Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013 (S. 1009) (CSIA) is a bill currently before congress. The legislation is designed
to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976. Many public
health advocates who support TSCA reform do not support the CSIA as it
is currently written, believing that the chemical industry is behind the
On July 31, 2013, Linda Reinstein, President of the Asbestos Disease Awareness
Organization, and a long-time leader in the effort to ban asbestos in the U.S.,
testified before the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee (EPWC) at a
hearing in support of TSCA reform. According to Ms. Reinstein, the CSIA as currently
drafted would do more harm to public health and the environment than good.
As detailed in the ADAO
position paper, the current version of the CSIA would make it virtually impossible for
the EPA to phase out or ban harmful substances already on the market.
This, of course, would create yet another obstacle to banning asbestos.
As Ms. Reinstein explained in her testimony, even though the World Health
Organization, International Labor Organization, Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA), and our Surgeon General all agree that there is no safe
level of exposure to asbestos, usage of asbestos in some industries in
the U.S. has increased.
The CSIA, as currently drafted, places the burden on the EPA to find that
a substance is unsafe, rather than requiring chemical companies to prove
that substances are safe. The CSIA also lacks deadlines which would require
the EPA to quickly to assess and restrict the use of harmful substances.
The bill would retain the unworkable standard of review in the TSCA which
ultimately prevented EPA from being able to ban asbestos in 1989. Lastly,
and probably the most far-reaching, is the language in the bill that would
undercut a state’s ability to enforce existing laws or pass new
ones against harmful substances.
Los Angeles Times
editorial states that TSCA has been, for all intents and purposes, out of commission
since the EPA lost a lawsuit more than 20 years ago involving asbestos
regulation. Shortly after the EPA issued a ban on asbestos in 1989, under
authority of the TSCA, trade associations that represented U.S. and Canadian
asbestos companies filed suit and a federal appeals court overturned the
ban in 1991, ruling that the EPA failed to muster substantial evidence
to support its rule to ban the substance.
In the 37 years that TSCA has been in effect, only 200 of the 85,000 industrial
chemicals in use, not including pesticides, have been tested or regulated. The
LA times piece goes onto explain that, under the bill, once the EPA designates
a chemical as “high priority” for regulation, the chemical
would then be under federal jurisdiction, and any state laws governing
it would cease to have any authority. The EPA could then leave the chemical
untested and unregulated for years. A clear gift to the chemical industry.
The website Beyond Pesticides published a
letter from nine state Attorneys General to the EPWC expressing their, “deep
concerns about the unduly broad preemption language proposed in CSIA.”
Legislation needs to respect the rights of the states to protect their
residents when the federal government fails to do so.
Science, not industry influence, must drive policy, writes John Replogle in a
commentary published in the digital journal Roll Call. The onus must be on chemical manufacturers to demonstrate that the chemicals
they use are safe, and the federal government must have the regulatory
tools and financial resources to make this so.
Supporters of the Chemical Safety Improvement Act would have us believe
it will enhance public safety and promote innovation, economic growth,
and job creation by American manufacturers. As the bill is currently written,
individual states would lose the power to protect their citizens and local
environments from dangerous chemicals and hazardous materials, such as
asbestos. Meaningful legislation needs to be passed that strengthens the
protections for the people of this country by improving existing safeguards,
not stripping them away.
Along with her testimony, Ms. Reinstein hand-delivered a petition with
over 2,500 signatures to ban asbestos use in the United States. You can
sign the petition here.