Chemical Industry Executives Favor Reforming the Toxic Substances Control Act

During a March 9, 2010, hearing before the Senate Subcommittee on Superfund, Toxics, and Environmental Health, several chemical industry executives testified that they favored reforming the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) amid growing public awareness about exposure to chemicals through products and environmental emissions. But the executives stressed that lawmakers should not impose burdensome laws that hurt their industry or cede responsibility for setting global chemical policy.

The president of a petrochemical and refiners trade association recognized that “vigorous protection of human health or the environment is imperative and requires appropriate chemical risk management,” and that there is “a fundamental need for the federal government to appropriately manage the risks of all chemicals in commerce from production to disposal.” He urged the subcommittee to avoid pursuing legislation similar to the Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals (REACH) program in effect in the European Union, saying it would “place unnecessary burdens on industry” that would “result in significantly higher costs of doing business, inhibiting the development of products to enhance our way of life.”

Chemical company executives echoed his remarks, saying, “We urge Congress to avoid presumptive bans or rigid phase-out schedules. Such actions could lead to unnecessarily disrupting markets, reduce public access to valued products and cede markets to global competitors.” Other chemical industry executives testified that if a reform bill is introduced the government should base risk assessment on hazard and exposure factors. A spokesperson for the Society of Chemical Manufacturers & Affiliates called for the government to reject the REACH approach and emulate Canada’s model, which relies on a “categorization and prioritization” process.

According to a news source, Senator David Vitter (R-La.) warned that a REACH approach, which registers and regulates every chemical and product, would kill innovation in the United States. Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), testifying in the minority on the issue, said: “In order for me to accept changes to TSCA, the revisions must be based on risk assessment using the best available science; must include cost-benefit considerations; must protect proprietary information; and must prioritize reviews for existing chemicals.” See Product Liability Law 360, March 9, 2010.

Florida Becomes Latest State to Introduce Anti-Cadmium Legislation

Florida lawmakers have launched legislation to ban cadmium and other unsafe metals in children’s jewelry following the footsteps of several other states and the U.S. Congress. Florida’s proposal (H.B. 1285) would impose civil fines on those who sell cadmium-containing jewelry, toys or “child care articles” meant for children younger than seven and would provide that a “knowing and intentional violation” of the act would be treated as a third-degree felony. The Florida Senate has introduced a companion bill (S. 2120).

California, Minnesota and New Jersey also recently introduced similar legislation as the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) formally investigates the known carcinogen. New York, Illinois and Massachusetts are among other states considering laws banning the use of toxic heavy metals in children’s jewelry. Additional information about other state proposals appears in the February 4 and March 4, 2010, issues of this Report.

Congress has taken up the issue with the Safe Kids’ Jewelry Act, which would block the manufacture and sale of children’s jewelry containing cadmium, barium or antimony and would provide funds for enforcing the ban and studies on whether other heavy metals should be prohibited. The congressional bill would also authorize CPSC to set tough testing and certification requirements for children’s jewelry makers and establish criminal and civil penalties for companies that violate the ban.

The flurry of cadmium bills came in the aftermath of an Associated Press report in January 2010 that found cadmium in 103 pieces of children’s jewelry purchased in California, New York, Ohio, and Texas in November and December 2009. Chinese manufacturers have reportedly substituted cadmium for lead in toys now that the United States has adopted stringent lead standards for consumer products. See Product Liability Law 360, March 9, 2010.