In DepthChemical Regulation

Reform of toxics law is contentious

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Science  27 Mar 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6229, pp. 1403-1404
DOI: 10.1126/science.347.6229.1403-b

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An estimated 80,000 industrial chemicals are available for commercial use in the United States. But the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which regulates the substances, has substantially restricted the use of less than 10 as a result of health and safety concerns. That's just one reason observers on all sides agree that the country's long-standing chemical testing law is broken. Last week, a U.S. Senate committee set out to fix it, launching what is expected to be a long, contentious effort to rewrite the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act. "There has never been a bipartisan effort with this much potential," said Senator Tom Udall (D–NM), who along with 19 other Democrats and Republicans have proposed a bill (S. 697) aimed at revamping the current law. But the effort has drawn strong opposition from some groups. They complain that Udall's bill would curb state efforts to write their own tough regulations, fail to adequately accelerate EPA's efforts to screen potentially dangerous chemicals, and give industry too much voice in agency decisions. The Udall bill "is worse than the current law. We can't go there," says Senator Barbara Boxer (D–CA). She has offered an alternative bill that she argues would give EPA and state governments more effective oversight power than Udall's.

  • * Puneet Kollipara is a freelance writer in Washington, D.C.