National Chemical Policy

TSCA: 37 years + 80,000 chemicals – 300 tested = 5 restricted

We have worked for years at the national level to transform the badly outdated Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976. Did you know that 80,000 chemicals are on the market in the United States without safety testing? In the 37 years of TSCA, only about 200 chemicals have been tested by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for their effects on human health and the environment. Only 5 chemicals have been restricted by the EPA. Asbestos, which everyone knows is bad news – has still not been successfully banned by the EPA. The Toxic Substances Control Act fails to protect our health because it does not require the chemical corporations to prove the safety of their products.

Before his untimely death in June of this year, Senator Lautenberg (D-NJ) worked on a compromise bill with Senator Vitter (R-LA) to reform the outdated TSCA with bipartisan support. Sadly, the Safe Chemicals Act that we organized around for years was scrapped. However, as a testament to our grassroots effort, your voices were heard loud and clear by Alaskan Senators Begich and Murkowski who are now both co-sponsors of the new Chemical Safety Improvement Act (S. 1009). Thank you for speaking up and taking action.

Senator Begich told us his office has been “inundated” on this issue—a direct result of our grassroots organizing. When she became a co-sponsor Senator Murkowski stated:

“It’s troubling to me and to many Alaskans that we haven’t updated our chemical safety policy since the eight-track tape era. I have repeatedly been asked by the Alaska Community Action on Toxics and their Alaska Environmental Health and Justice Program to reform and streamline the review process of chemicals that are affecting the health of rural Alaskans. Though this bill is not perfect, it clearly is a positive, bipartisan step forward and offers a clear path to speed up the review and enforcement of rules to stop chemicals from affecting our fish and wildlife – and the health of rural Alaskans that depend on a subsistence way of life.”

The Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA) does not do enough to protect the health of Alaskans. We need your help to strengthen this bill. A stronger Chemical Safety Improvement Act is a critical step towards protecting Alaska’s environmental and public health. Alaska and the circumpolar Arctic have become a hemispheric sink for persistent, bio-accumulative chemicals carried into the north through wind and ocean currents. These harmful chemicals contaminate fish, wildlife, and people. As an example, research has shown that women of childbearing age in the Yukon-Kuskokwim delta have higher levels of PBDEs (flame retardants in foam furniture and electronics) than any other population in the circumpolar Arctic.

We continue to work with our national coalition partners including the national Environmental Justice and Health Alliance and the Safer Chemicals Healthy Families Coalition to ensure that the Chemicals Safety Improvement Act really protects the health of vulnerable populations such as pregnant women and children, as well as “hotspot” communities—those communities that are disproportionately exposed through industrial or military contamination. These changes are vital to the health of Alaskans. Alarmingly, as it’s written, this bill would prevent the right of states to pass stricter chemical laws and protections. We need to fix this. We need your help to ensure that chemicals policy reform actually protects our health. Scientific evidence links many diseases, including cancers, learning and developmental disorders, diabetes and obesity, with chemical exposures. We must do everything possible to take the precautionary approach – it’s better to be safe than sorry. We have the opportunity to achieve real change at the national level and to prevent harmful exposures. Call Maricarmen, Environmental Health and Justice Organizer at ACAT at (907) 222-7714 to learn how you can help to change state and national chemicals policy to protect the health of all! Please join us in this organizing movement and call your Senators today. Learn more and please call Senators Begich and Murkowski today and ask them to fix the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (S.1009) so it will adequately protect public health. ❖

Sen. Lisa Murkowski
Washington, D.C. office: (202) 224-6665
Anchorage office: (907) 271-3735

Sen. Mark Begich
Washington, D.C. office: (202) 224-3004
Anchorage office: (907) 271-5915

Fall 2013 Newsletter