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Jessica Smagacz
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Experts Place Spotlight on U.S. Chemical Control Law—In Dire Need of Reform

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According to Environment News Service, experts told a House panel on Thursday that the U.S. chemical regulatory system fails to protect public health and the environment and “is in dire need of reform.”

The problem is that there are legal hurdles in the existing chemical regulations making it almost impossible for the federal government to limit or ban the use of toxic chemicals or to obtain needed information to make effective regulations.

This was all said by witnesses at a hearing before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee. Another focus of the meeting was on the Toxic Substances Control Act enacted in 1976. This act gave the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency authority to regulate chemicals. However, “the agency has only required testing for some 200 of the more 82,000 chemicals in commerce and has issued regulations to control only five existing chemicals.”

J. Clarence Davies, a senior fellow at Resources for the Future and former EPA assistant administrator for police under President George H.W. Bush said, “‘This record reflects a number of’ very difficult, perhaps impossible, requirements that must be met before a chemical can be regulated.”

One example of the “shortcomings” of this law is in the case of asbestos. EPA attempted to ban asbestos under the Toxic Substances Control Act in 1989 after gathering evidence about health risks for almost a decade. However, in 1991, a federal court blocked EPA’s effort, ruling that the agency failed to meet the legal hurdles outlines by the Act. Asbestos, known as carcinogen kills 8,000 Americans each year but still has not been banned.

Because of this, Congress is considering reform in this area.

To read more about this issue, click here.