Advocates Plan to Boost State, Market Pressures on Chemicals

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By Pat Rizzuto

Oct. 27 — The federal chemicals law has been updated, but advocacy groups tell Bloomberg BNA they are going to keep the political and economic pressures on companies to spur development of chemicals and products that are safer than those they replace.

The goal of updating the Toxic Substances Control Act “was safer chemicals and healthy families,” said Andy Igrejas, who in 2009 organized the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families campaign by forming a nationwide coalition of hundreds of environmental, health and labor groups that have pushed for chemical policy reform.

Their efforts, industry’s agreement that reform was needed, the contributions of other groups such as the Environmental Defense Fund, and congressional champions finally resulted in the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (Pub. L. No. 114-182), which amended the Toxic Chemicals Control Act on June 22.

The law boosts the Environmental Protection Agency’s authorities to obtain toxicity, exposure and other information on chemicals and regulate chemicals when needed.

Amended TSCA Won’t Change Much Fast

“We have an interest in making the most out of this law,” Igrejas told Bloomberg BNA in a recent interview.

Yet, “it’s clear the law will not solve the issue of environmental degradation and public health impacts from unregulated chemicals either quickly or even on a reasonable time frame on its own,” he said.

It could take a decade or more before the EPA begins to regulate the first group of chemicals it will begin to assess later this year, Igrejas and Daniel Rosenberg, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, have told Bloomberg BNA.

The nurses, physicians, public interest and other groups that make up the Safer Chemicals coalition, therefore, will keep working on chemical policy reform efforts on three fronts, Igrejas said. The three are:

  •  participating in the Environmental Protection Agency’s implementation of the Lautenberg Act;
  •  pushing for chemical control, disclosure and other state laws and regulations; and
  •  “mind the store” campaigns that press retailers to demand that the companies, which make the products the retailers sell, eliminate hazardous chemicals.
In a Bloomberg BNA podcast, Rosenberg discussed the growing role consumers are having in pushing markets to sell products verified as having chemicals deemed safer than those they replace. The defense council is a member of the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Family Coalition.

Sarah Doll, director of the chemical-policy oriented organization called Safer States and the more consumer-oriented group called Healthy Babies Bright Futures, told Bloomberg BNA the many “pieces” on the chessboard of chemical policy will keep moving and reacting to each other to keep the pressure on the intertwined policy and economic fronts.

The upcoming election is likely to alter the involvement of some states, Doll said. But others, such as New York and California, which pursued chemical disclosure policies this year, are likely to take them up again in 2017, she said.

Requiring companies to disclose the presence of formaldehyde, styrene, methylene chloride or other chemicals in children’s products—as Washington state already does—makes manufacturers work with their supply chains, which can have a variety of worker, consumer and other safety benefits, Doll said.

Such disclosure also helps retailers decide which products to stock, she said. Large retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. and Target Corp. have had dramatic effects on chemical policies, Doll said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Pat Rizzuto in Washington at prizzuto@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

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