Thursday, November 18, 2010

With Uncertainty About the Future of TSCA Chemical Reform in Congress , States Increase Regulatory Action

I have spent a lot of time on this site talking about various aspects of the attempts to reform/update/modernize the 34-year old Toxic Substances Control Act.  One aspect I've mentioned several times is the work of various states to "fill in the gaps" of the federal level law.  A new report shows that states have stepped up their activity in light of the lack of substantive movement on TSCA reform legislation in the US Congress.

The report, by two health advocacy coalitions - SAFER States and Safer Chemicals Healthy Families - is called "Healthy States" and documents that "states aren’t waiting for Congress to take action on toxic chemicals—they are taking matters into their own hands."

According to the report, "state restrictions on toxic chemicals are on the rise, and will probably continue to increase until Congress overhauls failing federal legislation."  Among other activities, the report highlights:
  • In the last eight years, eighteen states have passed 71 chemical safety laws.
  • The pace of state policy making on chemicals has more than tripled in eight years.
  • Sixty-six laws banned bisphenol A (BPA) in baby and toddler products (with 98% support), phased out toxic flame retardants (PBDEs) in home products (93%), reduced children’s exposure from common products containing lead (88%) and cadmium (86%), and promoted green cleaning.
  • State legislators strongly supported recent state laws that create new programs for broad regulation of toxic chemicals. This includes comprehensive laws passed in California, Maine, Minnesota and Washington state.

According to SAFER States, "while Washington DC is stuck in chemical industry politics, the states are growing frustrated and taking matters into their own hands -- passing laws which will help to temper the public outcry until a day comes when we are comfortable with the chemicals that are infiltrating every part of our lives."

The chemical industry has in the past supported the concept (though not necessarily the details) of federal-level TSCA modernization, in large part because they don't want the kind of patchwork regulatory quilt in which state-level regulations would result.  With the 2010 Safe Chemicals Act bills left to die without action, new versions of the bills will need to be introduced in the next Congress.  The change of majority party in the House and the subsequent differences in viewpoint between many key incoming House members and the opposite majority party in the Senate have created some uncertainty about the path forward.  What this report shows is that the states will continue, and likely increase, their state-level action in an effort to 1) deal with the lack of federal-level action in Congress, and 2) stimulate federal-level action in Congress.

The report can be downloaded on either of the two advocacy sites linked above.  A PDF is available here.

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