Hearings - Statement
 
Statement of Frank R. Lautenberg
Hearing: Full Committee and Subcommittee on Superfund, Toxics and Environmental Health joint hearing entitled, “Oversight Hearing on the Federal Toxic Substances Control Act.”
Wednesday, December 2, 2009

(Remarks As Prepared for Delivery)

“Let me thank everyone for being here as we focus on better protecting the health of our families by updating our chemical safety laws.

This is a joint hearing of my Subcommittee on Superfund, Toxics and Environmental Health, and the full Environment and Public Works Committee.

I’d like to thank Chairman Boxer for agreeing to hold this hearing and for her tireless leadership of the Committee.

Right now, there are hundreds of industrial chemicals in our bodies. That goes for nearly everyone in America.

In fact, just this morning, the Environmental Working Group released the results of a two-year study that found nearly 250 different industrial chemicals in the blood of 10 babies who were exposed to the substances while still in the womb.

While some of these chemicals may not be harmful, others clearly are.

That means these children face the possibility of chronic, life-long health problems from the day they are born.

I ask unanimous consent to enter the Environmental Working Group Study into the record.

According to a 2002 study, five percent of cancers, 10 percent of neurobehavioral disorders and 30 percent of asthma cases in children are associated with toxic chemicals.

It is time to sound the alarm—America’s system for regulating these toxic chemicals is broken.

Industrial chemicals are everywhere: from flame retardants in furniture and carpets, to other chemicals in cleaning products, personal care products, food containers and even children’s products.

The current law—the Toxic Substances Control Act—puts a high burden on EPA to prove chemicals are “unreasonably dangerous” before the agency can take steps to restrict their use.

The burden is so high, in fact, that EPA has been able to ban only five of the more than 80,000 substances on EPA’s inventory of chemicals on the market, and it has only tested about 200.

This means the majority of chemicals used in products that make their way into our homes and our children’s hands are untested.

We must strengthen our chemical laws and give Americans confidence that products are safe before they are sold and used throughout the United States.

Most of the thousands of chemicals we use everyday are safe, but we need a law that will separate those safe chemicals from the ones that are not.

And I believe we are in an excellent position to accomplish that goal, with a broad group of agencies and organizations coming to the table to work for reform.

President Obama’s Administration is here today, represented by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, our good friend from New Jersey.

The EPA recently released its principles for reforming TSCA.

The Government Accountability Office—which recently put our chemical regulatory system on its list of “high risk” areas of the law—is here.

As is the National Institute of Environmental Health Science, which has funded research showing the potential risks from toxic chemicals.

In addition, everyone from chemical manufacturers, to businesses that use chemicals in their products, to environmental, labor, and health groups have called for reforming the Toxic Substances Control Act.

The trade association for the chemical manufacturers—The American Chemistry Council—has agreed that the status quo is not working.

In August, they released principles for TSCA reform, which matched up closely with principles released by the Obama Administration, and had substantial overlap with principles released by environmental, health and labor groups.

I ask unanimous consent to enter the American Chemistry Council’s principles into the record, as well as a letter from their President, Cal Dooley.

And just a couple of hours ago, 13 states released a statement calling for a strong federal system to keep people safe from chemicals. At this time, I ask for unanimous consent to place that statement into the record.

The stage is set. We have general agreement on the problem—now we must work together on the solution.

Often when government tries to write new laws or modernize old ones, there is resistance.

But this is a case where everyone agrees on the need for change.

We need to make good on this unique opportunity.

That’s why in the coming weeks I plan to re-introduce legislation to strengthen our chemical laws.

Our bill will put the burden of proving chemical safety where it belongs: on chemical companies.

Instead of waiting for a chemical to harm someone’s health, it will require companies to prove that their products are safe before they end up in a store, in our homes, or in our bodies.

We already regulate pesticides and pharmaceuticals this way—it’s just common sense that we do the same for chemicals that are used in everyday consumer products.

I look forward to working with these witnesses to put common sense back into our environmental laws and better protect the health of the American public.

Thank you all for being here.”

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