- require manufacturers to provide health and safety information prior to distributing a chemical in consumer products, instead of presuming a substance is safe until proven dangerous;
- reduce our toxic ignorance by providing much needed hazard and exposure information to EPA and the public;
- require EPA to determine the safety of 300 chemicals within the next five years. By 2020, all chemicals distributed in commerce would need to meet the safety standard.
U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer, D- Cal., John Kerry, D – Mass., Jon Corzine, D – NJ, Hillary Clinton, D – NY, and Edward Kennedy, D – Mass., are cosponsors of the legislation. Below is a copy of Jeffords’ full statement for the Congressional Record on the bill. Please click here for a copy of the GAO report.
Please click here for a copy of the bill.
Statement of Senator Jeffords
Ranking Member of Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
Introducing the Kids Safe Chemicals Act
July 13, 2005 I rise today to introduce the Kid Safe Chemicals Act with Senators Lautenberg, Boxer, Kerry, Corzine, Clinton and Kennedy. The purpose of the bill is simple – improve children’s health by reducing exposure to harmful toxic chemicals in everyday consumer products. Synthetic chemicals play an integral role in the US economy and in enhancing our quality of life. Yet – like most Americans – I assumed basic safeguards were in place to ensure chemicals widely used in household products were first determined to be safe. Sadly, this assumption is false. A new report, issued today by the Government Accountability Office, shows that most chemicals used in consumer products today have never undergone any federal safety review. Further, the report demonstrates that EPA lacks the necessary legal tools to protect our children from harmful chemicals. The report, which I requested along with Senators Lautenberg and Leahy, is titled “Chemical Regulation: Options Exist to Improve EPA’s Ability to Assess Health Risks and Manage its Chemical Review Program.” To all people who care about our children’s health, GAO’s conclusions should be a call to action. Three findings merit particular attention. First, GAO found that “EPA does not routinely assess the human health and environmental risks of existing chemicals and faces challenges obtaining the information necessary to do so.” For example, the Agency has required testing for fewer than 200 of the 62,000 chemicals used in commerce since EPA began reviewing chemicals in 1979. Additionally, GAO found that “EPA’s reviews of new chemicals provide limited assurance that health and environmental risks are identified before the chemicals enter commerce.” According to the report, chemical companies generally do not test new chemicals for toxicity or gauge human exposure levels before they are submitted for EPA review, forcing the Agency to rely on predictive modeling that “does not ensure that the chemicals’ risks are fully assessed before they enter commerce.” Finally, even when EPA has toxicity and exposure information on chemicals showing significant health risks, GAO found that the Agency has difficulty overcoming the legal hurdles needed to take action. As a result, in almost three decades, EPA has issued regulations to ban or limit the production or restrict the use of only five chemicals. Our toxic ignorance would be less alarming if it wasn’t coupled with overwhelming evidence of widespread human exposure. Study after study – including those by the Centers for Disease Control – have found a cocktail of synthetic chemicals in the blood and tissue of most people tested. For example, bio-monitoring studies have found Bisphenyl A, a chemical used in plastic baby pacifiers, water bottles, and food and beverage containers, in 95 percent of people tested. Similarly, chemicals such as P-FOA, which is used in non-stick Teflon pans, and polybrominated diphenyl ethers, used as flame retardants, are regularly found in breast milk and fetal liver tissue. To be clear, the health effects of these chemicals are unknown. Unknown because no one is required to look. We do know, however, that most of us are carrying in our bodies dozens – if not hundreds - of synthetic chemicals to which our grandparents were never exposed. We also know that the incidence of certain cancers and neurological and developmental disorders linked to chemical exposure are on the rise. The Kid Safe Chemical Act would fundamentally overhaul the nation’s chemical management framework. First, it would protect kids by requiring chemical manufacturers to perform basic testing of their products. Second, it would reduce our toxic ignorance by providing much needed hazard and exposure information to EPA and the public. Third, using a science based, worst-first priority system, EPA would be required to determine the safety of 300 chemicals within the next five years. By 2020, all chemicals distributed in commerce would need to meet the safety standard. To avoid imposing an undue burden on industry, the Kid Safe Chemicals Act relies on essentially the same safety standard as the Food Quality Protection Act, which passed the Gingrich-Lott Congress unanimously and which chemical manufacturers themselves have complied with for the past decade. In short, chemical manufacturers would need to establish to EPA that there was “a reasonable certainty of no harm” before distributing their chemicals in commerce. A ten-fold safety factor would be built-in to account for the unique sensitivity of children. Finally, the Kid Safe Chemicals Act encourages innovation of less toxic chemicals by removing existing disincentives and initiating a safer alternatives and green chemistry program. As a result, the bill has been endorsed by a wide array of public health groups, such as the Breast Cancer Fund, the Center for Children’s Environmental Health, and the American Public Health Association. I believe that the Kid Safe Chemicals Act represents a rationale, common sense approach to reducing children’s exposure to toxic chemicals. Thank you.