Congress is scheduled today to begin a hearing over whether the 35-year-old law that governs federal chemicals policy is ready for an update. Experts from private industry, the public sector, academia and environmental groups are expected to testify.

According to Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families – a coalition of hundreds of environmental health groups – the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act currently gives the EPA the ability to require testing on just 200 of the nearly 80,00 chemicals in existence. Only five chemicals are restricted.

The group is urging an overhaul that would include:
  • Taking action to restrict those chemicals already known to be dangerous, including persistent and bio-accumulative chemicals
  • Requiring health and safety information for all chemicals in order for them to enter or remain on the market, and
  • Using the best science - including the latest recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences - on how to better assess risks from chemicals to protect all people and vulnerable groups.
"For the last decade Republicans and Democrats have been updating chemical policies in their states to protect the health of their constituents," said Andy Igrejas, campaign director for the coalition. "But those efforts are not enough to guarantee that chemicals found in people's homes and places of work are safe. We believe there is agreement from all sides -- the chemical industry, downstream users of chemicals, and health and environmental advocates -- that the Toxic Substances Control Act will finally be updated in the 112th Congress."