With the federal government revising its chemical regulations, 13 states have banded together and issued eight recommendations designed to ensure that the planned federal revisions will protect public health and the environment.
Current federal chemical regulations fail to adequately protect the nation's citizens and environment from toxic chemicals and unsafe products, said David Littell, commissioner of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, in a statement accompanying the Dec. 2 announcement. The effects of exposure to toxic chemicals on human health, the environment and the economy are enormous and often avoidable.
The Environmental Protection Agency recently outlined principles for revising the 33-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act. Congress has begun hearings on TSCA reform, which the EPA said is one of its top priorities.
Dealing with toxic contamination after the fact is ultimately futile the human, environmental and economic damage is already done, said Ted Sturdevant, director of the Washington State Department of Ecology. We need a federal law that prevents contamination from happening in the first place and phases out the harmful chemicals that are already in widespread use.
That's common sense, but it's not the system we have today.
Only five chemicals have been regulated under TSCA because the law requires the EPA to prove there is an unreasonable risk from a chemical in order to regulate it. In addition, manufacturers are not required to develop data on toxicity or exposure.
Without adequate protection at the federal level, it has fallen to the states to protect people and the environment from the toxic chemicals that are causing harm, Sturdevant said.
The states of Maine and Washington are implementing comprehensive policies to promote safer chemicals in children's products and to prioritize hazardous chemicals for further action. In addition, California also a coalition member has embarked on a Green Chemistry Initiative to reduce or eliminate toxic chemicals from consumer products.
Other states in the group are Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon and Vermont.
The chemical industry has said it supports the reform principles EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson outlined in September to guide Congress to, in her words, fix the weaknesses in TSCA.
We are encouraged by what appears to be a high level of alignment between our industry's and the [Obama] administration's principles for TSCA reform, said Cal Dooley, president and CEO of the American Chemistry Council in Arlington, Va.
Environmental leadership often begins at the grass-roots level and works it way up to Washington, D.C., said Linda Adams, California's secretary for environmental protection. We need a more innovative approach ... to apply our best scientific solutions.
The 13 states are urging the federal government to require manufacturers to:
* Demonstrate that the chemicals they use and the products they make are safe.
* Develop and make public chemical health and safety data, including associated risks.
* Identify alternatives to chemicals of concern.
The federal government, the recommendations said, should determine chemicals of concern, take timely action to regulate them and make sure the regulations protect vulnerable populations, defined by the states as women and children.
In addition, the states said the federal government needs to ensure that emerging chemicals, including nanoscale materials, be assessed for public and environmental risks before they go into widespread use.
The 13 states also said that in its reform of TSCA, the federal government needs to preserve the rights of states and localities to implement regulations to manage chemicals, and to help states pay for their programs to manage toxic chemicals.
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