Michigan's Congressman Upton Key to Reform Chemical Laws

Photo Congressman Fred Upton

In 1976 the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) became our nation’s primary law aimed at regulating chemicals used in everyday products. However, this law never worked as intended and has not been updated in the past 35 years. Now, with increasing public outcry, and as states pass their own chemical laws to protect their citizens, both the chemical industry and public health advocates are attempting to join forces and update this flawed act.

While many Americans assume that chemicals used to make products like toys and food containers sold in the U.S are regulated for safety, often times the opposite is true. Today, there are more than 80,000 chemicals in the marketplace and only 200 have been fully assessed for toxic impacts on human health and the environment. Only 5 have been banned. In addition, TSCA does not require chemical companies to prove that the chemicals they make are safe before they end up in products. In fact, manufactures are allowed to keep basic safety information secret, making it hard for the average consumer to make informed choices at the check out line. TSCA was intended to give the Environmental Protection Agency the power to regulate toxic chemicals, but this just isn’t working.

Making Progress in 2010

Much has changed since TSCA became a law more than 30 years ago. Scientists have developed a better understanding of how some chemicals contribute to illnesses such as cancer, reproductive and developmental disorders and asthma.

In April 2010 Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) made a valiant effort to reform TSCA by sponsoring the Safe Chemicals Act in the Senate while in July Representative Bobby Rush (D-IL) and Henry Waxman (D-CA) unveiled the Toxic Chemicals Safety Act in the House. Both proposals required chemical companies to demonstrate that chemicals are safe before they arrive in the marketplace. In addition, the legislation also required chemical manufacturers to provide basic health and safety information for all chemicals as a condition for them remaining on or entering the market.

Though an updated TSCA did not pass in 2010, it’s expected that Congress will take it up again this year. Helping to propel this reform forward is Healthy Chemicals, Healthy Families, a powerful coalition of over 300 environmental health advocates from across the country. But perhaps the most powerful voice is consumers themselves who are becoming more educated on toxic chemical policy and demanding manufactures to disclose and ban the most harmful toxic chemicals in their products.

Putting the Pressure on Fred Upton

When TSCA is taken up in this congressional session it will go to the House Energy and Commerce Committee where Michigan’s own Congressman Fred Upton is Chair. Upton, historically a moderate Republican out of Kalamazoo, who backed the Clean Air Act and just last year said, “climate change is a serious problem that necessitates serious solutions,” has voiced a serious turn against environmental protection, and his district is starting to wonder where their familiar Fred has gone. While it’s still unclear how Upton will respond to TSCA reform, rest assure organizers in Michigan and across the country who care deeply about our nation’s health will be putting pressure on Upton to move good TSCA reform forward.

This year, as a member of the Michigan Network of Children’s Environmental Health, we at the Michigan League of Conservation Voters will be organizing constituents in Upton’s district to make sure Southwest Michigan’s voice is heard in D.C. Stay updated on this important issue by getting involved with the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. You’ll be the first to know about Upton’s decisions and key actions to keep the pressure on him to update our broken chemical laws. 

Photo Credit: WashingtonExaminar.com


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