WASHINGTON, DC – Late last night the Senate unanimously passed critical legislation to update safety standards for tens of thousands of chemicals that are currently unregulated.

U.S. Senator Jack Reed, a cosponsor of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, hailed the bipartisan passage of the bill as an important step toward protecting families from dangerous, unregulated chemicals.

The chemical safety reform bill would finally update the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA) for the first time in nearly 40 years.  The 1976 law is deeply flawed because it does not provide the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with adequate authority to regulate toxic chemicals in commerce.  According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, the law allowed 62,000 chemicals to remain on the market without testing when it first passed and over the last several decades the EPA has only required testing for about 200 of those chemicals, and has partially regulated just five. 

“The nation’s forty year old law regulating toxic chemicals is badly outdated and in need of reform.  Passage of this bill brings us a big step closer to setting clearer and stronger regulatory standards when it comes to chemical safety evaluations.  These chemicals are found in everything from kids toys to furniture and cleaning and personal items and the American people deserve to know what chemicals they are being exposed to and should have confidence that they are truly safe because the government is doing its due diligence to help protect them.  I will continue working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure we continue to make progress on this much-needed reform and fortify both strong federal and state regulation of dangerous chemicals,” said Reed.

The Senate-passed bill would:

  • Require safety reviews for all dangerous chemicals in active commerce — literally thousands of chemicals will need review;
  • Going forward, require EPA to review and approve new chemicals that come on the market each year;
  • Ensure the EPA takes into consideration only the impact on health and the environment when determining whether to allow a chemical to be sold or manufactured;
  • Require chemical companies to contribute to the cost of regulations;
  • Prevent industry from hiding information on their chemicals from the public view;
  • Preserve strong private rights of action to hold industry accountable for negligence and harm;
  • And explicitly require that EPA base its decisions on how chemicals impact the most vulnerable among us — children, pregnant women, the elderly, and chemical workers.

The legislation is named in tribute to the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), who Senator Reed served with in the Senate and who championed the efforts to overhaul TSCA.

Now that the Senate passed its version of the bill, it must be reconciled with a version that has already approved by the U.S. House of Representatives.  Once lawmakers resolve differences between the two measures, the bill must be approved by both the House and the Senate before it is sent to President Obama’s desk to be signed into law.