The Hundred Years' War over Toxic Chemicals
In America, chemicals are innocent until proven guilty. It’s a rule that’s been in place for one hundred years and still applies to compounds used every day in industry and in your home.
This may be changing at last. In April Congressman Henry Waxman, chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, made regulation of toxic chemicals a priority by proposing the Safe Chemicals Act of 2010. A companion bill was introduced in the Senate by Frank Lautenberg.
Under Waxman’s legislation, the Environmental Protection Agency would at last gain some real powers to control the chemical soup we live in. Manufacturers would be required to test their chemical products. Procedural obstacles that have hobbled regulators would be swept away. Vital safety information could no longer be kept secret. Testing of especially dangerous products would be required within eighteen months.
The initial lack of public attention to the Waxman bill should not obscure its importance in a world whose chemical complexity we have only started to comprehend. Chemical manufacturers publicly support the bill, but the industry is already working to weaken some provisions. The experience of health care reform proves that even a watered-down version of the legislation could be killed in the partisan atmosphere of the current Congress.
Read the rest on the Dissent Magazine website.
See also: The Polluters: The Making of Our Chemically Altered Environment