Chemical Bill Protects Chemical Industry By Gutting Chemical Regulations
Crazy enough, as warnings about chemical exposure mount, the U.S. government is going backward when it comes to protecting public health. The Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 has been criticized as weak and broken, and legislation has been created to update this outdated law. Alas, the updates actually weaken it even further! In a recent article, the Environmental Working Group lists a number of problems with H.R. 2576, including the following:
- First of all, a last-minute clause sneaked into the bill (section 7c) would shield Monsanto from liability for polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) pollution and/or damage to human health.
- Considering the fact that Monsanto is currently battling no less than seven lawsuits by U.S. cities over PCB contamination,35 and 700 lawsuits on behalf of people who claim their exposure to PCBs caused non-Hodgkin lymphoma,36 this "immunity rider" could easily be worth many billions of dollars for Monsanto. The clause would also prevent states from passing their own laws and regulations relating to PBCs.
- It also infringes on state rights to address chemical safety for other chemicals. Once the federal government issues regulation on a chemical, this bill would prevent individual states from taking any additional action. It also does not define the scope of this restriction. As noted by EWG: "That means that federal action on formaldehyde in flooring, for instance, could block states from regulating the chemical in cleaning products."
- Funding for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would come from congressional appropriations rather than from industry fees, which would severely hamper the EPA's ability to assess the safety of chemicals. Moreover, companies are allowed to request EPA safety reviews, and the bill does not put a cap on the number of industry-requested assessments that may be submitted, which would further hamper the EPA's ability to perform chemical safety assessments. Another point to consider is this: In June 2015 a House panel approved a bill that cuts EPA funding by 9 percent37 --$718 million—in 2016. This is a significant reduction, especially when you consider the EPA's funding has already been reduced by 20 percent since 2011.
- The bill also allows companies to keep certain chemicals secret when performing health and safety studies, which effectively render such studies useless. Moreover, the EPA would only be allowed to reevaluate a trade secret claim once every 10 years, regardless of any safety concerns that may arise in the meantime.
- Both the House and Senate bills also provide a gigantic loophole by exempting chemicals used in replacement parts from EPA regulations.