Sunday, February 7, 2010

Lautenberg's Opening Statement - Feb. 4 Senate Hearing on TSCA Chemical Reform

Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D – NJ) delivered the following opening statement at a morning hearing of the Environment and Public Works subcommittee he chairs to examine the current science on public exposure to toxic chemicals.

“Let me thank everyone for being here as we focus on better protecting the health of our families by updating our chemical safety laws.

There’s no question that chemicals are essential to our modern lives.

They are used in household cleaners to kill germs. They are used in medical equipment that saves lives. They even help fight global warming by creating insulation for homes, better components for wind turbines and additives to make fuels cleaner.

But when we use these products, the chemicals in them can end up in our bodies. So in essence, the American public has become a living, breathing repository for chemical substances.

And when the chemicals used in flame retardants, plastics or rocket fuel show up in our children’s bodies, we have a potentially dangerous situation.

We can trace this problem back to the current law that governs the safety of chemicals. That law – the Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA – fails to give EPA the tools it needs to protect against unsafe chemicals.

In fact, the Government Accountability Office has identified our current law as a “high risk” area of the law.

In nearly 35 years, TSCA has allowed EPA to test only 200 of the more than 80,000 chemicals in the products we use every day.

What’s more, the EPA has been able to ban only five substances on EPA’s inventory of chemicals on the market.

With EPA unable to require adequate testing, our children have become test subjects.

And we are seeing the results in a dramatic increase in childhood cancers, birth defects and hormonal problems across the population.

Studies have found that as much as five percent of cancers, ten percent of neurobehavioral disorders and 30 percent of asthma cases in children are associated with hazardous chemicals.

Our children should not be used as guinea pigs. So it’s time to update the law and protect them.

Led by our friend from New Jersey Lisa Jackson and Assistant Administrator Steve Owens, who is here with us today, the Environmental Protection Agency has taken steps to try to reduce the risks from chemicals.

But they cannot protect our children with one hand tied behind their back.

That’s why I will soon introduce a bill that will overhaul our nation’s chemical laws.

My safer chemicals bill will have a simple goal: force chemical makers to prove that their products are safe before they end up in a store, in our homes, or in our bodies.

We already regulate pesticides and pharmaceuticals this way – it’s just common sense that we do the same for chemicals that are used in everyday consumer products.

Everyone from chemical manufacturers, to businesses that use chemicals in their products, to environmental, labor and health groups have called for reforming our chemical laws.

We cannot waste this opportunity.

I will be reaching out in the coming weeks to our colleagues – Republicans and Democrats alike – to support my safer chemicals bill.

This is a problem that affects us all, and we should all be committed to working on the solution.

It's clear that Senator Lautenberg understands how important chemicals are to all Americans, and in fact, everyone in the world. But it's also clear that he believes the old way of regulating chemicals is severely out of date and it is time to modernize the law.

I'll have more on the Senate hearings all week.

You can view the archived webcast and connect to each of the presentations at the EPW web site.

No comments: