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World Cancer Day: Washington Watching D.C. Modernization of Toxics Law

The House and Senate are updating the 40-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act to regulate cancer-causing chemicals more quickly. (Pixabay)
The House and Senate are updating the 40-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act to regulate cancer-causing chemicals more quickly. (Pixabay)
February 4, 2016

SEATTLE - Today is World Cancer Day, and if you look around, you might find household items contaminated with potentially cancer-causing toxins. Some states, including Washington, have done their duty to ban chemicals linked to cancer like bisphenol-A, found in baby bottles and canned food liners, and a new bill passed by Congress could help federal agencies do the same.

The House and Senate versions of the bill allowing federal agencies to control toxic substances more effectively are now being reconciled. Washington state Representative Joe Fitzgibbon (D-Seattle) hopes lawmakers don't weaken state standards.

"State level regulations in particular have spurred manufacturers to remove harmful chemicals across the country," says Fitzgibbon.

He adds, Washington state has led the way in regulating hazardous chemicals like PBDE's, found in flame retardants used on mattresses.

While it may not be groundbreaking, Andy Igrejas, director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, says the bill that comes out of the process should be an improvement over current legislation that has left the Environmental Protection Agency unable to act even on known carcinogens, for decades.

"Steadily, the chemicals that are causing chronic disease and environmental degradation right now would be identified and intercepted and reduced," says Igrejas. "And that would be good."

Representative Fitzgibbon, who is chair of the House Environment Committee, wants Olympia to continue leading the way when it comes to regulating hazardous chemicals in consumer products. But he says bills introduced to evaluate and look for alternatives to other toxic substances have stalled in the state legislature.

"If individuals in our community want these chemicals to be removed from their products, then they need to be more organized and louder than the chemical companies are," Fitzgibbon says.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA