Statement of Senator Jim Jeffords, I-Vt.
Environment and Public Works Committee
Oversight Hearing on the Toxic Substances Control Act
August 2, 2006
Chairman Inhofe, thank you for holding this important hearing on what I think is a fundamental gap in the fabric of our public health protections. Recent scientific and medical advances have triggered renewed concerns about the adequacy of the U.S. chemical management law. Let me highlight five basic facts that should shape how we reform the antiquated Toxic Substances Control Act. First, without question, chemicals play a vital role in enhancing our quality of life. Second, compelling new scientific evidence has uncovered widespread human exposure to industrial chemicals. For example, the U.S. Center for Disease Control conducted a comprehensive study revealing exposure to over 100 industrial chemicals in the bodies of ordinary Americans. Another study found over 200 synthetic chemicals in the umbilical cord blood of newborn babies. Third, most of these chemicals have never undergone any federal safety review or testing. The mere presence of industrial chemicals in small quantities in our bodies does not mean that such levels are dangerous. But after 30 years, shouldn’t the EPA have data to tell us more about the potential dangers? Fourth, chemical manufacturers generally are not required to conduct basic health and safety testing before putting their chemicals into consumer products. A study I requested of the General Accountability Office found that the EPA has used its authority to require testing for fewer than 200 of the 62,000 chemicals in commerce in 1979, when the EPA program began. Finally, the statute fails to give the EPA adequate authority to identify, evaluate and respond to dangerous chemicals in a timely manner. In 30 years, the EPA has issued regulations to ban or restrict the use of only five chemicals. The Agency hasn’t even initiated such a rulemaking since 1989. To make matters worse, the EPA’s inaction has occurred in the face of a continuing wave of studies that have found links between chemical exposure and various diseases. In my opinion, a fundamental overhaul of the Toxic Substances Control Act is long overdue. A sound chemical policy would promote the use of safe chemicals, and quickly identify and manage those few dangerous chemicals that cause cancer; neurological or development disabilities; or are otherwise devastating to human health. Doctors from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine estimate that the costs of lead poisoning, asthma, cancer and developmental disabilities caused by exposure to industrial chemicals is roughly $55 billion annually. For this reason, I was proud to draft the Kids Safe Chemicals bill with Senator Lautenberg. This bill would protect children by requiring chemical manufacturers to develop basic health and safety data on all chemicals used in consumer products. It would expand public information so consumers can make informed choices, encourage the development of safer alternatives, and give the EPA the tools to take action when needed. I look forward to today’s hearing, and to working in a bipartisan manner to address this critical public health issue.