumer goods and industrial processes, from personal care products and dyes to metalworking, demolition and fingerprinting.

“This chemical data reporting will provide EPA with critical information to better evaluate any potential risks from these chemicals that are being produced in large quantities in this country,” said Steve Owens, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “Having this information is essential to improve chemical safety and protect the health of the American people and the environment.”

More . . .

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