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After 40 years waiting, historic chemical safety reform bill passed

Toxic Substances Control Act passes this week! 

by Alexandra Destler, SafetyNEST Founder + Executive Director + Mom

In 1999, wrapping up my Master’s degree at Harvard, I took a class at Harvard Medical School’s Center for Global Health & the Environment. It was in this class writing about the chemical industry that I learned the alarming statistic: ~80,000 chemicals surround us and the EPA requires toxicity and safety testing on just 200 of them, leaving about 99% to do their thing! I have been stunned by this statistic ever since and it informs why I started SafetyNEST.

Fast forward to this historic week: After 40 years of waiting, on June 7th, the Senate passed legislation to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) – also known as our nation’s very badly broken chemical safety law. The bill now heads to the President’s desk, where it is certain to be signed.

Under the very outdated TSCA 1976 law, the bulk of the chemicals in the marketplace have not been tested or regulated by the EPA. The new law would require the EPA to test all existing and new chemicals to determine if they pose a threat to human health or the environment. The agency only has to examine about 20 chemicals at a time, however, and has seven years to assess each chemical.

This is a major event and huge step forward. The bill does have many limitations and the pace will be quite slow, so we need to continue to educate ourselves to reduce our exposure to the many toxic chemicals in our home and workplace. Among the limitations, the new law does nothing, according to the Environmental Working Group, to protect Americans from dangerous ingredients in cosmetic products.

SafetyNEST is here to transform prenatal care so that every pregnant woman will receive the guidance needed to safeguard her pregnancy and baby.

And, for the much needed systemic change to occur, we must continue to press the urgency of this issue at the policy level and speak with our wallets so that we’re not expected to be chemists in our homes!

For more information about TSCA, check out this fact sheet from Environmental Defense Fund and more background from Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families. The Washington Toxics Coalition also has posted a great analysis.

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