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Chemical Industry Backs Proposal to Regulate Toxic Chemicals

PHOTO: A proposal to reform the nation's toxic chemical laws does not go far enough to protect the public, and could roll back some important protections currently in place, according to safety and environmental advocates. Photo credit: Andy Beecroft/Wikimedia Commons.
PHOTO: A proposal to reform the nation's toxic chemical laws does not go far enough to protect the public, and could roll back some important protections currently in place, according to safety and environmental advocates. Photo credit: Andy Beecroft/Wikimedia Commons.
April 28, 2015

DENVER - The chemical industry is backing new legislation in the U.S. Senate to reform the way chemicals are regulated.

Its proponents say it's time to loosen some of the current restrictions on chemicals, many of which show up in such everyday products as plastics and vinyl flooring. However, consumer watchdog groups disagree.

The Toxic Substances Control Act hasn't been updated in nearly 40 years. Andy Igrejas, director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, said he agrees that the old law needs some work, but added that it's important to get it right. He pointed out that Colorado's U.S. senators - Democrat Michael Bennet and Republican Cory Gardner - are under pressure by industry to back the bill.

"We know the chemical industry has put a lot of pressure on Senator Bennet to support it," Igrejas said. "There's a lot of Democratic opposition to the bill, and they're looking for more Democratic support."

According to the nonpartisan group Maplight, Gardner was a top recipient of cash from chemical companies, pulling in $72,000 in donations in 2014. The group said senators who are co-sponsors of the bill have received, on average, nearly 70 percent more money from the industry than those who are not sponsoring it.

Igrejas argued that the reforms wouldn't reduce people's exposure to toxic chemicals and would prevent states from taking their own action if the Environmental Protection Agency is reviewing a chemical, a process that can take years. Another loophole, he said, would allow the EPA to exempt chemicals from regulation based on a cursory review instead of a more thorough examination. Igrejas said chemical reform is supposed to be about protecting the public health and safety.

"But what this is," he said, "is something where you really have a reform measure that is primarily supported by the chemical industry, and opposed by the vast majority of public health and environmental organizations."

The chemical workers' union also is opposing the legislation, he said. As of Monday, Colorado's senators had not signed on as co-sponsors.

The legislation, S 697, is online at congress.gov. The Maplight analysis is at maplight.org.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO