For the first time in more than three decades, we have the opportunity to update our nation’s failed chemical policy.
ACAT belongs to the national Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition supporting a unified policy platform for reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA), the primary law governing chemicals in the U.S.
What’s Wrong with Current Policy?
Under current law, chemicals are presumed safe until regulatory agencies like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can prove them harmful. Too often, agencies rely on flawed industry-funded studies and disregard independent studies when determining the safety of chemicals. Legal loopholes impede our government’s ability to effectively regulate industry to prevent contamination of our air, water, and food.
Currently, manufacturers can legally keep products on the market despite evidence that the chemicals in them are harmful. Some consumer products, including household cleaning products, cosmetics, and other personal care products are exempt from safety testing. Loopholes in labeling laws also exempt companies from fully listing ingredients on these products, as well as on pesticide products. Hidden behind the claim that formulas are “trade secrets,” manufacturers have dodged their responsibility to let consumers know what chemicals are in their products.
Alaska Community Action on Toxics supports comprehensive reform of the two major laws governing toxic chemicals in the United States: the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA) which regulates most chemicals and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) which regulates pesticides.
We advocate for precautionary policy that includes phasing out the most dangerous chemicals on the market today, community right-to-know provisions, and protection for vulnerable populations, including Arctic Indigenous peoples.
A stronger national chemicals policy will help to reduce production and release of global contaminants that are carried to the Arctic by wind and water from distant sources in the lower-48 states and abroad. PCBs, DDT, dioxins, mercury, and brominated flame retardants are among the global contaminants being found in traditional foods important to the physical, cultural, and spiritual sustenance of Arctic Indigenous peoples.
As a member of the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition, we support a unified platform for chemicals policy reform.
We are also working with organizations including Pesticide Action Network North America and Beyond Pesticides to ensure passage of new legislation that transforms the way pesticides are regulated in America.
Chemicals policy: The primary law governing chemicals in the United States – the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA) – has not been updated since it was first enacted more than thirty years ago. More than 60,000 chemicals were “grandfathered” under the law without any safety testing. Only five chemicals have been banned since TSCA was enacted. Not even asbestos is prohibited under the law, despite conclusive evidence that it causes cancer and other serious health hazards.
In 2013, the bill S. 1009 known as the Chemical Safety Improvement Act was introduced. This bill sounds like an improvement over the Toxic Substances Control Act, but it is not. This bill was written by industry and does not include important safeguards for vulnerable populations.
Pesticides policy: The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, or FIFRA is the law that governs pesticides. The original 1972 version of the law is largely still in place. FIFRA is administered by the EPA. Currently, pesticide manufacturers are allowed to market pesticide products without proof of safety, and once on the market, it is extremely difficult to remove a product even in light of evidence that it is harmful. Under the law, pesticide manufacturers create their own labels with directions for use and warnings, but these are not reviewed for accuracy by a third party. So-called “inert” ingredients are not required to be tested for safety or be identified and listed on the labels of pesticide products, though these ingredients may be toxic. Since the EPA regulates most chemicals on a chemical-by-chemical basis, the agency rarely addresses additive and synergistic effects of a mixture of pesticides.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The mission of EPA is to protect human health and to safeguard the natural environment – air, water and land – upon which life depends. ACAT engages with the EPA through public comments and legal challenges to compel the agency to enforce existing laws such as the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act and to ensure that the agency takes measures to advance environmental health according to the precautionary principle and principles of environmental justice.
- ACAT supports action by the EPA to regulate coal combustion waste, a dangerous byproduct of burning coal.
- ACAT supports regulations that would require pesticide manufacturers to disclose inert ingredients on product labels. Disclosure of inert ingredients on pesticide labels
- Endosulfan is an antiquated, highly toxic insecticide which has been linked to autism, birth defects, and delayed puberty in humans. ACAT and ally organizations campaigned for many years for a ban on endosulfan. EPA announced in June 2010 that it would phase out endosulfan.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA regulates and supervises the safety of foods, tobacco products, dietary supplements, prescription and non-prescription medications, cosmetics and a host of other products. The FDA’s reliance on industry-funded studies and weak coordination with other federal agencies has resulted in harmful chemicals remaining in consumer products on the market.
- Bisphenol-A: The FDA has relied heavily on select industry-funded studies to determine the safety of BPA, a chemical additive used as a lining in food and beverage packaging. The FDA has failed to take fully into account the hundreds of independent studies showing strong scientific evidence that low dose exposure to BPA can disrupt healthy hormone functions and lead to a host of adverse health effects.
- No Silver Lining: An Investigation into Bisphenol A in Canned Foods A report by National Workgroup for Safe Markets
- Sign-on letter to FDA re: review of BPA
- Bisphenol-A fact sheet
- Lindane: While EPA now bans the harmful pesticide lindane for agricultural uses, the FDA still allows its use in pharmaceutical products used to treat head lice in children.