Chemical safety advocates are cautiously optimistic about 2016 finally being in the year when Congress takes action to reform the nation’s Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) – 40 years after it was adopted.

“Rare political circumstances have opened a narrow window to pass meaningful reform that protects the health of American families,” according to the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), which is among those backing the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act.

What the bill would change

Built on a bill introduced by the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg and Sen. David Vitter in 2013, the newer version would: mandate safety reviews for all chemicals in active commerce; requires a safety finding for new chemicals before they can enter the market; replaces TSCA’s cost-benefit safety standard—which prevented EPA from banning asbestos—with a pure, health-based safety standard and require protection of vulnerable populations like children and pregnant women. It would also strengthen the EPA’s authority to require testing of both new and existing chemicals and sets aggressive, judicially enforceable deadlines for EPA decisions.

The Lautenberg Act was introduced in March of last year by Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and David Vitter (R-LA). An additional seven Democrats and eight Republicans are also original cosponsors of the bill.

Chemical industry is on board

American Chemistry Council President and CEO Cal Dooley said the bill “is the best and only opportunity to achieve a pragmatic, bipartisan solution to reform chemical regulation. Importantly, this legislation will offer the kind of predictability, consistency and certainty that manufacturers and the national marketplace need, while also strengthening oversight and providing consumers with more confidence in the safety of chemicals.”

Unlike every other major environmental law, the TSCA statute has never been significantly amended since it was adopted, in 1976.

“The problem requires a federal solution,” says the EDF. “With tens of thousands of chemicals in use today, the problem is much too big for individual consumers, product companies, retailers or states to handle on their own. We need a robust national program, rather than the current piecemeal approach that leaves many without any protections whatsoever.”