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Watchdogs: "More Harm than Good" in Toxic Substances Update

Connecticut advocates have been urging other retailers, including Lowe's, to follow the lead of Home Depot and phase out dangerous chemicals in some flooring products. They are concerned that a Senate update of the Toxic Substances Control Act isn't sufficient. Credit: Susan Eastwood.
Connecticut advocates have been urging other retailers, including Lowe's, to follow the lead of Home Depot and phase out dangerous chemicals in some flooring products. They are concerned that a Senate update of the Toxic Substances Control Act isn't sufficient. Credit: Susan Eastwood.
April 28, 2015

HARTFORD, Conn. - Backers say it will provide a long-needed update to the Toxic Substances Control Act, but local consumer advocates say a measure pending in the U.S. Senate could result in less protection for consumers.

Anne Hulick, Connecticut state director of Clean Water Action in Hartford, said Connecticut has been a leader in protecting people from dangerous chemicals, but the Senate bill could block states from taking action.

"So, if the chemical is placed on the list that the EPA is going to take a look at," she said, "that effectively pre-empts any state actions for the next seven years."

Under the measure, Hulick said, the Environmental Protection Agency only would review about 25 chemicals in the next five years. That can't keep pace with the 84,000 chemicals already on the market - and more added each day, she said.

Senate Bill 697, introduced by Sens. David Vitter, R-La., and Tom Udall, D-N.M., has the support of the chemical industry. Hulick described her group as "relieved" that, to date, neither Sens. Richard Blumenthal nor Chris Murphy, both D-Conn., has signed on to support the measure.

"Right now, the bill causes more harm than good," she said, "so it's important that both senators work with their colleagues in Washington to make sure that what goes forward really does protect public health."

Hulick said some major retailers including Home Depot are voluntarily stepping up to protect consumers from hazardous chemicals such as phthalates which can be found in dangerous levels in some vinyl flooring products.

"They are strongly linked to birth defects; also asthma, which is a big prolem here in Connecticut," she said. "We have high rates of asthma."

Hulick and her group are urging other retailers to commit to phasing out phthalate products in 2015. The measure comes up in the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee today.

Information on the bill is online at govtrack.us.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - CT