Guest opinion: Safe Chemicals Act will arm consumers with information

This item originally appeared in: The Billings Gazette

Author

Virginia Court

 For the first time in 36 years, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has voted to protect American families from toxic chemicals by passing the Safe Chemicals Act.

As parents and grandparents, we try to do everything we can to protect our children from harm. We make sure they wear their bike helmets and seat belts. We work to ensure their schools and communities are safe. We pay attention to the food they eat. However, our job is made more difficult when dangerous, toxic chemicals that are especially harmful to our kids lurk in the common household products we use every day. From water bottles made with bisphenol A (BPA) to carpets containing cancer-causing formaldehyde, dangerous chemicals are in our homes, in the workplace and in the products we use and the food we eat.

In an age where everyone we know has recently lost a loved one from cancer, it is time for Congress to take action. We thank Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester for stepping up to the plate for our kids’ health by co-sponsoring the Safe Chemicals Act.

Even those of us who read labels in grocery stores to avoid products that are too sweet, too fat, or too fake cannot avoid dangerous toxic chemicals in everyday products. That’s because federal law governing chemicals is a hodge-podge of loopholes, an ineffective patchwork of regulations.

The Toxic Substances Control Act that regulates toxic chemicals in household products is badly outdated. When passed in 1976, it approved more than 60,000 chemicals that were in existence. Today, only 200 of the original 60,000 chemicals have been tested for safety. The Environmental Protection Agency has only restricted some uses for five! Now there are more than 80,000 chemicals on the market that have never been fully assessed for toxic impacts on my family and yours.

There’s a broad coalition supporting the Safe Chemicals Act, because requires chemical manufacturers to demonstrate their products are safe before they hit retailers’ shelves. From the Montana Nurses Association to Montana Conservation Voters, St. Patrick’s Hospital’s Women’s Care unit to Walking Stick Toys, Montanans are calling on Washington to take action.

The Safe Chemicals Act is good for business, too. It rewards innovation, providing incentives for chemical companies to develop safer materials. Montana’s own chemical company, Rivertop Renewables, supports the act, noting “this act will compel transparency of the safety and health impacts of all chemicals, balancing fair regulation with the public’s call for protection.”

The Safe Chemicals Act now heads to the Senate floor. If you agree that Congress should reform this country’s chemical policy, contact Sens. Tester and Baucus, and thank them for co-sponsoring the Safe Chemicals Act. Arm consumers with the tools we need to make informed decisions about the products we use to clothe our babies, feed our kids and furnish our homes.