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Elder statesman Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and several others from both sides of the political aisle have joined together to promote safer consumer products with an update to the outdated Toxic Substances Control Act. The US Senators have joined New Jersey’s Senator Frank Lautenberg, the grandfather who has vowed to get the Safe Chemicals Act passed before his retirement. Their bipartisanship brings encouragement, while the details look like a diluted version of the original Lautenberg effort.
This bipartisan effort is now called the Lautenberg-Vitter “Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013.” As with any piece of compromise legislation, the bill gets mixed reviews. The broad-based coalition, Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families is noting this as an encouraging step, although the details have not all been sorted out. SCHF Director Andy Igrejas says, “This is an impressive bipartisan group of Senators and it shows that we can get reform done in this Congress. We look forward to working with them to ensure the strongest law possible.”
Consumer advocate Environmental Working Group is sounding a more critical tone and says the new legislation strays too far from the safety and health intent behind the original Safe Chemicals Act. EWG President Ken Cook says, “This draft bill, which has received extremely enthusiastic support from the industry it would regulate, is an unacceptably weak response to the chemical exposure problems that American families face every day.” EWG says the compromise bill strips tough safety standards and omits clear deadlines for chemical safety assessments, creating only a minimal improvement over TSCA’s current inability to protect Americans. EWG’s work is a major reason why we all know the new normal for American babies is to be born prepolluted with hundreds of toxins in their cord blood, a reality confirmed by repeated government studies.
What business would knowingly use Hazardous 100+ list substances for consumer products anymore and what government leader would play games with our children’s health by not working toward meaningful TSCA reform? Parents across the country will continue asking the nation’s top retailers to Mind the Store, and we’ll expect our elected leaders to put safety and health first.
Those of us parents, nurses and educators who lobbied our Senators for the Safe Chemicals Act last year and marched in the National Stroller Brigade have reason to be both encouraged and skeptical. I appreciated SCHF giving me the opportunity to attend and blog about the event. I’ll never forget meeting Donna Brigham, a special needs coordinator for her school who is another mother from Tennessee. We weren’t interested in how the other one voted and neither of us expressed much enthusiasm for politics in general. We did discuss our shared concerns for our children and we prayed together before meeting Senator Alexander at the Tennessee Tuesday breakfast. To countless parents like us, protecting our children from known toxins in everyday consumer products isn’t a partisan, pro-business or anti-business issue. It’s just common sense and something that should be done, for goodness’ sake!
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